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Water Running for Cross-Training

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You don't need to be a swimmer to get a good workout in the pool. Just strap on a flotation vest or belt, slip into the water, and run in place. Water running lets you build strength and stamina by mimicking running without any weight-bearing stress on your legs. At the same time, the resistance of the water as you pump your arms and legs helps you strengthen your muscles and joints.

All this makes water running a great way to come back from an injury. It's also a good activity during pregnancy, since the water keeps your temperature fairly even and eliminates the stress and pounding of running.

Water running might seem a little unnatural at first, but it doesn't take long to catch on. Begin in shallow water, around four feet deep. Start swinging your arms as if you were running, exaggerating slightly so that your elbows push way back, and keeping your arms close to your body. When you're comfortable with this, start doing knee lifts coordinated with your swinging arms. Do this for three or four minutes, then slowly move forward into deeper water while keeping up this motion. Continue running, staying relaxed and keeping your body straight without letting your fanny stick out. If you don't have a flotation device, just stay in the shallow water and run widths of the shallow end of the pool, or continue to run in place with the knee lifts.

Concentrate on form, just as you would while running on land, and keep your arms swinging in that same exaggerated style. Try to keep up a minimum pace and then speed up every now and then for a minute or two. After doing your hard running, be sure to do five or ten minutes of easy jogging for your warm down. Don't forget to stretch before and after your workout.

Recovery from water running, because of the lack of pounding, is understandably much faster than for land running. This makes water running a good activity for runners interested in stepping up the intensity of training but who want to avoid injury. Try increasing the intensity of your runs, while replacing one running day with a day in the water. It's a safe way to add more workload to your routine.


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