For years professional athletes across the world of sport have been turning to water training to gain that extra edge. Lornah Kiplagat (4 x world champion and Running Awards guest presenter) used deep water training whilst injured between 10th – 16th September 2006. On 17th September 2006 she broke the 10 mile world record. She has been an advocate ever since.

For those unaware of the training method, aqua running is as it sounds - simply running in water - so it’s possible for amateurs without lots of special equipment too. It can be done in deep or shallow water and with or without floats and aquatic shoes. Coaches recommend deep water to reduce impact even further and to start with an aqua running vest/belt as it helps to keep the correct posture. Aquatic shoes can be worn to provide further resistance, usually around 20% - 30% more. Click here for more on technique.

It is the ideal cross-training for anyone, especially those recovering from injury, suffering from arthritis, attempting to increase training without increasing the risk of injury, and of course many more including pregnant women. This is why:

1.    Most obviously, because there is no impact, it reduces the chance of injury whilst also providing exercise. It also means you can train with certain injuries, particularly shin splints, tendonitis, fasciitis and many other knee and lower leg ailments.

2.    Balance and agility are improved as abdominal and lower back muscles are used more to keep the runner upright in a different way to on land. There is in fact an increased upper body workout compared to running.

3.    It burns more calories. According to Dr. Robert Wilder of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, on average (these are very general averages of course) land running burns approximately 8 calories per minute, whilst aqua running burns around 11.5 calories per minute. This is due to the added resistance in water; it is 800 times denser than air.

4.    Less strain on the heart. A study from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that heart rate is 8-11 beats per minute lower for the same oxygen uptake when running in the water compared to normal running. This is in part due to the pressure, causing more blood to return to the heart and be used with each pump and in part due to the cooler water. The colder the water the lower the heart-rate.

5.    As it closely mimics natural running form, it provides a neuromuscular workout that keeps the running specific muscles active. Other cross-training such as swimming, cycling and rowing cannot do this.

There are of course arguments against aqua running. It is obviously not as accessible as land running and it is hard to gauge performance in terms of speed and distance. One area that many find off-putting can be the monotony of travelling a small distance in a swimming pool, as opposed to running outside or on a treadmill with a screen.

I’m sure world-record breaker Lornah could mention a positive or two though!

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