Posts Tagged ‘Exercise Physiology’

Ten Reasons Exercise CAN Facilitate Weight Loss

September 19, 2009

Fitness Magazine recently published a counter-argument to the controversial NY Times article suggesting that vigorous exercise can cause weight gain, or at the very least impede weight loss. Fitness Magazine’s ten reasons exercise makes you thin is an excellent list full of incentives for exercising regularly whether or not weight loss is a goal. 

As an exercise physiologist and nutritionist a, I believe regular exercise and proper nutrition really are the keys to long term wellness. The caveat:  you have to be consistent about practicing them – not just for a short-term goal like getting in shape for a 10K race or slimming down for a college reunion. Wellness is a life-long pursuit – definitely a marathon, not a sprint!

Be Well,


Exercising with a Cold…..Should you?

January 28, 2009

Your nose is runny, you’re sneezing, but you don’t want to miss your 50-mile bike ride or your favorite kick-boxing class…..and maybe you don’t have to. Particularly if your symptoms are above the neck. BUT, if  you’ve got a fever and chills and/ or muscle aches and chest congestion….it’s probably best to go back to bed.

Two studies published back in the 1990s showed results very much in favor of exercising with a cold. In fact, The investigators found no difference in symptoms between those who exercised with a cold and those who rested. And there was no difference in the time it took to recover from the virus. Furthermore, when the exercisers assessed their symptoms, the majority reported feeling O.K. and, in some cases, they actually felt better after exercising.

Other, more recent studies have found that people who exercise regularly have far fewer colds than sedentary folks. Extreme exercising can, however, temporarily impair the immune system. Studies on marathon runners, for example, have found that they were more likely to catch a cold the week after a race.

I rarely get colds these days, but when I do I continue exercising, but usually at a lower intensity than usual.  And, while I will get in a warm pool to exercise up to my neck with a cold, I usually skip my lap swimming in a cooler pool for a few days to avoid the chill from getting my head wet. I also find aerobic exercise to be an expectorate – and for me it helps shorten the duration of a cold.

If you do continue exercising when you’ve got a cold – as always, listen to your body and don’t overdo it. Also, be respectful of others working out – particularly if you are using equipment in a public gym or are attending a group exercise class. When you sneeze, cover your face with your sleeve, not your hands. Finally, do have some chicken soup and/or hot tea. Research supports the old wives tale of drinking hot beverages to diminish congestion. 

Be Well,


From the Ground Up: Keeping your Ankles Strong and Stable

November 10, 2008

In my past few blogs I covered the shoulder, hip and knee joints. Moving on down the body – we now turn to the ankle joint. Your ankles have a tall task:  they must support the weight of your entire body with only the help of small ligaments and tendons.  Furthermore, whenever you walk, run or jump, your ankles have to transmit the force of impact from your feet to your legs.  No wonder the ankle is the most frequently injured joint in the human body.

Your ankle is a hinge joint formed by the articulation of your tibia and fibula (lower leg bones) and your talus (ankle bone).  Because your ankle is designed to move like a hinge around one axis, it is resistant to lateral movements. Typically an ankle sprain occurs when the foot is forced to invert, resulting in a sprain on the outside of the ankle.  Participating in activities that involve fast-paced lateral movements such as tennis, basketball or dance can leave your ankles vulnerable to injury, particularly if the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding your ankle are weak and/or inflexible.

Tight calf muscles can also lead to ankle injuries by making it difficult to flex your ankle. This isn’t a problem if you’re moving on even ground, but if you step in a gofer hole, your foot may come up short and twist laterally, resulting in a potential sprain or even fracture. When this happens, the ligaments surrounding the ankle often get overstretched. Because they aren’t very elastic, ligaments often don’t bounce back to their original supportiveness. Protect your ankles by shortening your stride when traversing uneven terrain. This will allow you to react more quickly to potential pitfalls in the trail. Also, practice walking heel-ball-toe.

Case Study

If you do injure your ankle, the pool is a great place to both rehab it and strengthen it to prevent future injuries. Deep water cycling, running and other ankle-specific exercises can help reduce swelling, restore range of motion (ROM), and gradually allow the return to normal activity.  “Bob” came to me after severely breaking his ankle while hiking in Telluride. The break was so bad that surgical pins were placed in his ankle to hold it together. After several months of aquatic therapy and aquatic workouts, the ROM and strength of Bob’s ankle were largely restored to his pre-accident level. Furthermore, he’s now back to running trails pain-free. For more information on aquatic rehab and training, please visit my website at

The key to preventing ankle injuries is to strengthen and stretch the muscles supporting the joint. Try the following three exercises and be sure to stretch your calf muscles after each exercise.

1. Heel Raises

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, rise up on the balls of your feet as far as possible and hold for five seconds, then lower your heels. Work up to 20 repetitions and then try the exercise on the edge of a step, lowering your heels below your toes and then raising them as high as possible. Next try walking on your heels around a room. Stretch your calves afterward by letting your heels hand off the edge of the step and holding for 20-30 seconds.

2. Toe Raises

Standing on your heels, lift your toes off the ground and hold for five seconds. Work up to 20 repetitions and then progress to walking around the room while keeping the toes elevated.

3. Edge of Foot Walking

Alternate walking on the inside edges of your feet and then on the outside. This strengthens and stretches the peroneal muscles above your ankles on the sides of your lower legs.

Be Well,




Kicking Knee Pain

November 10, 2008

No body part is more vulnerable to exercise-related injuries than the knee joint. But exercising regularly doesn’t have to lead to painful knees. In fact, Stanford’s Arthritis Center compared the knee problems of runners and non-exercisers ages 50 years and older over an eight-year period and found that the exercisers experienced 60 percent fewer knee problems than their sedentary counterparts. In another study, researchers at the Boston University Medical School tracked the development of knee arthritis in older adults for nine years and found that exercisers had no greater or lower risk for developing osteoarthritis of the knees. So while exercising may not delay the progression of osteoarthritis of the knees, it doesn’t appear to accelerate it either.

Other Origins of Knee Pain

Like your shoulder and your hip, your knee is a ball-and-socket joint. It is the largest and most complex joint in your body, held together by strong tendons and ligaments which act like stays and pulleys, allowing the joint to twist, bend, push and withstand the stress of hiking, dancing, playing tennis or just climbing stairs.

In addition to osteoarthritis, knee pain is often a symptom of a biomechanical problem or muscular imbalance in another part of the body. Weak quadriceps muscles combined with tight hamstrings can, for example, lead to an improper tracking of the knee and can even pull the knee cap out of its groove. Knee pain can also be caused by excessive foot pronation (when the arch collapses and the foot rolls too far inward) or tightness in the muscles surrounding the hip joints. Worn or improperly fitting athletic and everyday shoes can further exacerbate a knee problem.

Replacing Worn Out Knee Joints

Severe degeneration of the knee joint usually results from osteoarthritis or repetitive knee trauma/injuries. In either situation, the protective cushioning of cartilage wears away resulting in the painful rubbing of bone against bone. Knee replacement surgery is usually a last resort when pain becomes constant and the ability to function normally is impaired. Exercising both before and after surgery is critical: pre-habilitating” your knee prior to surgery makes the post-surgery rehabilitation faster and easier. In both cases, aquatic exercise is particularly beneficial in developing the leg muscles without loading the knee joint.

Case Study

“Tom” came to me three months prior to his scheduled knee replacement. We worked hard in the pool to prepare him for the surgery, specifically focusing on building the strength and increasing the flexibility of his quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Because of the aquatic “prehab” he did prior to surgery, Tom breezed through the knee replacement and was the star of his post-surgery physical therapy class with his very impressive range of motion. For more information on aquatic prehab and rehab, please visit the aquatic therapy/training page on my website at

Strengthen Those Leg Muscles!

Speaking of exercise – “weak in the knees” is more than just an expression. Rehabilitating sore knees and preventing future problems requires strengthening and stretching the muscles and tendons surrounding the knees. When the quadriceps, hamstrings and gastrocnemius muscles are weak and/or tight, the knee joint receives the brunt of the force with weight-bearing exercise or activity. Exercises such as wall or chair squats, seated leg lifts and even stair climbing strengthen the leg muscles so they can provide shock absorption for the knee joint.

Note that knee pain can result from a sudden increase in exercise. Give your knees time to adjust to a new activity level by gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your workouts and by scheduling rest days in between. Also, make sure you have the proper adjustments when using exercise equipment. For example, a bicycle seat that’s positioned too high or low or too far forward or backward puts additional stress on the knee joint. Bottom line: exercising intelligently doesn’t increase your risk for knee problems, but being sedentary does.

Be Well,



The Hip Bone’s Connected to the…..

November 10, 2008

In my last blog I discussed the shoulder joint. Now, I want to take a closer look at the hip joint, formed by the junction of the pelvis and the femur (thighbone). Like the shoulder, the hip is a ball and socket joint. Unlike the shoulder, the hip joint is a deeper, more stable joint due to its weight bearing role. Moreover, in contrast to the shoulder joint, the hip joint is further stabilized by the resilient muscles and ligaments that surround and cross it.

 The hip joint is part of the so-called “pelvic girdle”. Because of this, the flexibility and strength of the muscles and ligaments surrounding and crossing the hip joint affect the pelvis and the entire spinal column. For example, some of the muscles crossing the hip have attachments on the spine so hip movements can have repercussive effects on the spine. Movements of the hip joint include flexion (moving the femur toward the pelvis); extension (moving the femur away from the pelvis); adduction (moving the femur toward the center of the body); abduction (moving the femur away from the center of the body); lateral and medial rotation (turning the femur outward or inward); and circumduction (moving the femur in a circular direction).

Common Hip Injuries

Typical hip injuries include trochanteric bursitis, hip adductor strains, osteoarthritis of the hip and hip fractures. An inflammation of the bursa, or fluid sac, of the trochanter bone, trochanteric bursitis presents as a pain in the side of the upper leg.  This inflammation can also affect the fascia (fibrous connective tissue) surrounding the hip joint. Trochanteric bursitis is often caused by a leg length discrepancy. A strain of the hip adductor muscles (commonly known as a groin pull) frequently results from quick lateral movements or slipping on wet pavement. Adductor strains can also be caused by imbalances in the body or when there’s not enough lateral movement of the ankle.

Osteoarthritis of the hip can sometimes be caused by repetitive trauma to the hip joint. If severe enough, it may necessitate a total or partial hip replacement. Hip fractures are usually one of two types:  a femoral neck fracture one-to-two inches from the joint, or an intertrochanteric fracture three-to four inches from the joint. Most require surgical repair with the use of either a pin or a compression screw and side plate to keep the bone in place while it heals.

Strength and Flexibility

When hip structures are weak and unstable, excess forces are transferred down the leg during impact exercise, leading to injuries of the knee, ankle and foot. The key to preventing hip injuries is to strengthen the muscles supporting the hips with exercises such as squats, leg presses or even stair climbing. For those with osteoarthritis of the hips, water exercise and stationary cycling are ideal. Flexibility of the hips is equally important and can be enhanced with regular yoga and stretching exercises. 

Case Study

“Lisa”, a competitive runner, came to me with chronic left hip pain. I discovered that Lisa had a leg-length discrepancy which was compounded by tight hip flexors and tight and weak hip extensors.  I recommended Lisa see a sports podiatrist to correct her leg-length discrepancy with an orthotic. I then prescribed a daily yoga routine for her, emphasizing hip-opening and gluteal strengthening postures. Today Lisa is training for her 5th marathon….pain-free! For more information on athletic training and rehab, please visit

“Bottom” Line

Right now you are sitting on the biggest muscle in your body – your gluteus maximus.  Keep it and your other gluteal muscles strong and flexible and your hips will be happy years from now.

Be well,




Keeping Your Shoulders Mobile AND Stable

November 9, 2008

Every time you reach for your seatbelt or wave goodbye, you rely on the impressive range of motion (ROM) of your shoulder. Unfortunately, for all of its mobility, the shoulder is also the least stable joint in your body, making it a prime target for injury.

The shoulder complex consists of a ball and socket joint and shoulder girdle whose combined actions result in your shoulder ROM. Covering the shoulder is the three-part deltoid, a thick, triangular muscle that stabilizes the shoulder and gives it a rounded appearance. The shoulder ball rests in a shallow cup and is held together by inherently weak ligaments. Its stability, therefore, is dependent on the muscles and tendons running across the joint. The risk of injury is high if these muscles are weak and/or tight, particularly when there is an imbalance in the strength and/or flexibility in your opposing muscle groups.

The key to preventing shoulder injuries is to both strengthen and stretch the muscles, tendons and ligaments supporting your shoulders, including a deep layer of small muscles and tendons known as the rotator cuff. Though they are small, the rotator cuff muscles have a big job to do, acting as stabilizers for the humerus (upper arm bone) in the shoulder socket. Rotator cuff injuries typically result from overusing the shoulder in sports such as tennis, golf or swimming. Furthermore, when the rotator cuff muscles are weak, the deltoids must bear the brunt of the work, leaving the shoulder vulnerable to injury. Repetitive stress on the shoulder causes micro tears and subsequent inflammation of the tendons or the rotator cuff muscles. The inflammation then causes pain which leads to a decreased ROM which leads to a decline in strength from inactivity.

One of my aquatic therapy clients, “Anne” came to me with not just a torn rotator cuff, but, according to her MRI, it was damaged beyond repair and her orthopedist wouldn’t operate. Apparently, years of competitive tennis had taken its toll. After 2 months of 2 times per week of aquatic therapy, however, Anne’s pain was greatly reduced and her strength and pain-free ROM had greatly increased. Furthermore, after 5 months of aquatic therapy Anne is virtually pain-free – except if she overdoes it by throwing a football to her grandson! Aquatic therapy can be very effective in treating both acute and chronic shoulder conditions. For more information, go to and check out the aquatic therapy/training page.

Preventative Exercises to Stretch/Strengthen the Rotator Cuff Muscles

Shoulder Stretches

  Stretch the back of your shoulder by reaching your arm across your chest toward the opposite shoulder. Holding your arm either above or below the elbow, gently stretch your arm for 20-30 seconds.  Switch sides and repeat.

– Raise one arm and bend it behind your head to touch the opposite shoulder. Use your other hand to gently pull the arm downward. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Strength Exercise for Rotator Cuff

Holding light dumbbells in each hand by your side, lift your slightly bent arms horizontally to shoulder height, keeping your thumbs pointed toward the floor. Slowly lower your arms and then return them to shoulder level. Repeat 8-12 times.

 Tips to Reduce Shoulder Wear and Tear

 1.  If your sport is unilateral (such as golf or tennis), try practicing your strokes or swings on your non-dominant side.

 2.  Make an effort to use your non-dominant arm as much as your dominant arm in all activities of daily life.

 3.  Keep your neck and shoulder muscles relaxed when you’re exercising other muscle groups.

4.  When performing water aerobics, avoid repeatedly reaching your arms over head, breaking the surface of the water.

Next time we’ll focus on another ball and socket joint, the hip.  Until then…

Be Well,



Help Your Body Heal – Part I

October 26, 2008

Whether you’re an athlete or an active person, few things are worse than sitting on the sidelines while recovering from injury or surgery. Furthermore, the body’s repair mechanisms operate best in the young when cell turnover is more rapid so the healing process naturally slows with age.

Fortunately, regardless of your age, there are things you can do to facilitate your healing process. In general, the healthier you are, the faster you recover from cuts and scrapes, strains, sprains, broken bones or surgeries. Furthermore, the components that increase your general wellness (exercising regularly, eating healthfully, sleeping adequately) also enhance your ability to heal. Plus, the more rapidly you heal, the quicker you can safely resume normal activity after injury or surgery, and the faster you can regain your strength, energy and function. 


Regular exercise appears to accelerate wound healing in particular. A recent study from Ohio State showed that older adults who exercised regularly for a few months healed faster. This was true even though none of the subjects had exercised consistently for at least six months prior to the study. One group was put on an exercise program (consisting of three times a week of  45 minutes of aerobic exercise, 15 minutes of strength training and 10 minutes of stretching exercises) while a control group remained sedentary. After one month, all subjects received a small puncture wound on the back of their arm. The exercise group then continued their program another two months while the researchers monitored all subjects until their wounds were no longer visible. Researchers found that the exercisers’ wounds healed on average 10 days faster than the non-exercisers.


When your body experiences trauma whether from injury or surgery, extra attention should be paid to certain dietary components, such as eating additional protein when you’re healing from muscle tears or strains or from surgery. When healing broken bones, it can be helpful to consume extra bone building nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and K. In my next blog I’ll look specifically at foods that help you heal.


What is one of the best healing remedies, doesn’t require a prescription and is free??? SLEEP! Your body does much of its routine repair and maintenance at night when you are asleep. Production of growth hormone, which speeds absorption of nutrients and amino acids into your cells and aids the repair of tissue, peaks during sleep. In addition, your immune system recharges itself during sleep, producing antibodies to ward off viruses and infection. 

The Bottom Line

Taking care of yourself before and after you experience injury or have surgery truly facilitates the healing process. On a personal note, while I rarely get sick, I happen to be somewhat accident-prone and have thus become all-too-familiar with my own healing process. Years ago, when I became committed to my wellness full-time, I noticed that though (unfortunately) I didn’t get hurt any less, when I did get knocked down, I bounced back much faster.  Faster even than I did when I was much younger. One of the reasons for this change was my increased attention to optimal nutrition.  Next blog I’ll speak more to the issue of nutritional healing. But for now…

Be Well,





Sleep: The Most Frequently Neglected Training Ingredient

October 21, 2008

Ahhh, a good night’s sleep. Sometimes we don’t know how much rest we really need until we discover how good we feel when we actually get it. And as I write this at 2:11am – I am most certainly craving a good night’s sleep!!! Most of us who are very physically active usually have no problem sleeping once our head hits the pillow. The exception to this rule is the night before a race or other competition or when we’re under a lot of mental stress.

Unfortunately, many of us also have multiple commitments (work, family hobbies) that prevent us from getting the proverbial eight hours; which, by the way, is the minimum requirement during hard training. But make no mistake, if you’re serious about your workouts, you’re not doing yourself any favors by depriving yourself of much-needed rest. In fact, you might find that by dreaming more, you can actually make some of your competitive dreams come true.

Optimal Stress + Optimal Rest = Optimal Performance

This is the most basic law of training, but it’s also the most neglected. Just as too little training won’t improve your performance, too little rest can eliminate any gains you’ve worked hard to produce. The body needs rest to repair itself from the stresses of hard training and it’s during deep sleep that your body’s cells do much of their regenerating. Think of it this way: for the 16 hours of damage you do throughout your day, you owe your body at least eight hours of repair time.

Age Makes a Difference

Unfortunately, the older you get the more restful nights and easy days you need. Older athletes require more rest for their muscles to repair and rebuild. For example, a 25-year-old and a 50-year-old could do the same interval workout, but the younger athlete may only need one easy training day to recover, while the older athlete needs at least two not to mention two good night’s sleep.

Pre- and Post-Race Rest

The two times competitive athletes most benefit from a good night’s sleep are often the only times they experience insomnia. I used to envy athletes who can sleep before and especially after a race, something I was never able to do even after 20 years of competing. No matter how well or how poorly I raced, I was always wide awake most of the night afterward. The longer the race, the worse my insomnia.

Lack of Zzzs Bad for the Waistline

According to the experts, one bad night’s sleep isn’t harmful, but chronic sleep loss can have negative effects on a host of physiological and cognitive processes. Furthermore, chronic sleep loss may lead to weight gain. Sleep deprivation may lead to a reduced ability to process carbohydrates (also known as insulin resistance) and an increased level of the stress hormone cortisol. Researchers also suspect that when a person is not properly rested they compensate by eating more during their waking hours. This makes sense as the hormone leptin, which suppresses appetite, is produced primarily during sleep, while production of the hormone, ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, is suppressed during sleep.

The following are a few of my favorite tested sleep enhancers:

  1. warm milk with a little cinnamon – within an hour of turning in
  2. a baked sweet potato with a little EVOO within 2 hours of turning in
  3. Valerian root tincture – in a small glass of H2O – 1hr before sleep
  4. essential oil of lavendar – keep open bottle by bedside and inhale in each nostril before closing your eyes and again if you wake up in the middle of the night

Sweet dreams and Be Well,


Healing Waters: Sports-Specific Aquatic Workouts – Part II

October 5, 2008

In my last blog I outlined the key benefits of aquatic athletic conditioning and rehab. Here, we’ll break it down sport by sport to look out how specifically to train in the pool.



In addition to the healing power of water exercise as part of a rehabilitation program, water training can also help prevent future injuries by balancing the strength and flexibility of opposing muscle groups. To perform well in any sport you must train for the specific demands of that sport. Golfers must develop their swing, tennis players must strengthen their strokes and marathoners must run for miles. By taking the same training principles into the water, however, you can swing, run, jump and kick again and again – improving your skills and your sports-specific fitness and preventing potential injury. Sports-specific water training addresses every component of fitness, including strength, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility and balance. Furthermore, the more you can duplicate specific sport skills in the water, the more you’ll be able to enhance your performance on land.



Golf is a sport that demands strength, power, stability and flexibility, particularly of the trunk muscles. Furthermore, because of the unilateral nature of golf, it is important to work both sides of your body in order to promote equal strength and flexibility. Take an old club into chest-deep water and slowly and smoothly swing through a full range of motion of your swing, noticing any choppy movements. Repeat ten times and then repeat ten more times in the opposite direction to balance your body.



Like golf, tennis is predominantly a unilateral sport that relies on trunk stability. Bring an old racket or club into chest deep water and practice your forehand and backhand, concentrating on your form. For leg strength and speed, practice plyometric moves such as bounding and leapfrogging and perform shallow and deep water sprints across the pool, with recovery jogs in between. Wear a flotation belt for the deep water sprints. Finally, try some lateral “shuffling” in the shallow end to mimic the side-stepping movements you do when transitioning from a forehand to a backhand.



Deep water running can be a great adjunct to the pounding of running on land and it can also provide an additional upper body workout – something land running doesn’t offer. Wearing a flotation belt, try running in the deep end. Simulate your land-running form as closely as possible by bending and extending your legs. Bend your arms and swing them by your sides in opposition to your legs, pointing your elbows straight behind you. Cup your hands for extra resistance. Try water running at a steady pace for 30 to 45 minutes or do some interval training. Make it even more challenging by deep water running without a flotation device.



Cyclists can duplicate their workouts in deep water by wearing a flotation belt. Extend your arms in front of you as though you were grasping handlebars and cycle your legs, circling your lower leg forward as though pushing your pedals around a complete revolution. To improve your ankle flexibility and strength, plantarflex your foot (toes toward the pool bottom) during the downstroke; dorsiflex your foot (toes toward your head) during the upstroke. Incorporate some interval training into your workout.




Basketball players must possess speed, power, aerobic and anaerobic capacity and a killer jump shot. Unfortunately, this high impact sport is injury prone and training on a hard court day after day can take its toll on your knees, back and feet. By bringing an old basketball and a partner into waist-high water you can practice your jump shot with only half the impact. Better yet, install a backboard next to your pool and you don’t even need a partner. If you’re injured you can practice your jump shot in the deep end by squatting on a kickboard and pushing off to a no-impact, standing jump. Volleyball players can also benefit from this type of training.



Water is also a great transition environment if you’re rehabilitating a sports injury. You can use the different depths of the pool to gradually transition back to land exercise; working first in the deep end with no impact and then in the shallow water with half of the impact of land training. In water up to your chest, you are only 50 percent of your body weight; up to your neck in water, your body is only about 10 percent of its land weight.


Though pool workouts don’t leave you hot and sweaty, you do perspire in the water particularly on a hot day. So pay attention to your hydration. Also, it is possible to overdo it in the water, particularly because aquatic exercise is virtually pain-free. Increase the duration and intensity of your water training gradually the way you would with your land workouts.


Whatever you sport, incorporating water training can be a fun and effective way of increasing your skills and your fitness and staving off injury. The only thing limiting you is your imagination.

Until next time….Be Well!




Aquajogger/Excel Sports Science, Inc. (for flotation belts, tethers)

Phone: (800) 92209544


Sprint/Rothhammer International (general aquatic fitness supplier)

PO Box 3840

San Luis Obispo, CA 93403

Phone: (805) 541-5330

Healing Waters: Aquatic Workouts for Injured Athletes Part I

October 5, 2008

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 their performance. In fact, the biggest misconception about aquatic sports training is that it’s only useful when injuries prevent land workouts, when in fact it can be a valuable, year-round cross-training tool for almost any sport or fitness activity.

My work as an aquatic therapist came directly as a result of my own success with aquatic rehab as an athlete. As a former competitive marathon runner, I discovered the performance benefits of aquatic athletic conditioning more than 20 years ago. Unable to train on land for several months because of injuries, I began deep water running. It allowed me to work out as hard as I wanted to without exacerbating my injuries and it saved my sanity in the process. Whereas most athletes give up aquatic training when their injuries heal, I continued training in the deep water with great results. In fact, I knocked 20 minutes off of my marathon PR (personal record). Furthermore, I was not only faster, but a stronger, more resilient runner.

From that point on I continued my aquatic cross training, had no serious injuries, knocked another eight minutes off of my marathon PR and qualified for the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials where I placed 31st with a personal best time of 2:47:08. I truly believe aquatic athletic conditioning gave me an edge over my frequently-injured competitors by both improving my overall fitness and preventing injuries.


Aquatic cross-training not only keeps you cool, it provides an intense, no- or low-impact, pain-free workout. It is the perfect complement to running, tennis, aerobics, basketball and other high impact activities. Famous athletes who have used aquatic training with great success when recovering from injuries include: heptathlete Jackie Joyner Kersee; baseball/football player Bo Jackson; tennis player John Lloyd; runner Mary Slaney; and basketball player Wilt Chamberlain.

Whether you choose swimming, deep water running or shallow water plyometrics, you can get both cardio and muscular endurance training in one workout. Furthermore, water enhances your flexibility so you’ll never leave the pool with tight, sore muscles. In fact, many people find they are able to stretch further in water as it promotes range of motion of joints and ligaments. Never flexible even as a child, I’m now – at age 41 – able to do the splits thanks to my aquatic exercise!

In my next blog I’ll focus on aquatic therapy workouts for specific sports.

Until then…Be Well!