As any runner knows, being injured is extremely frustrating! If you are looking to keep your fitness up in a time of recovery, try deep water running (DWR). DWR can be used as a way to maintain your aerobic fitness or to supplement a regular training routine. Aerobic fitness can actually be maintained for about six weeks when DWR replaces outdoor or treadmill running. Here are some things you need to know to get started:
1. Obtain a flotation belt so that you are more buoyant. While you will work harder without the belt, you will not be mimicking a natural running style. By using a more natural running stride, you will be activating the muscle groups that are used in running; therefore, maintaining your ability to run at the same level at which you were previously. This is called the principal of specificity.
2. DWR should be done in water deep enough that your feet do not touch the ground during your exercise.
3. Lean slightly forward from the vertical position with your entire body, bring your knee up to about 75 degrees, and then extend your leg toward the bottom of the pool.
4. Maintain relaxed arms in the same position that you would have them during regular running.
The type of DWR described above is called "cross country" (CC), which most closely mimics a regular running stride by activating the muscles slightly more than when treadmill running. Another commonly used style of DWR is called "high knee" (HK). While HK-DWR will give you a nice workout, it will not activate the appropriate muscles for running at the same intensity as CC-DWR.
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Killgore, G.L., Wilcox, A.R., Caster, B.L., Wood, T.M. Alower-extremities kinematic comparison of deep-water running styles and treadmill running. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Nov; 20(4): 919-927.
Masumoto K, Applequist BC, Mercer JA. Muscle activity during different styles of deep water running and comparison to treadmill running at matched stride frequency. Gait posture. 2012.
Reilly T, Dowzer CN, Cable NT. The physiology of deep water running. J Sports Sci. 2003 Dec;21(12):959-72.