A New Kind of Brick: Try Aquajogging to Boost Your Run

Water running: it's not just for the old and injured anymore. Seriously, deep-water running gets a bad rap. People see retirees doing it, and my injured athletes begrudgingly strap on the belt to wait out their convalescence periods, but I think it's time we all rethink our view of running in the pool.

I've been making use of water running, or aquajogging, in triathletes' training programs for the past few winters with impressive results. Because you're not trying to balance racing and workouts, winter is the best time of year to make performance gains. But it's also a good time to reduce the overall stress that three training disciplines put on your body. Aquajogging provides a great balance of training stimulus and reduced impact on your joints, and for many athletes it can be a real time saver, too.

To make the most of your time and effort, combine a swimming session with aquajogging to create a new kind of brick workout. One of the best parts of this arrangement is that you can work on two disciplines without changing clothes or suffering the bracing shock of leaving the hot and humid natatorium for a cold run outdoors.

Keys for Effective Deep-water Running

You can either use a deep-water jogger belt or you can go without. In the deep end of the pool, run as you would on land. Be mindful not to just tread water (that's cheating, and if you're using a heart-rate monitor you will see the proof in your low heart rate numbers). Instead, mimic your run gait and flex your ankles, knees and hips as you would while running on land. Your deep-water run gait should look like your running stride on land, complete with arm swing.

Depending on the space you have available (watch for divers here) you can either move across the pool or you can stay in one spot (or jog in small circles). The most important thing is that you are not out there watching the peaceful snow fall while mindlessly moving your legs, but instead you're really working. A properly executed deep-water run is a true aerobic workout, so you should be breathing hard (and even sweating).

To boost the intensity of the workout, speed up your turnover, just as you would on the track or on a treadmill, and use a heart-rate monitor so you can maintain the correct intensity. Deep-water jogging is not an easy way out of a workout; instead, the session should be a tempo-intensity workout in a warmer, less-jarring environment.

Below is a good water-running workout you can include each week during the winter. If you know your tempo-run heart rate zone, use it where indicated below. If not, you'll need to do a little math to pinpoint your tempo heart-rate zone. Your tempo intensity should be 96 percent of your average heart rate for a 5K race. Since you're not supporting your weight when you run in the pool, it's harder to get your heart rate up that high. As a result, your tempo intensity for deep-water running will be about five to seven beats lower than it is on land.

The Workout

  • Warm-up: 300-meter swim, 200-meter pull, 100-meter kick
  • Swim set: 800 meters at race pace
  • Jog: 20-minute water run with: 2-minute warm-up; 3 x 5:00 @ tempo intensity on 1-minute easy-jogging recovery
  • Swim set 2: 500 meters race pace
  • Jog: 15-minute water run with: 5 x 2 minutes hard (max intensity and turnover) on 1-minute easy-jogging recovery
  • Swim set: 3 x 250 race pace on 15 seconds rest
  • Jog: 10 minutes tempo intensity
  • Cool-down: 50 meters

Workout Totals:

  • 2,700 meters swimming
  • 45 minutes jogging with 35 minutes at tempo intensity and above

Use this workout to spice up your winter swimming by breaking up the monotony of endless laps in the pool. The session doubles as a low-impact but reasonably high-intensity tempo-running day to keep you fit without pounding the pavement (or the treadmill, as the case may be).

As with any new activity, deep-water jogging will take some getting used to. It is easy to slack off with it and use it as a low-intensity recovery session, but that is not the purpose of this particular workout. Watching your heart-rate monitor and sticking to your tempo zone (96 percent of your lactate threshold or 5K race-pace heart rate) is the key to fully realizing this workout's effectiveness.


Abby Ruby is an Expert Coach for Carmichael Training Systems. Ruby competes in and coaches athletes for triathlon, running and cycling events. To find out what CTS can do for you, visit www.trainright.com.

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