Underwater Treadmill Running: Renewing Resolutions

Underwater Treadmill Running: Renewing Resolutions

If you or your clients have made it this far in your New Year’s Resolutions or if you’re starting to lose steam, it might be a good time to think about warm water running as another option in your fitness routine. This time of year is a good opportunity to briefly review this concise and relevant guide to using an underwater treadmill for runners, “Underwater Treadmill Running (UTR)” authored by Alberto Salazar, running legend and Olympic distance coach, and the late Dr. Dennis Dolny, former professor and department head, Health & Physical Education, Utah State University.

Technology: embrace it or lose

The authors begin the book by emphasizing the importance of technology and our ability to incorporate it into our training programs.

Salazar states: “As I have told people time and again, if you want to become a better runner, stay healthy for the long haul and avoid injuries, you have to embrace technology whenever possible.”

Included with this imperative from the authors is an explanation as to why underwater treadmills can be effective.

“Water provides low-impact, low-weight-bearing exercise, minimizing the risk of injury or undue stress. It reduces the foot-striking forces that so often ‘jar’ muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones.  This lessens the long-term burden on runners’ bodies.  During underwater running, the weight of a human body is reduced up to 90 percent depending upon the depth of the water.  This means a 150-pound runner carries as little as 15 pounds when submerged.  Typically, such an experience facilitates longer-than-typical runs for exercisers with reduced risk of overuse injuries.

Benefits for injured athletes

We all know how it feels to be kept from a favorite leisure-time activity or workout routine due to an ankle sprain, sore back or shin splint. In UTR, Salazar and Dolny explain how switching from a land-based activity to water due to injury can actually be a benefit to runners.

“For injured athletes, being able to keep up with their fitness levels can provide a marked measure of relief.  Those who are accustomed to working out at least once a day can feel confident that runs on an underwater treadmill with resistance jets will only help them maintain and possibly increase their fitness levels.  This makes them more assured that when they return to prime health, they will not have ‘lost ground’.”

Technique tips and workouts

Once you gain access to a HydroWorx pool, the differences between underwater treadmill running and land running will be immediately obvious. Adjusting to the drag of water can be a bit tricky. UTR also incorporates an explanation of correct form, including arm movement, foot position and gait.

“The arms of the runner should ‘break’ the water rather than being forced backwards by the water’s density.”

  • “The feet of the runner should come down in a straight line from the hip to the ankle, maintaining a correct form.”
  • “The runner should not rely on the buoyancy of the water to propel him or her upward (in a bouncing motion), as this will negate some of the beneficial aspects of underwater treadmill running.”

Skipping toward the end of UTR, you’ll find several samples of effective underwater running workouts, including specific exercises, times and treadmill speeds. These workouts can be easily adapted to any athletic ability. This makes toggling from land to water running straightforward and simple.

2011 Japanese study

UTR cites a recent study implicating increased brain activity from those engaged in water. A 2011 Japanese study implies that simply immersing people in water may promote additional brain activity.

“Healthy adult males were seated in an oversized, reclining bathtub and hooked the participants to a device called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) system. Over time, there was a significant increase in the parts of the brain called the somatosensory area, supplementary motor area and primary motor areas, portions of the brain responsible for initiating movement.”

May your new year be full of hope, health and H20 – download the book now>>

Happy running!

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