Posts Tagged ‘aquatic cross-training’

Using the Pool As a Cross-Training Tool

July 29, 2010

Thanks to those of you who attended my talk at Fleet Feet/Runner’s High in Menlo Park, CA.  Below is a summary of some of the key points we covered. Also please visit my website at for  even more information.

As we all know, sports-and fitness-related injuries are all too common. Fortunately, the 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 injuries prevent land-based workouts. Instead, the pool can be a valuable, year-round cross-training tool for almost any sport or fitness activity.

Aquatic cross-training not only keeps you cooler in the Summer months, it provides an intense, no- or low-impact, pain-free workout. It is the perfect complement to running, tennis, basketball and other high impact physical activities.

The following are just a few reasons why:

•     RESISTANCE: Water provides 12 times the resistance of air in every direction, allowing you to determine the intensity of your workout by the speed and range of motion of your movements.

•     MUSCLE BALANCING: Exercising in the water necessitates that you work both halves of each muscle pair (i.e. hamstrings/ quadriceps) equally. This works to balance the strength and flexibility of opposing muscle groups helping to prevent injuries.

•     HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE: When you are exercising vertically in the pool, the hydrostatic pressure of the water increases your venus return or the rate at which your blood is pumped back to your heart, allowing your heart to work more efficiently. This means that your heart rate is roughly 10-15 % lower in the water compared with exercising at the same intensity on land, so you can really push yourself in the pool.

•     OFFERS NO- OR LOW-IMPACT ENVIRONMENT: Because the buoyancy of the water offsets gravity, deep water offers a non-impact, virtually injury-free environment in which you can exercise regularly  at a high intensity. Even while exercising in shallow water – at chest-level you’re only 35% of your body weight and waist-deep – only 50%.

•     INCREASES RANGE OF MOTION (FLEXIBILITY): The natural buoyancy of water helps increase range of motion of joints and muscles, enhancing flexibility.

•     IMPROVES BALANCE/COORDINATION: Vertical aquatic exercise – especially deep water exercise – improves your overall balance and coordination by challenging you to maintain a vertical body alignment in the unstable aquatic environment.

•     CORE CONDITIONING:  Just maintaining this upright posture much less exercising in deep water challenges your core muscles without loading your spine. There are also many core-specific exercises you can do in the pool.

•     UPPER BODY WORKOUT:  Unlike running on land, running in the pool offers you a great upper body workout because of the resistance the water provides.

•     SPORT SPECIFIC:  Unlike swimming, exercising vertically in the pool – (whether in the shallow or deep end) can be a much more sports-specific means of cross-training for runners.

By the way, you don’t have to be a proficient swimmer (or even know how to swim) to cross-train in a pool. I’ve worked with many non-swimmers who nevertheless came to enjoy aquatic exercise (even in deep water!).

Be Well,