Aqua jogging. The exercise we love to hate. It’s that exercise we only seem to partake in when we are injured and can’t do “actual exercise”. That exercise we do when we feel like our bodies are getting a bit too much wear and tear as the years go by, so we supplement our other activity
(that we actually enjoy) with aqua jogging. It is rarely a choice that we partake in when training is going as we choose, and this is why aqua jogging is sometimes seen as a swear word, especially to runners.

But let’s flip that thought on its head. In today’s blog we will cover why aqua jogging can add benefit to your training and why we should reframe how we approach this form of cross training. Let’s start approaching aqua jogging with the mentality of prevention rather than as a “punishment” for getting injured or getting older.

When looking at an athletes training programme, it is often filled with a few workouts a week, and in between are ‘easy runs’. These easy runs are designed to keep the body moving and to continue to build the physiological benefit that training has on the body. They help build endurance without the stress of speed work and are a vital component of training. Easy runs should be approached with the mindset of helping the body to adapt and recover for the next workout. All too often we see clients who approach their easy runs far too aggressively, working above the effort level that would classify these types of runs as ‘easy’, therefore missing the benefit of this type of workout, and ultimately leading to over-training and injury. Maybe it’s because we don’t truly understand our bodies well enough to know what ‘easy’ feels like, or maybe we are just too competitive with ourselves. Whatever the reason, when we switch these easy run days to an aqua jogging day this can solve the problem.

When taking our easy run days to the pool, here are a few benefits that we are gaining:

  • Physiological effect – when working out in the pool, the idea is to increase your heart rate. While it might not get quite as high as when are running, you should be able to increase it to a level similar to an easy run. This allows your body to have a similar cardiovascular benefit that running has.
  • Neuromuscular control – Through muscular contraction, your muscles are able to work against the resistance of the water. In a simplistic context, this is similar to low level resistance training.
  • Biomechanics – Whether it’s due to not understanding the complexities of running, or from getting distracted by the passing scenery, it is common when we run to completely switch off and not be completely aware of our biomechanics/the way me move. Having the resistance of the water brings awareness to how we move and potentially some non-optimal movement patterns. Having awareness of how we move, allows us to work towards changing them.
  • Tissue de-loading – This is the primary difference between being on the road/track/treadmill and in the pool. A common myth with running is that it is bad for our bodies. We could talk for days about this but in a way, there is an element of truth to this. Running results in high levels of tissue loading, when this tissue loading is not managed well, or there are underlying dysfunctions in biomechanics, this can lead to injury. Using a form of cross training such as aqua jogging, can help manage tissue loading levels and therefore not only help your short-term fitness levels, but improve your longevity as an athlete.
  • Consistency/variation of training
    It goes without saying; runners love to run and hate being injured. There is a trend of people emphasising high mileage and lots of speed work, rather than focusing on building variation into their workouts. We blame this somewhat on the rise of social exercise apps like Strava and MapMyRun, fantastic tools but they add to the mounting pressure of competition and comparison. Having a varied approach to training whether it is on difference surfaces, in the gym, pool or bike can add value to your overall health and performance. By changing things up with your training, it allows your body to adapt to different loads on the body which can be beneficial especially if you struggle with injury or consistency in your training.

Often the complaints we hear about aqua jogging is that it is boring, this can often be because it is meet with a prolonged effort in the pool. If you’re wanting to keep your session in the pool nice and short but still get maximum benefit then try this workout:

  • 10 minutes warm up
  • 15 x 45 seconds hard, 15 seconds easy
  • 10 minute up-tempo
  • 10 minute warm down

The idea of keeping the workout to 45 minutes is that you are able to do a targeted workout focusing on improving key elements of training while giving your muscles a chance to adapt and recover. This can also be beneficial in helping to eliminate the boredom that is often associated with aqua jogging. So get out those flotation belts and let’s start to enjoy our pool days!

Luke McCallum is a Sports Lab massage therapist who loves to chat all things recovery. Next time you’re down at the local swimming pool, keep an eye out for this guy, he’ll be easy to spot with the biggest grin on his face.