Robin Gaudette

I have always admired runners. I envied their physique, aerobic ability, will-power and drive to run in some of the worst conditions.

I’ve started “jogging” numerous times, lasting only the first time out! Thinking I was in shape because I taught Jazzercise, I figured running a 5-K during my husband’s college reunion would be no problem. Wrong.

I gave up and stuck to fitness dancing as my aerobic exercise. A bad back, feet and a short leg sealed the deal that running on pavement or a treadmill wasn’t for me. I figured if I couldn’t jog at 36 years old, I shouldn’t start at 63. Then along came tethered deep water running at the Cascade Swim Center.

We started a trial class of tethered deep water running in January. Our main goal was to attract runners, who could see the advantage of cross-training in the pool before experiencing an injury and designed for that population. What we ended up with was a cross-section of an elite ultra-marathon runner, a few fitness runners and the rest, people like me who can’t run on land.

Our class is taught by a long time marathon runner, who ran in the Boston marathon and found water running due to an injury. Laurie Sevier is now a water fitness instructor and group exercise instructor at RAPRD and does private personal training and running coaching. Laurie knows just what you need if you are a beginner or an elite runner.

In our class, participants are tethered to a taut rope with a bungee type tether, and wear a flotation belt. Participants maintain vertical posture in the water while running different drills. Our oldest participant and non-runner is over 75 years old.

Here’s the skinny on why deep water running can make a believer out of you. Deep water running enhances both the cardiac and the respiratory system because of the hydrostatic pressure (HP) of the water. HP is like a full-body spanx. HP creates an increase in venous blood returning to the heart, therefore more oxygenated blood pumped back to the body. This increase is typically 35%.

Because of the resistance of the water, all movement is 12-15 times more difficult than on land. Treadmill walking burns four calories per minute, where deep water walking burns eight-to-nine calories per minute. Running (without using the arms in the water) — treadmill running will burn 11.8 calories per minute and water running 11.5 calories per minute. With the addition of arm movement in the water, caloric expenditure can rise to 13+ calories per minute.

In the water, the compressive load on the spine is decreased due to buoyancy and HP. Ground reaction force, which is the amount of pressure that the ground pushes against your foot (when running), translates to the spinal column.

Approximately three times the body weight is exerted through the foot to the spine with every foot-fall in land running, someone weighing 150 pounds this number is approximately between 750 and 1000 pounds of force.

Because feet are not on the ground the core musculature is firing constantly to maintain vertical. And because the arms are being used against the resistance of water, those muscles add a component of muscular endurance and possibly an increase in muscular strength.

If you are a runner, a fitness enthusiast or identify with me, I recommend you give deep water running a try. It can be done in our class setting, getting the benefit of a trained instructor or you could come during open pool time, grab a belt and get moving. Our next session begins March 25, at 10 a.m. Saturdays.

Visit raprd.org for more information.

Robin Gaudette is the aquatics wellness coordinator at the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District. Contact her at robin.gaudette@raprd.org.

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