Women’s Cross Country Hits Pools for Aqua Jogging

With the Sagehens benefitting from an off-week, Brian Gillis took the opportunity to explore the nuances of cross country’s secret rehab: aqua jogging (the j pronounced as a y).Even most casual joggers have likely experienced some of the pains that go along with pounding the pavement in their quest for fitness; sore calves, aching shins, and tender feet are just a few examples.

And while the casual jogger can stand to miss a day or three to allow for a painful knee to calm down, the members of the Pomona-Pitzer cross country teams cannot afford this luxury. Aqua jogging, a method for relieving the strain from running on hard surfaces, is relatively straightforward. Joggers fasten a flotation belt around the waist and may wear specially designed shoes that provide more resistance through the water. Aqua joggers float in deep water while pretending to run, moving their arms and legs as if they were actually on land. Forward movement is not integral to the activity, which means runners traverse very slowly back and forth across the pool.

According to Alicia Freese PO ’10, who said she has developed a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with aqua jogging, “one time it took me almost 30 minutes to get across the pool.”If a mild case of shin splints puts runners out for a day or two, or if a stress fracture puts them out for a month, the Sagehens turn to aqua jogging for an effective and stress-free way of exercising while also allowing their injuries to heal.

“Aqua jogging is a great cross- training activity,” said Assistant Coach Torrey Olson. “It allows the athlete to mimic both the range of motion and the cadence of running, which can’t be said for most forms of cross-training.”

While most members of the cross country team would rather be out running, Kathleen Shea PO ’12 admits that aqua jogging has its merits.

“Who wouldn’t want to float around with friends, working out, chatting, and generally having a pleasant time?” Shea said. However, she added, “you do move quite slowly and risk being made fun of by all the swimmers.”

On the other hand, some athletes are not able to share Olson and Shea’s enthusiasm for the merits of the activity.“There is absolutely nothing fun or good about aqua jogging,” said Charles Enscoe PO ’11.After acquiring a hip injury, Enscoe was relegated to the pool for aqua jogging. Ensco, unlike other runners, decided he would much rather endure the pain of running and risk further injury than spend another day in the water.

Not all runners confined to the pool have the same deep-seated hatred for the activity, and some even see style potential.“The lacrosse bros have sticks, the hipsters have fixed gear bikes, and now runners have cool blue Styrofoam belts,” remarked Zoe Meyers PO ’10.Meyers also points to a hidden benefit.“Aqua-jogging also forces one to develop a unique level of self-confidence. I was injured this summer and had to aqua jog at my town pool. Once you can confidently get into a crowded pool on a hot summer day with an aqua jogging belt on, there are few things that life can throw at you which will make you embarrassed.”

Olson said he is excited by the growing popularity of the sport because “runners typically have just their shoes, their shorts, and their watches. Fancy technical gear, then, is quite limited compared with some of the more technical sports. But the belts give runners another piece of equipment, increasing the range and scope of technical gear by 33 percent.”

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