Aquatic Therapy & Training Made Me a Better Athlete

Growing up, I was never a “water person”.  In fact I was the only one of my friends who wasn’t on the local swim team – even though I was the only one with a pool in my backyard. My sports and physical activities were strictly land-based — soccer, running, tennis and ballet. The only time I took to the water was to cool off on a hot summer day. Furthermore,  I had almost drowned twice by the time I was 2 years old – so an aquatic environment was not exactly my comfort zone. Frankly, if someone had told me back then that I would eventually earn much of my living by working in a swimming pool I would’ve laughed!

My passion for aquatic exercise and therapy began out of personal necessity. As a former competitive runner, I discovered the benefits of aquatic therapy and training 25  years ago after suffering from many running-related injuries (partly due to my idiopathic scoliosis for which I wore a back brace for 3+ years in high school). Rather reluctantly, I began running and exercising in the deep end of a warm swimming pool wearing a flotation belt to take the stress off of my injuries. Much to my surprise, the pool not only became a refuge for me, it became a great cross training tool, by enabling me to exercise hard while helping my injuries heal. It also helped me maintain my sanity during that frustrating period as an athlete.

In addition to healing power of the warm water, I came to discover the performance benefits of aquatic training. For whereas most athletes leave the pool behind when their injuries heal, I continued training in the deep water even as I transitioned back to land running with great results. In fact, upon my return to competition I knocked 20 minutes off of my marathon PR (personal record) and later qualified and placed 31st in the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials. Furthermore, I became a faster, stronger, more resilient runner and . I used to call the aquatic workouts my “secret training weapon” because it gave me an edge over my frequently-injured competitors by both improving my overall strength and conditioning and preventing injuries.After finishing my masters in exercise physiology in 1996 I went on to study aquatic therapy and become an aquatic therapist specialist and today  I spend many hours a week in warm water helping others heal as well as achieve their competitive goals. With the exception of falling during a race!,  I’ve never had a major running-related injury since I began performing aquatic therapy exercise and, though I no longer compete, today I still run regularly at age 50. Furthermore, despite my scoliosis, aquatic therapy exercise has also enabled me to enjoy other physical activities besides running that have become passions of mine, including: ballroom dancing, tandem cycling and power yoga.

Bottom line:  I would never have experienced success and longevity in my running career or enjoyed other forms of physical activity pain-free had it not been for the water.

Be Well,


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One Response to “Aquatic Therapy & Training Made Me a Better Athlete”

  1. Using the Pool As a Cross-Training Tool « bewellcoaching’s Weblog Says:

    […] water is an ideal environment for athletes to not only rehab their injuries, but also maintain or even increase their conditioning and improve their performance. In fact, the biggest misconception about aquatic cross-training is that it’s only useful when […]

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