Aqua Jogging Workouts for Runners

There comes a time in every runner’s career when injuries and niggles catch up on the many miles of pounding hard pavements, leaving you confined to the deep end of the pool with a flotation device strapped around your middle. But, physio recommendations aside, why should runners aqua jog and how do you exactly do it?

Aqua jogging for runners

Yes, even Rambo incorporates aqua jogging into his cross training.


In a perfect world, we would be able to run all day everyday, doing speed work and hills and explosive drills without getting injured. But, due to the high-impact nature of running, our bodies can only handle so much before we end up injured or severely fatigued.

With the problem being the impact, what if we could take the impact out of the equation and run gravity free? Would this mean we could train more and also train when injured? Yes, absolutely!

This is why you’ll see runners taking up cycling, elliptical riding, or running on an anti-gravity treadmill (which literally suspends you above the treadmill at adjustable levels of gravity). However, the trouble with cycling and the elliptical is that, although similar to running, they strengthen slightly different muscle groups and don’t have a perfect influence on running economy. And of course not everyone has an anti-gravity treadmill tucked under their bed.

So that brings us to aqua jogging. It is performed in the deep end of the pool (so you can’t touch the bottom) with the aid of a flotation belt to keep your head above water. During aqua jogging, aside from the drag of the water and the lack of contact with the ground, you can almost perfectly replicate an outdoor running style.

Almost all running injuries are unaffected by aqua jogging (with the exception of hamstring and hip flexor injuries and other more traumatic soft tissue tears e.g. after my achilles injury last year it took a few weeks before my ankle could handle the resistance the water provided). So aqua jogging is perfect for maintaining fitness while rehabbing injuries.

In fact I know of elite marathon runners who do up to 50% of their regular mileage aqua jogging, and they are still running PBs. And once you try one of the workouts below you’ll understand why!


The main thing to get right when you aqua jog is to replicate your great above-the-ground running technique in the water. Close your eyes and imagine yourself running along a beautiful trail or around an athletics track (particularly when performing intervals). Feel your feet performing a full stance-to-toe-off cycle behind your centre of gravity, recovering up towards your butt and being driven down towards the ground again. Avoid the temptation to just pump your knees up and down like pistons—keep the feeling of pushing ground behind you.

Your arms will feel slow and heavy under the water, but this has the added benefit of pushing your heart rate up (something that is difficult today once you take gravity out of it). Use your arms to gauge your running intensity. When sprinting, your hands should come out of the water and then move back past your butt cheeks—think “cheek to cheek”. When jogging, your hands will move past your aqua jogging belt and come up to about chest height. Keep your shoulders locked in place, pointing down the pool, by keeping your core engaged.

The other great tool for the aqua jogging runner is to use slow motion sprinting. Think of this like a stretch and a rare opportunity to practice sprinting form (as most distance runners know, sprinting is something that has to take a back seat when training with high weekly mileage). To do the aqua slow-mo sprint simply slow a full sprint stride right down to one stride in 3-4 seconds: cheek-to-cheek hands, full stride legs, and stable shoulders.

As you run underwater you’ll gradually move down the pool. Don’t worry about how fast your speed is but focus on quick turnover with good technique. You can also use a heart rate monitor to gauge the intensity of your workouts.


Here are some of my favourite workouts. These are 30 minutes long and when combined with a swim can make great weightless aerobic workouts that will keep you very fit.

  1. Sprint Intervals: 5mins moderate intensity (only use easy pace for recovery periods), 8x {1x 25m length hard, 1/2 length slow-mo, 1/2 length moderate}, 5mins moderate.
  2. Ladder Session: 5mins moderate, 4x30sec hard (30sec easy after each), 2x1min hard (1min easy after each), 2x2min hard (1min easy after each), 2x1min hard (1min easy after each), 4x30sec hard (30sec easy after each), 5mins moderate.
  3. Cruise Intervals: 5mins moderate, 3x6min mod-hard (1min easy recovery), 5mins moderate.
  4. Tempo Run: 5mins moderate, 2x10mins mod-hard (1min slow-mo for recovery between the two 10-minute blocks), 4mins moderate.
  5. Fartlek: 5mins moderate, 5x3mins hard (1min slow-mo for recovery), 5mins moderate.

I am yet to meet someone who can handle aqua jogging workouts for more than one hour (you will go crazy!). But these interval-style workouts keep things interested and if you want to really spice it up, try aqua jogging in open water and train in a group.

Happy (aqua) running.


6 responses to “Aqua Jogging Workouts for Runners

  1. Pingback: R16 Blog: Making the Jump from Runner to Athlete | A Runner's Guide·

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