Now that summer is in full swing and The little Mermaid If everyone is craving a dip in the ocean, it seems like the perfect time to shift your weekly water run to a refreshing run in the pool. Not only will running in the pool keep you cool during your workout, but experts say it also brings you special benefits you won’t experience on a treadmill.
You can go for a run in the pool in two ways. Your first option is to get into the deep end with a special flotation device, like a wet vest or waist belt, and run while your body is suspended in a relaxed position with your head out of the pool, says Steve Victorson, a professional water instructor. . This is the ideal way to do fitness mode, but standing in waist- or chest-deep water and pushing your feet off the bottom is also okay.
Running in the pool involves many of the same mechanics as running outdoors, but with the added element of HO, says Christine DiBugnara, certified personal trainer and running coach. The water works to add resistance while at the same time taking weight off the joints and making the workout truly unique.
According to Kevin R. Stone, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of The Stone Clinic, running in a pool is a good choice if you have injuries, such as arthritis or knee pain, and want to stay active. It’s also ideal for preventing injury, as you’re floating the whole time instead of pounding the floor, which any runner’s joints will appreciate. Read on to learn what you know about pool running—the most mermaid-like workout you can get.
All the benefits of running in the pool
It’s low impact
The water will completely relieve joint wear in deep water and greatly reduce it in shallow water, says Victorson. As you’re across the pool, you’ll get all the benefits of a run, minus the impact associated with jogging outdoors or on a treadmill, all thanks to the wonders of buoyancy.
It’s great for athletes
The pool run is ideal for athletes or anyone else who wants to be kinder to their knees. According to DiBugnara, a run in a pool significantly reduces the amount of force generated during foot strike compared to running outdoors. This will take a lot of pressure off your joints, including your ankles, knees, hips and spine, he tells Bustle.
Fun fact: Running in the pool will challenge all of the same core muscles used in outdoor running, like the hamstrings, quads, glutes and calves, says DiBugnara. The only differences are the load and time under tension for your muscles and joints when you’re in the water, she notes, so don’t be surprised if you notice an increase in your strength and power during your outdoor runs. If you can wade your way through chest-deep water, running on dry land will feel like a breeze.
Improve your running
Because your running pace slows down in the water, DiBugnara says pool runs can be used as a way to focus on improving your pace. And better stride could help prevent repetitive injuries from running outdoors and make you go much faster.
According to Victorson, running in the pool can also improve the way you pump your arms on the ground. Once you learn the basics, running on water has the potential to become a routine that keeps runners running longer and stronger and with fewer injuries for the rest of their careers and lives, he says.
Boost your cardio
It’s tough enough to wade through water, so imagine wading through it. This is why running in the pool is excellent for your cardiovascular health, says DiBugnara. The extra resistance makes you work even harder which is why it’s a great conditioning tool.
You can also work longer and harder in the pool as the water temperatures keep you cool. You can perform high-level HIIT routines, virtually injury-free, says Victorson. A heart rate in the pool of 130 is equivalent to a heart rate of approximately 140 on land. With the right pool-based program, the runner is able to increase mileage in a safe environment rather than increase mileage on terrain and risk an overuse injury.
Adjusting to how it feels to run in water also serves as balance training, says DiBugnara. While you obviously won’t fall, running through liquid will force all of your body’s stabilizer muscles to work overtime. Going forward in the water is like running against the wind, adds Victorson. It makes you stronger.
Spice things up
If nothing else, a run in the pool is sure to spice up your usual workout. As DiBugnara says, it’s a great way to mix up your outdoor running workout to avoid same-place, same-pace boredom.
What to know about running in the pool
When you compare running in a pool to running outdoors or on a treadmill, the most noticeable difference is speed, DiBugnara tells Bustle. Your ride will be much slower in the water than on land, but the pool compensates by challenging your balance and working your muscles in a whole new way, he says.
To make the most of your pool run, DiBugnara recommends stepping in with a form-fitting bathing suit or skin-tight clothing, such as compression shorts. Loose clothing, like an oversized shirt, will quickly become a hindrance in the water, she says. You can also add a cap to keep your hair dry.
Once inside, focus on your form as you go. Instead of wading or swimming, practice lifting your knees as you twist your feet, she tells Bustle. Raise your arms as you lean into the step, as this will naturally make your legs move faster.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to mimic your training on land. The point of exercising in the pool is to use the benefits water offers and not try to make it like earth, adds Victorson. For example, in the pool, the body is constantly working against resistance. He recommends that runners spend a day in the pool during their training week.
If you like, add a buoyancy belt to the mix so you can fully suspend yourself in the water and give your body a break. This tool will help you float a little higher in the water and will also help you maintain an upright form while jogging.
25 minute pool run workout
If you’re new to pool running, DiBugnara recommends trying a tempo workout that involves running laps through your shallow end. This 25-minute routine includes cardio, strength and power training so you’ll emerge from the water stronger than before.
- Start with a 5-minute warm-up by going for an easy run in the water.
- Run for 1 minute through the low end at medium intensity/effort. You should feel breathless by the end, but not exhausted.
- Jog for 30 seconds at a higher intensity. This should be your best effort.
- Rest for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this interval 5 times.
- Knee high in the water. Quickly run in place and lift your legs up and down.
- Perform high knees for 20 seconds at medium/high intensity.
- Rest for 10 seconds.
- Repeat this interval 10 times.
- To finish, run back and forth through the low end for 10 minutes. Maintain a constant/medium intensity effort.
- Cool with a stretch.
Studies referred to:
Lo, G.H. (2020). Evidence that swimming may protect against knee osteoarthritis: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative. PM&R: The Journal of Injury, Function, and Rehabilitation, 12(6), 529. https://doi.org/10.1002/pmrj.12267
Roper, JA. (2013). Acute exercise on an aquatic treadmill improves gait and pain in people with knee osteoarthritis. Arch Phys Med Rehabilitation. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2012.10.027.
Steve Victorson, professional in-water instructor
Christine DiBugnara, certified personal trainer, running coach
Kevin R. Stone, MD, orthopedic surgeon, founder of The Stone Clinic
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