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What about a water workout?

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Water can make a deep impact on your workout by eliminating potential injuries.

Photo by Erik Dungan on Unsplash

IT has happened to almost all of us. We train hard all year, looking forward to a successful season in our favourite sport only to be stopped short by an injury. The thought of losing our hard-won fitness while waiting to heal has sent many of us back into training before we are ready, only to suffer a more serious injury. If this is you, maybe it’s time to try water running.

Merina Farrell is an age-class duathlete who qualified for the world championships in 2013. Farrell suffers from a herniated disc and has used water running exclusively for her running training. “Water running lets me continue my training program without further injury to my back from high-impact running,” Farrell says.

In fact, water running might actually improve your speed. Sue Watson, a 52-year-old New Brunswick triathlete was the fastest woman in two triathlons this past season, winning the Parlee Beach Sprint Triathlon and the grueling Fundy H2O race in Fundy National Park. She credits her recent improvement to doing most of her running in the pool while nursing several nagging injuries.

The float: How to run in water

Most pools have waist-belt flotation devices but if not, you can straddle a pool noodle. You need to be buoyant enough to float unassisted. It is also important to maintain good running posture. Keep your shoulders over your hips with your head and eyes forward and use a complete range of motion.

The workouts themselves will depend on your training goals. Whatever your dry-land training calls for, you can do in the pool. Like all workouts, start with a warm-up. For example, Short has the Mill Rats start with five minutes of simple exercises like hurdles. Then they move into anaerobic training: 12 sets of 45-second hard running, followed by 15 seconds at an easy pace. During high-intensity running, shoot for a cadence of 105 leg rotations per minute. Distance runners can also replace their road work with pool running. For example, a 5-km run could be replaced with 30 minutes of water running. You can even simulate uphills and downhills by changing your body position slightly backward or forward. Speed work can also be incorporated into pool training.

Water running is not just a replacement for dry-land running. Since water is 700 times more dense than air, every movement becomes resistance training. Simple exercises include jumping jacks, cross country skiing and tucks (pulling your legs up to your chest). Using equipment can add more resistance to your movement. Webbed gloves, ankle and body weights and foam dumbbells can all play a role in a resistance workout.

Whether you are nursing an injury, trying to get faster or simply looking for an interesting new workout, water running is well worth a try.

More Insight: Check out this great article on core body exercises to avoid injury.


  • Alex Hurst is a writer for HUM@Nmedia covering Optimyz and Silver magazines in print and digital editions and is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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