The Healing Power of Cross Training in The Water

January 31, 2016 Linda LaRue

Consistent peak athletic performance can translate into substantial earnings wins or, sadly, losses over a professional athlete’s career. Sports legends and icons like Wilt Chamberlain, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Gail Deavers, and the LA Lakers have utilized cross training water workouts as an effective and results proven medium to keep them in great shape (or rehab). I’ve briefly described the five healing properties of water to help motivate you to get in and get wet. Plus, water is refreshing and reZenerating! My clients and patients always tell me getting in the water for a workout is not only fun and challenging, but it makes them feel like it’s summer and they’re a kid again!water-workout

1. Buoyancy. Significantly decreases impact, joint trauma, and pain, thereby allowing you to train harder and maintain conditioning.

2. Three-Dimensional Resistance. Enhances core stabilization/core training by causing simultaneous co-contraction of the abs, back and gluteal muscles. Plus, water is instantaneously adjustable resistance training machine—meaning the faster you go the harder or greater the workload becomes. Conversely, if you need to go easier then just slow down or shorten your move.

3. Hydrostatic Pressure. Acts like an ace bandage to “wring” out swelling or joint effusion. It’s a great medium for pregnant women who are experiencing swelling in their legs especially feet and ankles.

4. Analgesic Effect. It acts like a TENS UNIT by scrambling incoming messages of pain allowing you to work harder (without injury due to buoyancy’s property of non-impact).

5. Cooling Effect. Keeps you cool, preventing overheating, fatigue, and dehydration so you can train for a longer time and at a higher level of cardiovascular intensity.
Aqua Exercise Equipment. You’ll need to purchase a water jogging belt, a pair of water mitts or “webbies”, and a tether if you want to add resistance to your water training routine. I recommend a waterproof sports watch if you plan on interval training, is a great site to purchase all your aqua equipment.

Before you get in the water, here are a few important cues to help you maintain great form and proper alignment.

Correct Water Jogging/Running Mechanics. Begin running in chest deep or transition level water with your aqua belt tightly worn around your waist. Maintain good posture or “Neutral Spine” by having your ears stacked directly over your shoulders, hips, and knees. Make sure your shoulders are slightly down and stable. Keep your breast bone slightly lifted, and abs pulled in while keeping a continuous Kegel or pelvic floor “pull-up” at all times.

Your arms and legs should move in opposition, with the opposite arm and leg moving together. Lift your knees to 90 degrees, while pulling your arms directly forward and back-no side or lateral movement. The angle of the arm at the elbow remains the same. Movement is only at the shoulder, not elbow or wrist. Keep your thumbs up during entire arm swing. After you feel comfortable, and are able to maintain good form in chest level water, progress to running suspended (without your feet touching the bottom of the pool) in the deep end. After you’ve mastered good running form, try increasing your pace by running at a slow, medium, then fast speed. Sprint for 10 to 15 seconds max time in the water x6 sets or so. If your form crumbles, begin running again at a slower pace, working your way back to a sprint. If your feet slip at the bottom of the pool or blister, wear a pair of water running shoes.

Try running for 20 to 30 minutes at a hard to very hard intensity/pace. (RPE of 7-8). For variations you can add interval work with sprints for x number of seconds or count your arm swings (count only one arm) to measure your speed. Try 2 sets of 4 x 15 to 15 to 20 sec sprints with a 30-45 sec recovery between sets after your 20 to 30 minute water conditioning run. If you count your arm swings then try to decrease or negative split your arm swings.

Cross-Country Water Skiing. Begin in chest deep water by sliding your feet along the bottom of the pool, while swinging your fully extended arms in opposition. Maintain a Neutral Spine, and my Set Up at all times. Keep your palms facing backwards, and your hands forming a paddle to increase surface area or resistance. If you are wearing webbies then splay your fingers. When you feel comfortable in chest deep water, take it to the deep end making sure you keep good alignment including keeping your shoulders down and stable.

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