I am looking for alternatives to doing effective cardio running in the water. Big plus if there are ways to get all of the same muscles to fire, to scale workouts easily, to be able to have an ultra intense workout, for options that someone with foot or knee issues could do, and a plus if it can be done in most "larger" pools.

I would like an answer that does not rely on the runners feet ever touching something. I would like some workout plan examples, equipment needed, progressions, and good insight in the answer!

Example use:

  1. Athlete with turf toe injury.
  2. Severely injured person recovering from spinal or leg injury.
  • 1
    See Pool Running Aug 6, 2013 at 7:10
  • Hi @DMoore, does the question BackInShapeBuddy linked to answer your question, because else I'll close this as a duplicate. If not, be sure to make clear what kind of information you're missing
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 6, 2013 at 10:05
  • I saw this question. This covers traditionally running in water. I am wondering how effective of a workout can be produced where your feet are not hitting the floor at all.
    – DMoore
    Aug 6, 2013 at 15:09
  • @JohnP I think if you are 'running' in the open water there is more than just the resistance of air (I mean there is … water and not air). I have seen people do this in a pool before; their body below the water was pointing straight down and they were doing running-like movements, while at the surface they were doing breaststroke-like movements to actually move. No idea why these people did it, though.
    – Baarn
    Aug 6, 2013 at 18:07
  • @Informaficker - There is resistance. Where in my comment do I say otherwise? I specifically say that "water running works because there is resistance to the legs movement". Anything suspended where air is the only resistance (since that is very minimal) won't produce a stress.
    – JohnP
    Aug 6, 2013 at 18:33

2 Answers 2


I used pool running while I had a stress fracture in my tibia.

I liked using the flotation belt, so that I could pool run in deep water, to make sure the activity was very low impact. I also had a lot of difficulty maintaining proper form without the flotation belt. To avoid being in the way by moving very slowly forward down a lane, you can tether yourself to a pool ladder in the corner.

I took a few sessions to get used to the running form, but after that, I used pool running to mimic on-land high intensity interval training. I used the same work-rest ratios that I would on land.

Maybe this seems too simple an answer, but really, once you get the form correct, you can take any land-running program and transfer it to the pool.


No movements in the water will come close to that of running. "running like movements" will have very little resistance in the water compared to propelling your body. The principle of specificity says that the best way to train for something is whatever is closest to that thing. The best you are going to get from swimming is general cardiovascular endurance.

  • This question wasn't asking for advice for those who want an alternative to running. It is those who cannot run. What is the best simulation they can get in water?
    – DMoore
    Aug 7, 2013 at 16:21
  • And the answer would be "next to nothing". If you can't run, you can't train for running, as the question asked. Aug 7, 2013 at 16:23
  • So you are saying that kicking in a pool for an hour would have the same impact as doing nothing in building the stamina and muscles needed to run?
    – DMoore
    Aug 7, 2013 at 16:26
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    Injured olympic level distance runners use pool running as an effective bridge between inactivity and returning to sport. You're wrong to say that the benefit is "next to nothing".
    – user4644
    Aug 7, 2013 at 16:43
  • 2

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