How do you stay run fit when your body won’t let you run?

I’ve been working with Sarah Hobbs now for some time, and she is targeting some serious races in 2019. Her progress is being frustrated though, by a lingering case of plantar fasciitis. Although she’s perfectly fine with swimming and cycling, running can be quite painful, and she’s been advised by the physio to wait before running again.

However, she is staying run fit by aquajogging. This simulates the running motion, and works all the right muscle groups whilst avoiding the impact of actual running. This blog is a really quick introduction to aquajogging and how to get started.



All you need is an aquajog belt, which is a flotation belt that buckles around your waist. This will do enough to keep you buoyant in the water and not have to worry about sinking! They are available for somewhere between £10 and £20. Bonus training points are earned if you coordinate the colour of the belt with your swimwear.


I would recommend having a look at a couple of videos on the Youtubes, but essentially your technique should mimic a normal running action. An advantage of “running” in water is that any peculiarities of your technique will be obvious – if you start spinning around in the water, then maybe you’re a little unbalanced!

·         Drive your knee up through the water, then push your foot back as you would in a normal running stride. The resistance of the water will mean that your cadence is slower than normal, but you’ll quickly get used to that, and find a comfortable rhythm.

·         Swing your arms forward and back at the side of your body – try to avoid any left and right motion. Drive the elbows back till your hand is next to your hip.

·         Avoid hunching. When running on land, you should be leaning slightly forward from a vertical position. This should be no different, but sometimes you will find yourself bending forwards at the waist. Try to correct your posture till you get used to the sensation.

·         Keep your head still – you’re not Paula Radcliffe!


You are going to moving pretty slowly, so if you are in a public pool session, best to get in the slowest lane, and I’d recommend you have a chat with the other swimmers to let them know what you’re up to. They’ll probably be curious as to why you are wearing a purple nappy anyway.



Firstly, don’t even think about distance. You should measure the efforts and the session generally in increments of time. If you start trying to “do a fast length” it’s more likely that your technique will be sacrificed. Far better to “do a fast minute.” Up the cadence and effort levels for a period of time rather than distance.

You can do an endurance session – get in and aquajog for an hour at a steady pace – which would replicate your easy run. That will work fine, but frankly you’ll be so bored after an hour that you’ll never want to do this ever again!

Much more logical to do an interval-type session, with timed efforts. Most people won’t have real time heart rate feedback in the water, so let’s keep it simple and just have three effort levels based on perceived rate of exertion:

1.       Easy Pace – comfortable, not out of breath, you’d be able to chat.

2.       Threshold Pace – hard work, breathing fast, sweating, unable to chat.

3.       Sprint Pace – even harder, very heavy breathing, not sustainable for very long.

So, using those broad effort levels, here are a couple of example session plans:

Simple Intervals

·         15 min easy pace warm up

·         6 x [2 min threshold pace, 1 min easy pace]

·         6 x [1 min sprint pace, 1 min easy pace]

·         15 min easy pace cool down

Spike Intervals

·         15 min easy pace warm up

·         3 x [2:30 threshold pace, 30 sec sprint pace, 2 min easy pace]

·         3 x [1:30 threshold pace, 1 min sprint pace, 2:30 easy pace]

·         15 min easy pace cool down