Aqua-jogging for rehab

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Aqua-jogging for rehab

provokeBeing injured as a runner is never fun, we tend to get extremely grumpy, worry that our fitness is going to deteriorate to a level where we will have to start again once recovered and due to our frustration and longing to be back on the trail we rush back to running far too early resulting in more time off.

Like every other runner out there I find it emotionally and physically very difficult not being able to run, but have also learned that if your physio or osteopath tells you to take time out that’s exactly what I (begrudgingly) do.  However I will always ask the question “Am I able to cross train?” Usually (not always) the answer is yes but they will tell me what I can or cannot do.

One of the most effective forms of cross training for me when injured is Aqua-jogging as it mimics running, using the same muscles but with none of the impact, allowing you to recover without losing any of your fitness.  There are however a few injuries such as hip flexor strains and various hip and knee ailments where aqua-jogging isn’t suitable. (Always check with your physio/osteopath or doctor)

So, what is aqua-jogging?  Basically it’s running in water;  your feet don’t touch the bottom of the pool, you use a floatation belt around your waist that keeps your head above water.  These vary in price from £12.99 up to about £44! (they also come in Pink!)

aquajogger3Aqua-jogging has been part of my rehabilitation training since 2009.   About a month before I was due to do my Back to Back Comrades a foot injury I had just wouldn’t go away, which meant the only option was ABSOLUTELY no running.  I’d heard of aqua-jogging through a friend and although I don’t particularly enjoy swimming I thought I would give it a go.  Armed with my floatation belt I arrived in the pool feeling rather stupid and very self-conscious but launched myself into my first session.

It’s very important before doing anything new to do a bit of research to find out how it should be done, as with any form of exercise there is a wrong and a right way of doing it.

The key, as with running is to keep good form.  You will need to be in deep water so your feet don’t touch the bottom of the pool and with your floatation device on, keep your upper body more upright, try not to lean forward too much, shoulders should be positioned directly above the hips, your abs tight and your head and eyes looking forward.

Try to simulate your normal running style. Your arms move backwards and forwards with your fists closed, however your hands shouldn’t come out of the water and avoid them going across the body.  It does take a few sessions to get the technique right but it’s worth pursuing as research has shown that it can maintain fitness levels for up to 4-6 weeks.

676ceeda39fc92c296fb2a25e97b990dYou may think that this is a rather boring way of exercising but as in running there are various sessions you can do; it’s not just about “running” up and down a pool.  Elevating your heart rate in the pool is more difficult than when running on dry land. Since your cells are 65 to 95% water, blood circulates better when submerged, meaning your heart doesn’t need to pump as hard to circulate oxygen. So, the benefits from pool running must come from a steady effort or intervals.  I tend to spend anything from 30 minutes to an  hour at a time in the pool.  I have also been known to attach my Ipod shuffle (in a plastic bag) to the top of my head so I can listen to music – the kids think it’s hysterical and other swimmers often ask if I need help!

Here are a few sample workouts I found to give you an idea of what you can do


Easy = 65-75% of maximum heart rate, or a typical easy/recovery run effort

Medium = 87-92% of maximum heart rate, a comfortably hard tempo run effort

Easy Pool Running

Easy pool running should only be used as warmup for harder workouts, a recovery tool between hard workouts, or to simulate longer training runs.

You can perform easy pool running just like you would perform easy running on dry land. There is nothing fancy about it. You should try to maintain a heart rate that is 65-75% of your maximum heart rate.

Medium Effort Workouts

1. 10 minutes easy warmup, 1:00 hard, 30 seconds easy, 1:30 hard, 30 seconds easy, 2:00 hard, 30 seconds easy (continue building up until 5:00, and then come back down by 30 second intervals), 10 minutes easy cooldown

2. 10 minutes easy warmup, 1:00 medium effort, 1:00 sprint, 30 seconds with your hands in the air (keep moving your legs in the running motion, but put your hands above your head), 1:00 rest. Repeat this series 10-15 times. 10 minutes easy cooldown.

3. 10 minutes easy warmup, 30-second sprint, 30 seconds medium, 30-second sprint, 30 seconds medium – 30 seconds rest. Repeat 12-15 times, 10 minutes easy cooldown.

4. 10 minutes easy warmup, 10 seconds medium, 10-second sprint, 10 seconds easy, 20 seconds medium, 20-second sprint, 20 seconds easy, 30-second medium, 30-second sprint, 30 seconds easy. Repeat up to 70 seconds and then back down. 10 minutes easy cooldown.


Workout 1: 45 minutes

10 minutes easy pool running. 10×1’ at hard effort with 1’ active recovery. 10×30” at sprint effort with 30” active recovery. 10 minutes easy warm-down.

Workout 2: 60 minutes

15 minutes easy pool running. Pyramid workout: 1’, 2’, 3’, 4’, 5’, 4’ 3’, 2’, 1’ at hard effort except the 5’ session which is at tempo effort. Each interval has 1’ of active recovery. 12’ easy warm-down.

Workout 3: 90 minutes

15 minutes easy pool running. 5×5’ at tempo effort with 1’ active recovery. 4×3’ at hard effort with 1’ active recovery. 6×30” at sprint effort with 1’ active recovery. 21’ easy warm-down.

Before trying any of the above sessions always check with your doctor, but I think it’s a great way to stay fit while in rehab plus it’s something different and you may consider incorporating it into your training regime once fully recovered  – why not give it a go?  I managed to do my Back to Back Comrades in 9hrs 50 on the up route and 10hrs 40 on the actual race becoming the first woman to complete the Back to Back run – not bad considering the last month was spent in water!

DSC_0334Happy training





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