Aquatic training for runners to supplement your program

aquatic training for runners can supplement their program, learn more at Fish & Field Biokineticists

Most of us are aware of the benefits of aquatic therapy as a rehabilitation mode due to the weightlessness and reduced impact on the joints. However, not many people know that including aquatic training for runners as a supplement to your schedule may allow you to train harder, as well as train at a higher intensity on a “recovery” day, without the negative effects of impact. There is a misconception that a person will not achieve as high an intensity workout in the water as they would on the land. This misconception is due to the popular beliefs that water exercises are only for the unfit, pregnant ladies and older individuals with pain. Other contributing factors to the misconception include the fact that ones’ heart rate is generally lower in the water and people don’t feel that they work up a good sweat, therefore they can’t have had a very intense session. Research has shown that aerobic gains in the water are equal to those on the land. Additionally, strength gains from water exercises may be greater than those achieved on the land due to the constant resistance provided by the water.

Some running facts:

  • Approximately 66% of runners will experience a running related injury over a 12 month period.
  • Running on land, in excess of 56km a week, increases the risk of injury by more than 55%.
  • A runner will typically have a foot strike between 500 and 1250 times per km!

(quoted from the CALA Aqua Jogging and Aqua Running Speciality training course manual)

How running impacts the body:

Most people who have embarked on a regular training regime, running or otherwise, have experienced DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) after a tough workout session at one time or another. It is not completely understood, but DOMS is generally believed to be caused due to microtrauma in the muscles that were exercised. Other symptoms that one may experience when suffering with DOMS include decreased range of motion, temporary decrease in strength as well as muscle swelling. One of the most effective treatments for DOMS is, although this may seem counterintuitive, to exercise. If a person is following a rigid training schedule, they may “have” to run whilst they are experiencing DOMS, which is often the last thing one would feel like doing. Getting into the pool will allow you to do another high intensity workout without the pain. And this is why we highly recommend aquatic training for runners.

How aquatic training for runners can improve your performance:

  • The hydrostatic pressure helps to decrease swelling in the muscles, due to the compression forces
  • The turbulence stimulates the sensory receptors which helps to decrease the pain-spasm cycle. The massaging effect of the water also results in a perceived lowered pain intensity.
  • Being able to move in all planes makes water an ideal medium to restore function and range. This is aided by buoyancy, which results in increased joint space and decreased joint compression therefore also assisting in reduced pain and increased ROM.
  • If exercising in a heated pool, the warmth of the water may decrease muscle guarding (the tensing of muscles, due to, or in anticipation of, pain) again resulting in reduced pain. With the reduction in pain, or perceived reduction in pain, one is able to push harder and work at a higher intensity.
  • Being immersed improves venous return (the rate of blood flow back to the heart) due to hydrostatic pressure
  • There is an increase in heart stroke volume (amount of blood pumped per heartbeat). Research has proven many times that ones’ cardiac output (volume of blood pumped around the body per minute) is the same in the water as it is on the land, even though the HR is lower and this is due to the increased stroke volume (Cardiac output = HR x Stroke volume).


From the above, it is easy to see why exercising in the water is a great way to supplement ones training program while eliminating the increased risk associated with repetitive impact of land based training. One can safely increase their “mileage” by adding a time based running session in the pool, which will also help to improve strength and this can only benefit ones performance. So what are you waiting for, grab your costume and dive in! Contact Us to book your session!


  1. Brukner P and Kahn K. Clinical Sports Medicine, McGraw-Hill Book Companies Inc, 2001
  2. Powers and Howley, Exercise Physiology, 4th edition, McGraw-Hills Companies Inc, 2001
  5. Charlene Kopansky, November 2000, CALA Aquajogging and Aqua Running Speciality training course manual

Article by Nicole Fish at Fish and Field Biokineticists

  1. […] level, turn to alternative low impact activities such as swimming (see our blog from last month: ‘Aquatic training for runners to supplement your program’), stationary bicycle or yoga.  You can also make use of ice to reduce pain and swelling in the […]

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