Aqua Aerobics: Not Just For Beginners

If you think aqua aerobics isn’t for elite athletes, think again. Deep water running is just one form of aqua aerobics that not only provides a variation to any athlete’s routine, but is a highly effective strategy for maintaining both cardio performance levels and muscle strength while recovering from an injury. That’s right: Aqua aerobics offers athletes a way to stay fit and recover at the same time, and it has even been shown to speed recovery.

Fact: Water is thicker than air, which translates into added resistance for your muscles. Not only that, with deep water running, one of the most effective forms of aqua aerobics, your joints aren’t taking a beating. Click these links for more information on the benefits of deep water running, as well as both necessary and optional gear:

Form and Function in One

Whether you are interested in just switching up your triathlon training routine or need to give joints or certain muscles time to rehab, deep water running has something that other forms of recovery exercises do not: It mimics a runner’s actual land movement so closely that form is not compromised. In fact, with a focus on correct form,  you’ll even feel as if you just completed a land run after a session in the pool.

To begin your deep water running session, get into water that is at least a foot over your head. Then, follow these four simple set-up guidelines:

1. Head: Face forward and relax the facial muscles and jaw. Imagine a cord gently acting as a guideline for your head and shoulders.

2. Arms: Should be relaxed and by your sides, with palms facing backward and elbows bent slightly. Do not cross the vertical mid-line of your body with your arms as they move forward and back.

3. Shoulders/chest: Keep shoulders pressed back and down, but relaxed and loose. Chest should be pressed slightly forward to increase lung capacity.

4. Lower body: Begin with straight legs and toes pointed, sweeping legs back and forth. Your upper thighs should be doing the work. Keep your hips and shoulders aligned.

Variations on a Theme

Power walk: Picture yourself cross-country skiing, with your arms and legs fairly straight. Arms and legs should “stride out,” bringing your arms to the surface with each back and forth movement.

Hurdles: Visualize your lead leg stretching out and jumping over a hurdle, and try to touch your toe with your same-side arm as you “leap” over each hurdle.

Uphill running: Again, visualize the angle of your body running uphill and adjust your “stance.” Concentrate on exaggerating the backward movement of your upper arms to add upper body power to each swing.


Combine the variations on deep water running with a number of different interval, speed and distance workouts. For example, on hard days, try three minutes of fast movement (running, power walking, uphill or hurdle movements) followed by one minute of recovery time. Or, try a multiple-challenge course in which you do all four  movements above in one four-minute “sprint.” Rest, repeat.

Here’s a great overall routine for a fast paced, high-intensity aqua aerobic workout that builds strength and endurance simultaneously:

• 15 minute easy jog (warm-up)

• 15 x 30-second sprints a full (100%) pace with high cadence and fast pumping arms

• 1-minute recovery after each sprint

• 7 minute easy jog (cool down)


To ensure correct form, and especially for endurance/elite athletes with low body fat, buoyancy belts are vital to deep-water running, and come in a variety of sizes and configurations. Other items that can increase the level of resistance in the water include webbed gloves, ankle weights and hand buoys (dumbbells designed specifically for  the water). If you want to “get lost” in your work out, invest in a waterproof MP3 player.

[About the author: Kaitlin Gardner started to further her passion for a family friendly, green living lifestyle. She is married to her college sweetheart and lives in Pennsylvania. She and her husband enjoy going for long hikes, to get out and enjoy nature. She is working on her first book about ways to live an eco-friendly, healthy, natural life.]

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