We’re talking aqua jogging. The free-floating act of running in place for ten’s of minutes to “rehab ourselves”. You strap on the funny belt, walk to the edge and murmur, “Here’s goes nothing.” The belt has become a staple, somewhat, but could your time be better spent elsewhere?
First, it’s worth noting that an extremely high percentage of runners suffer injuries related to the loading associated with running. At its peak, the force applied through your stance leg can range from 3-5 times your body weight. So let’s say you weigh a 150 pounds–the force applied to your body could range from 450-750 pounds of impact force for each step. We can usually identify another and more effective form of aerobic exercise that does not reproduce symptoms and will help you recover quickly.
For example, a runner with knee pain may be able to elliptical or cycle without pain. Although the mechanics are different than running, both activities are loaded. They will also load similar muscle groups that are normally engaged while running. Both the elliptical and bike serve for a better means to maintaining fitness while being sidelined from an injury.
The problem with aqua jogging? It’s not loaded! Your leg will not accept any body weight and you will more likely engage a push down and pull up pattern with the leg. We often tell athletes–“Be as active as possible without reproducing your symptoms.” Lets revisit our runner above with knee. What we need to do is identify loaded activities that will not reproduce symptoms. As you heal, you will gradual increase the load to your body (by intensity, duration, or activity). As a general rule, if it’s not reproducing your symptoms, chances are you’re not aggravating your condition.
Be as active as possible without reproducing your symptoms.
If you can bike and elliptical without pain, then do it (coupled with correcting issues that caused the pain). Both activities are more loaded than aqua jogging and more closely mimic a running motion. Plus, there’s nothing more boring than treading water for an hour and covering 50 yards in the process.
So what if biking and/or elliptical-ing (?) also reproduce your pain? Either your condition is too acute for activity (recently injured) or there’s still too much compressive force. This is wear the water comes into play. Instead of running/treading in the deep end, run in the shallow end of the pool. In general, the percentage of your body that is under the water is amount of weight you won’t have to support.
Here is an example using a 150 pound runner:
Deep End – Complete Off Loading of Joints- 0 pounds
Waist Deep Water – 50% off loading – 75 pounds loaded
Chest Deep Water – 75% off loading – 37 pounds loaded
Neck Deep Water – 90% off loading – 15 pounds loaded
Remember, when recovering from an injury, be as active as possible without reproducing your symptoms!