Chiropractor Chandler AZ
Water exercise is a joint-sparing way to get a full-body workout, be it swimming, deep water running or water aerobics classes. Whether you aspire to be a water polo player, competitive swimmer or simply are looking for a fun way to get in shape, there’s a water exercise program perfect for you.
Performing water exercise doesn’t require access to an Olympic size pool: for many activities such as deep water running and water aerobics, a smaller community or backyard pool works just fine. Nor do you necessarily need a high baseline level of fitness, since many types of water exercise can be adjusted for a variety of fitness levels.
Because water suppresses heart rate, persons with pre-existing cardiac conditions can exercise at moderate intensity in water without exceeding their safe range. In addition, the massaging action of water on the body has a diuretic effect that can help persons with edema to control swelling without relying on medication.
While you don’t need a lot of equipment to exercise in the water, we recommend investing in a pool running vest (Aqua Jogger) if you plan to do deep water walking or running. If you plan to exercise in shallow water (with your feet touching the bottom of the pool), a pair of water shoes will protect the bottoms of your feet and give you better traction.
If you are interested in aqua aerobics, we recommend beginning with a class taught by a certified instructor. There are water aerobics classes designed for all ages and abilities (SilverSneakers Splash is an aqua aerobics program designed for older adults). Certified aqua instructors are not only experts in exercise program design, but they also have to pass water safety testing.
Deep water running is a simple, safe form of water exercise that can be tailored for any level of fitness, ranging from beginners to elite athletes. If you are a distance runner nursing an overuse injury, deep water running is the best way to maintain your running fitness while giving the injury an opportunity to heal. The same principle applies to walkers and hikers who may be experiencing knee or hip problems.
Since most people don’t move much when they run in deep water, this form of water exercise works fine in small backyard pools. The only requirement is a section deep enough that your feet don’t touch the bottom of the pool (5-6 feet).
Styles of deep water running vary from person to person. Some athletes prefer to run without a floatation vest. While this provides a great upper body workout, it can be harder to maintain good form, and recovery intervals require more effort since you still have to stay afloat. Using an Aqua Jogger vest makes it easier to maintain something closer to a normal walking or running form. Since the recovery intervals take less effort, you can work harder at the aerobic intervals that make up the body of the workout.
Given that, your walking or running form will still be quite different than it is on land. Being in water makes it easier to increase your stride length and drive with your knees, which may help you with walking and running on land. Some people like to keep their legs as straight as possible while running in water to maximize water resistance to movement (and build leg strength). Ideally, you want to take advantage of water resistance while still maintaining a relatively quick cadence.
Because water suppresses your heart rate, you need to work harder (and have greater perceived effort) when running in the water to get the equivalent benefit to land. The best way to do this is with intervals: bursts of higher effort with easy recovery running in between. In addition to providing a greater aerobic challenge, intervals are less monotonous than steady-state running in an environment where you don’t have the benefit of changing scenery to distract you.
Pete Pfitzinger, an elite runner and coach from New Zealand who is a strong proponent of deep water running, put together an intervals program that works well for athletes at all levels of ability. If you are a distance runner familiar with running intervals on the track, Pfitzinger’s program works via similar principles. I have used workouts from this program when recovering from stress fractures and tendon tears, and maintained running fitness for up to three months.
The workouts listed below are based upon Pfitzinger’s deep water running program. Before beginning a workout, warm up by jogging in the pool at an easy intensity for about five minutes. At the end of the workout, perform a five-minute cooldown in the same fashion.
There are no hard and fast rules for pool-running workouts. Go at your own pace. Since most people don’t move much when they pool run, runners (and walkers) at different fitness levels can easily work out together. As you become more experienced and build-up endurance, you can increase the length and challenge of any of the above-listed workouts by adding intervals.
One additional word of advice: if you live in a climate with hot summers, pool running can make you break a sweat in the pool, so bring along a water bottle and keep it close by.
Of all the endurance sports, swimming is arguably the one that requires the most skill. If you are an experienced swimmer, swimming offers the advantage of working both upper and lower extremities more so than either running or cycling.
As with walking, running and cycling, swimming well involves a combination of strength and efficiency. Form is extremely important. If you are not an experienced swimmer, taking some lessons can help you to develop an efficient form, and also help you to swim more safely.
No matter what your level of proficiency, avoid swimming alone. Know what your level of ability is and stay within it.
Following are a few tips about gear and form for beginning swimmers:
The other big challenge for many beginners is to learn to trust the water’s buoyancy. The best way to do this is to learn how to properly float on your back. If you try to float while lifting your head out of the water, you will have to use up a lot more energy to keep yourself afloat. Lean back and relax to float with minimal effort.
Whether you use a pool at the gym, the local YMCA or in your backyard, water exercise is a great way to stay fit year-round, and perhaps meet some new exercise partners in the process. Be safe, stay within your limits, and have fun.