Whether it's a stress fracture, a sore knee, shin splints or the dreaded plantar fasciitis, a lower limb injury can prevent you from running. For many runners, the thought of sitting on the couch for a few weeks is horrifying, but continuing to train on an injured leg will only make the pain worse. Thankfully, there is an alternative way of running that puts far less stress on the lower limbs: running in water. Also known as pool running or aqua jogging, deep-water running can help you maintain fitness while you wait for a lower limb injury to heal.
Keep Your Head Above Water
Aqua jogging involves running along the surface of deep water, so that your feet and legs don't touch the bottom of the pool. You'll need to strap a floatation device around your waist to keep your head and neck above the waterline. Running stores sell aqua jogging floatation devices that can keep you aligned at the correct angle.
Use the Right Pool Running Technique
Pool running feels a lot like running on land, with the exception that your feet don't pound into the pavement with every step. Focus on keeping an upright posture and move your arms and legs in an alternating rhythm, just as you would when running on land. Run laps around the deep end of the pool, turning around when you begin to approach water that is shallow enough for your feet to touch the bottom.
Design an Aqua Jogging Routine That Works for You
Studies show that heart rate during water running is lower than during land running for the same perceived level of effort. To get the same cardio workout in the pool as you would usually get on land, you need to put in more effort. Alternate intervals where you run as fast as you can for a minute or two with intervals of slower aqua jogging to train your heart and lungs. As your fitness improves, you can make the hard intervals longer and the recovery intervals shorter.
Pool running is a safe option for many injured runners because it puts very little strain on the knee and ankle joints. However, no exercise is suitable for everyone. Ask your podiatrist whether aqua jogging is a suitable way for you to maintain fitness while you recover from your lower limb injury. If you experience pain in your injured leg while running in the pool, stop your workout immediately and ask your podiatrist for advice.