If you’ve hit the swimming pool recently, you may have noticed people bobbing up and down on the spot, and wondered what on earth they’re up to! More likely than not they’re pool running which, like the name suggests, is running in a pool.
But why, you say? Well it’s actually a great form of exercise, with fantastic cardiovascular and body conditioning benefits. If you’ve got an injury, it’s also a great way to keep your body used to the mechanics of running without the impact. Here’s how you can get involved.
What are the benefits of pool running?
"Pool running is impact-free, so it reduces the risk of getting overuse injuries like stress fractures, ITB syndrome, anterior knee pain and shin splints – all the common complaints that runners often get," says Aquatic Physiotherapist Phil Morel.
"You can build it in to a training programme to avoid injury or use it to manage an existing injury and maintain fitness," says Phil. "We've seen athletes improve their performance on dry land just by doing aquatic running."
Pool running works your cardiovascular system to a similar level as standard running, and it uses all the major muscle groups
Pool running works your cardiovascular system to a similar level as standard running, and it uses all the major muscle groups, so it's great for total body conditioning. Pool running can also improve balance and agility, and help boost respiratory efficiency.
"Rehab can be boring at times, so you need something fun to keep you engaged. That's one of the real strengths of pool running," says Phil.
How do you do pool running?
First, find a pool deep enough to run in without touching the bottom (or attracting weird looks). Once you're in the water, keep your upper body straight, your head up and your abdominals tight. Try to avoid leaning too far forward, or you'll end up rolled up into a ball, bashing your elbows with your knees.
You can either run on the spot or steadily up and down the pool
You can either run on the spot using a special tether (like a bungee cord) that leashes you to the pool wall and holds you in place, or steadily up and down the pool.
What pool running drills can beginners try?
"If you have an injury and can't run at all, you can treat pool running as a direct replacement and try to replicate the intensity of your dry land workouts," says Phil.
Chartered Physiotherapist Jon Cooke also suggests trying an interval session:"Interval sessions are a great way of helping to maintain or even boost your fitness. Try jogging one length, then sprinting one length, doing normal forward running, side-step running, diagonal running and backward running, each for ten minutes."
Do you need any special kit for pool running?
“As long as you use the correct technique, you don't need any kit," says Phil, "although there are aids available. If you're going to get anything, I'd suggest a buoyancy belt, which provides enough floatation for most people to stay buoyant in the water."
Buoyancy belts fit around your waist for core strengthening and give you a vertical lift
Buoyancy belts fit around your waist for core strengthening and give you a vertical lift. If you want to make your workout harder, you can also get aquatic training shoes with fins that can add 20-30% resistance to your workout. For those who aren’t too confident in the water, buoyancy suits help with flotation, posture and balance and give you a bit of security.