Countless athletes have used deep water running to supplement their training or, in case of injury, substitute for run training, and have had great success. Below is an excellent video via AQX. As you'll see there is some technique involved. Before you view it though, here are some tips from OTC Head Coach Geordie McConnell who uses water running as part of his training program year round.
- Extend at the hip: Watch the video and notice how the gait cycle is exactly as if running outside. What many miss is the back end of the cycle or the push off phase. Make sure to extend at the hip so your knee passes behind the hip, completing the stride. Too many athletes spin their feet with both knees in front of the hips like they are riding a bike.
- Buoyancy Belt: In the video, you'll notice they have specialized vests on that allow for the forward lean. A single belt of the model you'll commonly find at city pools will not achieve this. What I do to achieve the same lean is this: full belt (with larger back piece) around the waist then I slide a second narrower belt vertically down the back of the first so it is sticking below my butt like a tail. Once in the water this gives that extra rear buoyancy that allows a comfortable forward lean.
- How to Workout: Building up to 20 minutes added to the end of your swim workouts will make a great difference. I do this on all my non-run days. This way, I'm firing the running nerves and working many of the run muscles almost every day without over doing it. Focus on a full stride, like a sprinter. This way you will get the full muscular benefit from the increased range of motion (ROM). This ROM is only achieved otherwise when sprinting so it's a great plus.
- Intensity: You can certainly add some intensity to your water run. For example, go hard for 12.5m (half pool) then easy on the way back. Your posture and arm position will have to change though as the propulsion from your feet will be increased carrying the feet beyond the upper body.
- Is It Boring? No. Water running is not running outside period. Your head will be above the water enabling you to look around and observe life around the pool. Do some stroke analysis of others or simply watch the interesting human behaviour in this strange world of aquatics. If you think about swimming, what are we watching: bubbles. How exciting is that? Try it, stick with it, and you'll benefit greatly especially if it's simply added to an existing swim workout and, therefore, doesn't require a special trip to the pool.
For more video watch this one. The first 3:20 is the key part.