Through my injury and time-off running I had to re-think my plan, focus, training, and nutrition. And in that time I discovered a new passion which I haven’t even considered.
I am not a big fan of swimming so I wasn’t particularly excited (and perhaps a little bit sceptical) when my physio told me to do aqua running. I learned to swim very late in my life and was (still am) scared of water. But maybe I just respect it too much? …
Aqua running – what is this new fancy exercise? Apparently some of the elite athletes train in the pool only for their big races such as marathon or ultras. I wasn’t quite sold on that but thought I’d give it a go. Aqua running (Water running) as the name suggest is running/jogging in the water. You pretty much run as you would run on the road/treadmill the only difference is that you have more resistance (water) and you have to push harder but without putting much pressure on your joints, bones. This is particularly excellent for rehabilitation after injury but I also found some other benefits (see below).
First phase I started running in the pool at about 1.20m which means I was still running but with less weight which meant not too much pressure on my injury. It was going quite well but still I felt I was putting too much strain on my hip. I did swimming the first 2 weeks (2-3 times a week for about 1 hour) which help with my cardio. But I wanted to run!
Second phase: after few weeks I still very much enjoyed being in the pool so I decided to buy a aqua running belt – investment! I bought one of the simplest and most inexpensive aqua running belts (www.physioroom.co.uk, £20). It does the job for me. It is comfortable to wear and good quality. I am sure it will last me for years. With the belt I am now able to do all the exercises and running in deep water which means I don’t touch the bottom of the pool at all = less pressure, strain, and weight on the hip area. But this also allows me to push more intensive and faster. It does look a little bit silly as all I do is floating with only my head sticking out of water (you do get occasional odd looks but who cares…)
The benefits of aqua running I discovered:
1. You develop an incredible strong core. Oh yes, there is no doubt about it, my core is stronger than ever. So strong that I am unable to eat big portions as I will feel very uncomfortable. See blog.
2. You boost your cardio. As you have to push harder to run (water resistance) you do get very out of breath.
3. Good for developing breathing. As you are in the water which somehow restricts the normal breathing, when you are wearing the belt (which you have to wear it tight abound your waist) it restricts normal breathing even more. This results in body getting very efficient in using every little oxygen it gets. I found that during runs (on the road) my breathing is much more shallow and relaxed and my body doesn’t scream for more oxygen when I run up the hill.
4. Incredible strength in the thighs/buttocks. (Nice one ladies!)
5. Body toning
6. Develop good posture which benefits during running
7. Improve biomechanics for running.You can run in slow motion and pay attention to your arms, posture, how you move your legs. This helps you to develop better biomechanics for running. Once you are on the road you will feel the difference and the benefits.
8. Strengthen calf muscles – I have to wear calf compression after every session for recovery.
9. You burn more calories (well I find it). I have small breakfast (50grams natural probiotoc yogurt with one medium banana and few berries plus fruit tea) 1.5 hours before exercise which gives me enough energy for a 1 hour session in the pool. But I do feel very shaky and hungry afterwards and in desperate need for 2nd breakfast (which usually contains eggs and grapefruit). I do refuel as soon as possible for quick recovery. That way I am able to do long(ish) run in the afternoon.
10. This is something I found absolutely helps me too, flexibility in my hips before log runs. As I am also doing dynamic moves in the pool, this helps my hips to become flexible. I do aqua running/swim early morning and long run in the early afternoon and I find the run much more relaxed, freer and almost easy. (but maybe is just me who cannot wait to be on the road fully again)
11. It is pure fun! Trust me on this one. You going to love it. Especially when you start seeing/feeling the results. It might take you few weeks to get the right technique, timing etc., but you get there. Stay strong and focused!
In addition to aqua running I included few exercises which I do while in the water like:
– Sprints which “thrust” my heart rate up and muscles scream for oxygen (but just keep pushing).
– Scissors exercise.
– Dynamic moves for improving hip mobility and flexibility: donkey kicks, donkey whips, fire hydrant etc.
– Lunges. (Without a belt, starting at about 1m and walk to shallow end) do as you would do lunges in the dry.
You can see something that doesn’t sound very hard is actually an amazing workout for all-round-body with so many benefits. And you do all this in one hour! Result! All you need to do now is to find a local swimming pool. Check out if they offer a free-swimming area. Our local leisure centre offers lane swim 1/2 pool and the other half is for “swim for all”.