What is Aqua Running?


Whether you’re a single-sport athlete or a multi-sport fanatic, you know the toll high-impact training takes on your body. Modifying your postseason, preseason and in-season workouts to include aqua running will rest your body without sacrificing fitness.

Aqua running (a.k.a. aqua jogging) is exactly what the name suggests: mimicking your running motion while immersed in deep water. Because your feet don’t touch the bottom, there is no impact on the body. If you’re like many athletes, you may view aqua running as a penalty for injury. Aqua jogging can and should be a go-to training method in your fitness regimen. Most elite runners, including Deena Kastor and Lauren Fleshman, incorporate aqua running into their routines. Shouldn’t you?

Benefits of Cross-Training

Aqua running can be used to supplement, or even to substitute for, your normal running View More: http://tiffanyheidenthal.pass.us/graproutine for a range of time. Runners Connect reported on two studies on aqua running that showed no statistical penalty to race times and performance. In fact, aqua running burns more calories than traditional running, and acts as an aid in recovery from muscle damage after intense training. 

Aqua running is unique because of how closely it mimics the effects of your usual running routine. As John Davis of Runners Connect explains, at low to moderate intensities, like a marathon pace, deep-water aqua running pushes the cardiovascular system harder than above-ground running. On average, a runner’s upper body is less defined than the lower body. Water provides an opportunity for full-body resistance, which gives runners a chance to work out muscles that are otherwise ignored.

Work Outs

Now that you’re convinced you should switch to aqua running, you’re probably looking for a good workout. Many gyms and aquatic facilities offer aqua-aerobic classes for groups or in private sessions. One such location is SwimRVA, which offers multiple aqua-aerobic programs including, for example, the Running University, which specializes in aqua running and aquatic cross training.

If you can’t make it to a facility, or prefer working out in your own pool, here are some training regimens from Runners Connect and Active.

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The “Active” 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

The Pyramid

  • 10 minutes easy warm ups (light jogging motion with little force)
  • 1:00 hard running, 30 seconds easy jogging
  • Continue to add 30 seconds to the hard running
  • End at 5:00 hard, 30 seconds easy
  • Work your way down from 5:00 hard, 30 seconds easy
  • End at 1:00 hard, 30 seconds easy


  • 10 minutes easy warm up (light jogging)
  • 30 seconds hard sprint (95-100% of maximum heart rate or all out sprint)
  • 30 seconds medium run (87-92% of maximum heart rate or what feels like tempo effort)
  • 30 seconds hard sprint (same as above)
  • 30 seconds medium run (same as above)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • Repeat 12-15 times
  • 10 minutes easy cool-downs

Tips from a Runner


We could all use help sometimes. Here are some reminders about aqua running from Margaret Rechel, who is an American Swimming Coaching Association Level 2 Coach, a four-time record holder of LMSC records in the women’s 18–24 category, and a SwimRVA Coach:

  • Make sure your form is the same as your standard running form.
  • The cadence (rhythm) of your arms and legs affects the intensity of the workout.
    • Use a faster and higher intensity cadence for a tougher workout.
    • Use a slower and lower intensity cadence for recovery.
  • A flotation belt is a benefit but not a requirement.
    • Aqua running with the belt is good for concentrating on the running motion.
    • Running without the belt builds balance and endurance.
  • Water weighs more than air, so it’s a good way to strengthen muscles and joints.
  • It’s not about speed but about resistance.

Stay tuned as I take on SwimRVA’s Running University first-hand and share my results!


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Also, check out the Richmond-based nonprofit, which works to elevate aquatics in the Richmond region, making water safety and aquatic fitness more accessible to all.

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