Water Jogging 101

Written on Jan 31st, 2015 by , Category Marlene Farrell Blog, Training

By Marlene Farrell

Editor’s note: Leavenworth’s Marlene Farrell is recovering from a broken ankle suffered while running. This is the third in a series of blogs she is writing, detailing her recovery.

Marlene Farrell at the YMCA Pool in East Wenatchee.

EAST WENATCHEE — Running on frigid winter mornings has its rewards: scrubbed lungs, warm rosy cheeks, tingling muscles at the interface between cold air and hot blood. But sometimes it’s agonizing to go out if you already feel chilled, or you’re getting over a cold.

What else could a runner do to keep moving? There’s always skiing, but it requires more preparation, more energy, and faces the same elements. There’s the treadmill and exercise bike, if you don’t mind staring at a wall and losing a gallon of sweat.

I’m about to suggest something that sounds so tedious and dull you’d think only an injured athlete would try it. Water jogging! Honestly, that’s how I came to find myself water jogging in the deep end at the East Wenatchee pool. I’m recovering from breaking my ankle after Thanksgiving.

Every time I visit the pool I learn a new nugget to make water jogging more interesting and challenging. If you are nursing an injury, or just need a mini-vacation from the cold, try water jogging and follow these tips:

1. Only do this in the deep end where your feet don’t touch the bottom, and expect to be moving, however slowly, through the water. Don’t worry about speed — it’ll be somewhere between the pace of a jellyfish and a barnacle. When there are others in the deep end, I go back and forth in my own invisible lane. If I have the deep end to myself, I have the luxury of running the rectangular perimeter of the deep end.

Form is key while water jogging.

2. Form is key. Just treading water burns calories but doesn’t simulate running. To preserve “normal” running biomechanics I wear a flotation belt (available for borrow at the pool). My form feels different than overground running, but it uses the same muscles through the same range of motion. There is a tendency to lean forward, so I have to constantly check that my shoulders are back and straight. My stride is more perpendicular in the water, and I focus on pushing down and pulling back up, my legs like pistons. I have gotten advice to reach forward with my legs to use my hamstring and butt muscles, and I’ve also read that it’s good to sweep your legs back. My opinion is that I don’t want to practice overstriding in the water, but varying my stride length can only give me a more thorough workout.

3. Arm movement should be natural. When moving my legs up and down, I sometimes start accidentally matching that motion with my arms. So then I focus on my arms, moving in quick pendulum strokes at my sides, not crossing my body. I hold my hands loosely cupped. Form requires enough concentration that minutes can fly by.

4. The perceived effort (how hard it feels) is higher in the pool. So to actually get a decent workout, you need to do a lot of your water jogging at high intensity. I’m only doing this three times a week, so that doesn’t feel too challenging, and, in fact, I crave the hard work. I can’t use sweat to gauge my effort, so I rely on three things I can monitor: leg turnover, breathing rate, and feeling hot in my head (the rest of my body is losing heat to the water).

5. You also need to match your water jogging duration to your land running. Before my injury I was running anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours a day. My stints of water jogging have been around 45 minutes but I just completed an 80-minute session. A good example of how to accomplish this would be: 10 minutes of warm up water jogging, 5 x 5 minutes at 80 percent effort, with 2 minutes easy jogging between intervals, 8 x 2 minutes at 90 percent, with 1 minute easy jogging between intervals, 11 minute cool down of water jogging.

I swim laps of the crawl when I visit the pool, too. It feels like a moving stretch as I elongate through the water. It is a perfect counterpoint to water jogging. Other things I might try are a few laps of dolphin kicking, which is great for my core, and deep end upright flutter kicking (the same that is used in the crawl), which is a calorie burner used in water aerobics.

I’m having fun trying new ways of staying in shape. I hope I can incorporate some pool time in my routine once I’ve returned to my true love, running. If you’ve found water jogging helpful for your running, please comment on this blog so we can all learn more.

At the Eastmont pool, the deep end is available anytime there is adult lap swim, except during the H2O Fitness class. The schedule can be found here: http://www.wenymca.org/storage/2015-content/schedules/pool/2015%20Winter%20Spring%20Pool%20Schedule.pdf

Marlene Farrell, a Leavenworth resident and long-distance runner, helps coach the Peshastin-Dryden Striders kids running club. If you are interested in helping out the Striders in some fashion, email her at marlene@team-farrell.com.

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