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How to Have Big Deep Water Running WorkOut Success

How to Have Big Deep Water Running Workout Success

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to use deep water running to train with reduced stress on  bones and joints while you heal and get back in shape so you can finally finish your marathon or that endurance race you have been putting off, you’re in luck.

A group running in deep water
Running in Deep Water

That’s because this post will reveal to you how deep water running workouts can reduce the risk of re-injury  and get you back to your normal life. You will learn how to have big deep water running workout success.

Photo of woman running in deep water
Woman Running in Deep Water

which means you might be able to more quickly get back to land running and complete the running program that  you stopped doing since sustaining an injury. Soon you’ll discover:

1. How to get more range of motion, more use of all muscle groups without the added joint stress of land exercises.

2.  A surprisingly simple way to reduce the forces exposed across the joints  of the lower extremity by approximately 90%.

3. A nifty trick for sustaining a natural form.

Read on to learn more—-

How to Get More Range of Motion, More use of all Muscle Groups Without the added joint stress of land exercise 1. [ using water to mimic land activities]

Endurance Running  and Repetitive Stress

I have heard running being described as a series of crashes.

Photo of a car crash
A car crash

What that refers to, as overly dramatic as it sounds, is that when you run your body is under constant pressure. Endurance running places repetitive stress on the lower limbs and lower back.

This is How it Works. This is What We mean by Crashes

When you are running, your feet strikes the ground. With each foot strike inducing ground reaction forces equivalent to 2–4 times the body weight. [1] This means that if you weigh 100 pounds you are slammed with 200 to 400 pounds of pressure that is like a shock wave to your body.

Most of the time you don’t feel this “load” because your running shoes, having good cushioning, act as shock absorbers and block the impact of the ground force from doing damage to your foot.

However, as discussed in a previous  post  about the impact of load on  knees when you run, sometimes the shoes don’t block the entire impact of the shock wave, and some of it travels above the foot and all the way to the knee.

Then crash! You go tumbling down with a lot of pain.

You may be tempted to train through the pain, but remember that overtraining with weight-bearing activities is a major training  error that often results in further damage.

The trick it to figure out a means of maintaining your fitness level while allowing your injuries to heal. In short, You want to train without incurring the potentially harmful effects of weight bearing exercise. [1] Put another way, you want  your body not  to have to work to bear its own weight.

The final question you’ll have is how can you use water running  to mimic the exercise  that you’d do on land. For example, what strength  exercise could you do as a substitute  for hill work? You can refer to the video below. You can also read more suggestions below the video.

Here is a suggested workout to substitute hill work. It comes from Melissa M. Aukerman  an exercise physiologist of [AMAA ]American Running & Fitness Association [2]

This workout is designed to increase leg strength, so it can serve as a substitute for hill work. For this workout you will need aquarunners or ankle cuffs designed for water use. These are foam foot attachments that can be found at most pools where water aerobics are taught. The aquarunners make it difficult to keep your feet submerged in the water and provide intense resistance for you to work against when running.


10 minutes easy (60-70% MHR) without aqua runners -AMAA

Mimic The Effect of Gravity

As everyone knows, there are things that will not only slow you down but also , as Melissa M. Aukerman, points out  possibly lead to injury on land where gravity is at. There’s an exercise that prepares the runner training in water to overcome similar obstacles. This is it:

For a couple lengths of the pool, make yourself as wide as possible. Run with your feet turned out or in to push more water. Cup your hands and swing your arms at an angle to push more water behind you. In short, do things to make you less aerodynamic. ..After a couple of minutes of “wide running”, make yourself more sleek and aerodynamic, running exactly as you would on land. Maintain this form for 5 to 10 minutes, taking note of how the water feels against your body. Do you feel more resistance against one arm or leg than the other? Do your feet glide through the water, or does one foot drag slowly. For the next 5 to 10 minutes, try to maintain form that is symmetrical and sleek. When you do this, you should feel like it takes much longer to complete one length of the pool, because you are not pushing through the water.[3]

With this exercise, you won’t lose any down time in adjusting to gravity when you finally do land running. It will be an effortless transition.

A surprisingly simple way to reduce the forces exposed across the joints  of the lower extremity by approximately 90%. 2.[ Using The Buoyancy of Water to become stronger.]

When training in the pool, the water supports about 90% of the body’s weight which allows for unloading the major joints of the body. Yeah, that means a lot of compression pressure is also off  your spine.

In addition to the buoyancy, the density of the water provides greater resistance than air. In fact, it’s believed that water is about 800 times more dense than air. This means you can use the resistance to increase your strength  and form.

In short, Water supports joints to make movement easier, while it may act as resistance to help build muscle strength.

A nifty trick for for sustaining a natural form 3. [ Using Resistance to Monitor your form.]

Think of it this way: Can you really monitor how air affects your feet or legs when you are running on land? You probably would have a hard time doing that. However, as Melissa M. Aukerman points out:

“The resistance of the water can also be used to provide feedback on form. When running on land, it can be difficult for the runner to self-monitor his or her running running form. In the water, however, it is easy to feel the resistance against your arms, legs, and feet as you move through the water. This can provide valuable feedback about one’s running form.”

For example, duplicating your land running form  in the water requires you to lift your knees higher but without reaching out with your feet and over-striding. If you learn not to over-stride, you’ll become a much more efficient runner.

photo of man running in deep water
Man running in deep water

Also, it’s important that you use a flotation belt. What the belt will do is help keep you upright in the pool with your neck and head above the water. Of course you could do your water training without a flotation belt. However, this would not be a good idea.You would be undermining your own training because  it takes so much effort to stay afloat that it is difficult to concentrate on maintaining good running form. Remember that a major training error is doing something that will set back your gains or prolong your recovery period.

woman, in red, running in deep water
Woman running in deep water


You just learned how to use deep water running as an alternative  to training on land. And that means you can use deep water running to train with reduced stress on  bones and joints while you heal and get back in shape for land running.

To that end, let’s quickly recap what you learned over the post:

  • You learned how to use water to mimic land exercises
  • You learned how to use the buoyancy of water to become stronger
  • You have learned  how to use the resistance of water to monitor  and improve your running form

Now all you need to do is grab yourself a flotation belt and get in the pool. It won’t be long before you are ready to try some land running again. It might also make you feel good. Something about being in the water has a way of lifting people’s spirit.

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.


1.Dowzer CN, Reilly T, Cable NT (1998) Effects of deep and shallow water running on spinal shrinkage. Br J Sports Med 32(1):44–48


Melissa M. Aukerman

AMAA Journal. 21.2 (Spring 2008): p11.


Melissa M. Aukerman

AMAA Journal. 21.2 (Spring 2008): p11.


12 thoughts on “How to Have Big Deep Water Running WorkOut Success

  1. I appreciate your attention to research within your posts. I typically do my cardio via the pool. I have some health considerations that make actual running very difficult for me to say the least. Often, I swim laps to complete my cardio portion of a workout. I love this post because it provides a concise way to do much more while I am in the pool. What I like about this deep-water running is that it will not only provide a cardio workout given the resistance of the water but it will also provide strength training without the pressure on my joints. I will pay for it for days if I put too much strain or pressure on my joints so I definitely understand it being compared to a crash. These deep-water running exercises can help shorten some of my other workouts and add to my pool time by offering some variety. That is something I can get excited about.

    1. I am so glad you found the post useful. I think Running in water is a great therapeutic strategy for runners with leg and back problems, since the body is supported. The added buoyancy has the potential to decrease the compressive forces on the spine which are evident during running on land. Deep water running is used by both injured and healthy athletes and gives the gains of training without incurring the potentially harmful effects of weight bearing exercise like running on land. I too think that is something to get excited about. In fact, I hope that more health providers can see deep water running as a good treatment to help people who because of health considerations can not do actual running.

  2. I’m glad I came across this article because I have been suffering from knee and lower back pain for some years now. Obviously, running is only going to make things worse.

    That’s why I decided to take up cycling instead, and my body has been performing better as a result. After reading your guide, I now have a clear idea on how deep water running works. So I’ll definitely be trying it out when I have the chance.

    Great article!

    1. Hi Farhan,

      I am glad you enjoyed the post. Deep water running might be worth trying because the water will give you support without putting pressure on your knee and back. I wish you continued good health. Feel free to contact me again should you have any questions.

  3. I’ve been looking and tried loads of things to try help me with my sore back. Doctor told me to do exercises but they never seemed to work and tended to hurt me more. This idea looks brilliant definitely going to try this! Do you know if there’s any kind of classes for this exercise or could I just jump in a pool and do it myself?

    1. Hi Mark,

      All you need to do deep water running is access to a pool and a flotation belt

      The flotation belt is an important piece of equipment to help keep the runner upright in the pool with the neck and head well above the water. It is possible to run in the water without one; however, it takes so much effort to stay afloat that it is difficult to concentrate on maintaining good running form.

      That said, it’s still a good idea to inquire if there any water aerobic classes in session  near where you live. Most organizations that offer aerobic classes also offer deep water running. Good luck and feel free to contact me should you have any more questions.

  4. I found this article to be very useful and helpful. I’ve had a series of injuries but I need to get back to working out.

    Have you ever done the deep water workout? I am going to try the deep water workout. It looks perfect for me because of its low impact.

    Thanks for sharing this info!

    1. Hi Robert,

      I haven’t done the deep water workout myself. I found out about it from a friend of mine who is also a runner and needed to recover from a knee problem. I was intrigued by the therapy and spoke to other runners who had used deep water workout as a substitute for land training. I was impressed enough  from the additional research that I did to do a post on it. Keep in mind  that you’ll need a flotation belt to help keep you in an upright position so the  workout becomes more efficient. Let me know how it works out should you decide to try it.

  5. This is another amazing and helpful article you got here again. I can’t fully express how happy I usually am after reading your posts here. They are always timely and very helpful.
    I think this is just what I need to try in order to get back on the track sooner than I expected. However, I’m a bit concerned about the exercise and fill like asking if there is any supervision needed for this or it can be done all on my own?

    1. Hi Pearl,
      Pool running is a great form of cross-training for runners because it’s highly specific to running; it closely mimics your running form while using most of the same muscles. You will be able to maintain your fitness even if you’re not doing any running on land. Keep in mind that you pool run in the deep end. You are not supposed to touch the pool floor. So I think that if you’re just starting out, and because doing pool running by yourself can be boring, it’s a good idea to join a deep-running water class where someone can watch your form and where you can have some fun with others. If you don’t want to or it’s not possible join a pool running class, then at the very least you should practice with a buddy. If you wish you can use a floatation belt, but remember that keeping proper form is what really counts.

  6. There is a wealth of benefits in this work out style. So much so, that health insurance will pay for seniors to attend pool classes at certain facilities here. It must be prescribed by an M.D.
    Pool exercise is now used before knee and hip replacements to build up muscle.
    This results in a better outcome after surgery.
    Just one possible application.

    1. Hi Dianne,
      Thanks for the information about health insurance paying for seniors to attend pool classes that teach deep water workout. Good to know. Thanks for checking in. Have a great weekend.


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