What is it?
Aqua running is a form of exercise, and sometimes sport, that mimics running on land but is performed in the water. Typically, it’s done in water deep enough to give your body buoyancy, but shallow enough that you can stand on the bottom easily with your head above water. In deeper water, aqua runners often use specially designed flotation belts to help maintain a proper upright posture. Aqua runners often use special water shoes and webbed gloves to increase resistance. For even more resistance, some aqua runners use foam dumbbells. Aqua running typically done in a pool, but may also be done at lakes or on the beach.
Aqua running started as a recovery exercise for post-surgery patients, and then caught on with elderly and overweight people for physical therapy and exercise. It offers an aerobic workout of any intensity, with none of the impact of land running, and with minimal loading of the joints. Aqua runners report much less next-day soreness than land runners.
Land runners are increasingly finding it an excellent change of pace, or as a recovery workout after a particularly tough run, or after an injury.
Can You Compete?
Yes. The competitive sport is called Aquajogging, with world championship events held annually. Events include 3x50 meter relay, individual 50-meter races, and the 1000 meter “marathon.”
Are There Drawbacks?
If you’re training for land running, aqua running will be of limited benefit, since it uses your body quite differently. It would be best to use it as a type of cross-training, rather than a mainstay in your program. It also does not offer the bone-strengthening benefits of land running, since it is not a load-bearing activity. And of course, you need access to a pool or other suitable body of water.