Aqua jogging is exactly what it sounds like, running in water. It’s a really undervalued and underused training tool, but hopefully our handy guide will encourage you to get off the road and into the water. It is the ultimate form of cross training, perfect for those getting back from injury or if you are looking for a bit of recovery session.
Aqua-jogging is best done in deep-water and the action closely mimics the movement of actual jogging. Your feet don’t touch the floor of the pool so there is zero impact and it's a perfect way to train hard if you have any sort of injury (except a hip flexor injury, which may be aggravated by the increased resistance of the water when you bring your leg up).
Aqua-jogging is the only form of cross training as it provides a neuromuscular workout that keeps your running-specific muscles active. Think of biking, swimming or rowing, they use some muscles in a similar way as you do when running, but not all of them. The cross trainer / elliptical machine that you see in gyms is the next closest thing to running, but if you want to run without the impact of running outside, then you need to go into a pool and aqua jog.
Mo Farah, who trains as part of the Oregon Project in the United Sates with Alberto Salazar, uses an underwater treadmill, which allows him to run up to and over 120 miles a week, but he does 20-30 of those miles ‘underwater’ to reduce the impact on his body. However, not many of us have $30,000 spare to install one in our garage so we’ll have to make do with the cheap version!
All you need to aqua-jog is a pool that you can’t stand up in and an aqua jogging belt/vest. These are available online and cost around £20. However, it is possible to aqua jog without the vest but in fact I find it much easier to use one.
The key to aqua jogging, as it should be with running, is that you need good form.
The big difference from running is that you’ll have a straighter upper body, so reduce the forward lean that you usually see from a runner. This will stop you from bunching up into a little ball and restricting movement.
The Checklist for vertical body alignment: -Head Up -Chest Lifted -Shoulders positioned directly above hips -Abdominals tight (don’t hold your breath!) -Buttocks squeezed together and slightly tucked under (pelvic tilt)
Like running, you’ll want to swing from the shoulder in a relaxed, pendulum-like action. Avoid breaking the water line when swinging the arms and also remember to swing the arms straight, not across the body.
Getting the leg action right is probably the most difficult part of the aqua jogging experience.
The leg driving forward needs to have about 70-80 degrees of hip flexion (so more than usual), the knee should be at right angles (90 degrees) with the foot below the knee in a flat position, so that it can push the water down.
Once the leg is fully extended, it should swing a little behind your body, but then quickly lift the heel towards your buttocks (so a bit more compact than you’d have when running outside) as you bend the knee and rotate it forward and up into the position to push down again.
The key is to start off slowly, just practice the movements and try and get the form right the first few times rather than focusing on getting in a full workout. It's harder underwater
Trying to raise your heart rate underwater is more difficult than on dry land. The reason for this is simple - our cells are mainly water and so, when submerged, blood flows better, so you heart rate doesn’t needs to go as high in order to pump oxygen around. Instead, to get the most out of an aqua jogging session, you need to do it at a constant steady effort, or for longer intervals.
Some example workouts
1. Easy workout - 30 minutes at an easy effort. Ideal as a recovery session between longer efforts
2. Long Run - up to 2 hours at an easy effort. Ideal to replace the long run in your week if you can’t do this outside (OR IF INJURED ETC)
3. Threshold Session - after a good warm up, try 4 x 5 minutes at a steady effort with a 90 second recovery between the reps, have a good cool down afterwards.
4. Mixing it up - after a good warm up, alternate between 1 minute at threshold effort, 1 minute easy and 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy for 4 times, take a break for a couple of minutes and then try again.
5. The lung buster - 1 minute easy, 2 minutes at threshold effort, 1 minute Sprint, 1 minute res - repeat that 10 times
To make the sprint harder, use a bungee cord attached to the end of the pool. Make sure this is attached to one part of the pool and the aqua jogging belt, and try as hard as you can to see how far you can pull the bungee. This turns what is normally a very boring activity (aqua jogging) into a really fun game!
Aqua jogging is the closest you’ll get to running but not actually being outside pounding the pavement. You might get funny looks from other pool users, but there is no better way to maintain fitness for up to 6 weeks when you can’t run. It can be interesting, especially if you get some underwater headphones and protective case for your phone, you can take your music in with you and give you something else to focus on.