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Class Review: Deep Water Running

Posted Mar 23 2013 2:15pm

Last week, fellow injured runner  Abby forwarded me an email about a “Deep Water Running” class in NYC. Always on board to try a new workout, especially one that can help improve my running while injured, I immediately responded and we made plans to try out the class.


According to the program director/instructor, Robert Valentine, “Deep Water Running is a non-impact form of running done in place in the water wearing a flotation belt.”  (He had me at flotation belt!) It helps improve stamina, core strength, and speed while aiding in recovery and preventing injury. Seeing as Abby and I are current members of the “Injured Runners Who Can’t Do Weight Bearing Activity and are Going Crazy Club” (not the official name…yet), this type of workout is right up our alley. Anything that can help me keep any semblance of running fitness while unable to actually run is good in my book. (Also good in my book: puppies, candy corn, and yoga pants. Just in case you’re wondering about said book.) So Thursday night, Abby, another friend Jessica, and I literally took the plunge (see what I did there?) and went to a new-to-us class taught in a salt water pool in an old New York City church. Intrigued? I thought so.

When we arrived, we threw our stuff in the locker room and headed out to the pool. I’m a little confused as to why there’s a salt water pool in a church, but I digress. Who knew!



There were about 15 or so people in the class; some were totally new like us, and others seemed to be seasoned pros. All ages, all different types of people. It’s one of the first things I noticed – all skill levels can come to the class and fit right in. It doesn’t matter if you’re new, injured, super fit, still a beginner, a runner or not…every single person can be in the pool working out together.

Robert was very welcoming and friendly, and after explaining the basics and helping us put on our fancy flotation belts (there’s a method!), the three of us each apprehensively got into the water.

Remember how terrified I am of cold water? (Yes, terrified. No, I’m not overreacting, why would you think that?) Fabulous news – it was nice and perfectly toasty, so I didn’t have to go through my normal routine of putting my toes in, throwing a fit, dramatically hugging myself, and then flailing around. (See how hard of a time I have getting into a cold pool?! I’m telling you…brutal.)

Almost as brutal as trying to foam roll an angry hamstring with this vicious dog attacking you.

Almost as brutal as trying to foam roll an angry calf muscle with this vicious dog attacking you.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking…”I can’t swim, I would drown, I haven’t swam in 437 years, I hate swimming.” Trust me, you have nothing to worry about. (Didn’t you hear me say “flotation belt”?) We did a short warm up of arm movements coupled with some simple kicking while floating on our backs, and “sculling” AKA paddling. No fancy technique needed.

After our warm up, we started the interval portion of the workout. We began by “power walking”; focusing on posture and moving our legs and arms back and forth in large strides. (“More pencil-like!” and “move from the hips!” Robert kept repeating.) The faster you move, the more resistance you’ll feel from the water, and the more strength you’ll gain. We also did intervals that simulated running downhill and uphill, simply by modifying the arm swing and leg stride length, along with the speed of movement. I was sweating within two minutes, much to my surprise. Switching between the different types of “running” made the workout tough but interesting. I could feel my legs burning. We even did a little core workout which proved my uncoordinated-ness (that definitely isn’t a real word) but was still fab.

Coaching from the edge of the pool, Robert demonstrated each movement every time he called it out. He made an obvious effort to remember each participant’s name, smiled and joked a lot, and made me totally comfortable. Although I’ve only met him once, he seems like one of those coaches you can ask questions without feeling like an idiot. This is important to me, as I already feel like an idiot when it comes to swimming and don’t need someone else to confirm that, ya hear me?



While it’s different from a speed workout on the track and doesn’t replace my “OMG I MISS RUNNING SO MUCH I MUST GET OUSIDE IMMEDIATELY feeling, it does ease my worries a little. I can see how consistently attending deep water running classes can benefit my actual running – especially when coming back from an injury.

Want a more visual explanation? Here’s a video:

Here’s another from USA Today – High School Sports featuring Coach Robert and a local soccer player.

I’ll definitely be trying this workout again.

Here’s some information on the dates/times/locations of each class . (Sorry if you’re not in NYC!) If you just want to work on your swimming skills, there are also coaching options. If you’re an NYRR member, you get a discount ! Lastly, if you feel so inclined, check out the Facebook page for updates.

Ever tried deep water running? Think it sounds crazy? Fill me in!

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