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Aquatic-based conditioning

Do you have tendonitis? Are you legs tired from pounding the pavement? Maybe you're bored with your current training program? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you should consider aquatic-based conditioning.

Using water in medicine is not a new idea; it's been around since Hippocrates. However, it's just within the last century that the application of fluid dynamics has been directed at rehabilitation. High-level training programs in water have been effectively utilized during the last 30 years.

Adding water workouts to a training program requires a little thought and pre- planning to address the skill and comfort level that the participant has in a water environment. It's important to determine what depth of water is appropriate – deep, shallow, or a combination. The availability of floatation devices and/or other equipment can create additional strength or cardiovascular challenges.

Understanding some of the effects that water has on your body will help to make your sessions more productive. The ideal temperature to workout in is 79 F to 81F (competitive pool temperature). With the entire body immersed, the water temperature will assist in cooling the body, decreasing the demand on the body's cooling mechanisms, which in turn will decrease heart rate. Water activity can result in about 17 beats per minute less for the same intensity of work; consequently, you'll need to adjust your target heart rate appropriately.

Other water workout considerations:

  • Until you establish what your heart rate in a water environment should be, perceived exertion is a good measure of workout intensity.
  • The effect of buoyancy is to decrease impact stress and joint loading during weight bearing water activities. However, keep in mind, that you are still moving against resistance with any water exercise, challenging your strength.
  • Turbulence can make your workout easier if you are moving in the same direction as the water, or harder, if the water is either "still" or you're going against the water direction.

Running in deep water using a floatation aid (i.e., aqua jogger, swimming noodle or pull buoys) can help to focus your workout on the legs. The goal is not to complete laps, but rather to incorporate intervals or speed changes during your running routine. Shallow water running suggestions include aqua shoes to decrease the irritation to the bottom of the feet, as well as prevent slipping. The shallow end of the pool is ideal for lap running, general lower body strengthening, stretching, and warm-up and cool-down activities.

Using short fins (i.e., zoomers) in a workout can add another challenging variation challenge in deep water. Try vertical kicking intervals that elevate your body out of the water, and then let it down during the recovery period, or normal kicking with a kick board.

Water is a great medium to work out in, no matter if it's to recover from an injury, decrease the pounding on your joints, or as a productive alternative to your regular workout routine.

For questions on aquatic-based conditioning, other sports medicine topics, or to schedule a Free Injury Evaluation, call the Aurora Sports Medicine Hotline™ at (414) 219-7776 or (800) 219-7776.