Deep Water Running - What You Need To Know


Deep Water Running - What You Need To Know


You hear the news and your heart sinks. Disappointment turns to anger as you question how this could happen. You have followed your plan to the “T” and are now six weeks out from the big event. You take a deep breath and try and stay composed as the doc says, “No running for two weeks.”


So What Do I Do About It?


The first step is addressing the dysfunction. Resting for two weeks is not going to solve your problem. Injuries always have a cause and effect relationship. Even tiny deviations in form over many miles can lead to chronic problems. At Physical Therapy Elite, we perform a full run and movement analysis as part of your evaluation, treat restricted tissue with manual therapy, address faulty firing patterns and prescribe a very specific functional strength and stability program to give you a rock solid foundation.


Ok, Great. But What About My Running Fitness?


There is a little known secret that elite athletes have been using to maintain running/racing fitness while temporarily sidelined. Enter - Deep Water Running (DWR). In fact, Olympic runner, Mary Decker Slaney set a world record at 2,000 meters after a month in the pool and only one fast track workout prior to her race!


DWR isn’t just an alternative workout for injury. Really, it can be used as part of run programming for anyone who wants to add mileage and/or frequency without adding the impact or stress of running on land. It can also serve as a backup plan on those cold, nasty days when you don’t want to go outside or are tired of the treadmill. Or in the case of Montana, when air quality from wildfires is terrible.


I’m Getting there. How About The Science?


There have been a significant amount of studies that measure muscle activity in DWR as it compares to dry land running. In a recent study by renowned Exercise Scientist, Masumoto, he and his team concluded that the only muscle not to sustain comparable workload to dry land running was the gastrocnemius.


“Muscle activity from the rectus femoris (RF), biceps femoris (BF), tibialis anterior (TA), and gastrocnemius (GA) were measured. As originally planned, HR was not different between modes (P>0.05) and was different between exercise intensities (P<0.001). Only TA muscle activity was influenced by the interaction of mode and intensity (P<0.05). Muscle activity from the GA during DWR was significantly lower than that of TMR (a 34-48% decrease; P<0.05), although muscle activity from the remaining tested muscles were not influenced by modes of exercise (P>0.05). Masumoto K, et al. Int J Sports Med. 2014”


Sold. So How Do I Do It?


In performing a DWR workout, proper body positioning is important. The depth of the water should be sufficient to cover the entire body: Only the tops of the shoulders, the neck, and the head should be above the surface of the water. The feet should not touch the bottom of the pool. This will be assisted by the use of a flotation belt, such as an Aqua Jogger.


Posture should be nice and tall. Leg action should be focused with a quick and powerful cadence (similar to dry land hill running). The knee should be driven upward to an approximate 75-degree angle at the hip. Think about creating that knee drive by “lifting from your center.” Meaning, keep core in the party!  The leg is then driven down to almost full extension before being pulled upward directly under the glutes before the process is repeated with the other leg.


During the gait cycle, the feet change position from no flexion (relaxed ankles) when the knee is driving upward to approximately 65 degrees of plantarflexion (imagine preparing for a forefoot strike) at full extension. This foot movement against resistance both facilitates the mechanics of running form and promotes joint stability and muscle strength as a result of overcoming the resistance caused by drag.


In order to maximize the benefits of DWR, workouts should be done at the same intensity, duration, and frequency as your normal training. If you wear a heart rate monitor, expect that HR may be 10% lower than the same intensity on land.


We Are Here To Help!


Looking to add DWR to your run programming, but a little unsure of how to tackle it for the first time? The Sports Performance team at Physical Therapy Elite, is happy to answer any questions, consult on program building or set-up one on one coaching at the pool.


Happy Training!