Years ago, fighters would wake up at the crack of dawn, don a pair of running trainers and hit the pavement for miles at a time.
But while the imagery was almost glamorous, repeated running on hard concrete has been shown, after a while, to begin damaging athletes’ knees, ankles and joints. While the benefits outweigh the risks, when it comes to the elite level of sport — particularly in fighting — any damage not taken before competition is supremely important.
Enter the new wave.
Underwater treadmills have begun creeping into common usage in high level athletics. Just today, UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor posted a video of his using one at the new UFC Performance Institute.
But what are the benefits to using the less traditional method of jogging equipment? Well, while it might not necessarily replace the old age method of hitting the road, underwater treadmills are a decent way of supplementing your running workouts and rehabilitating any common running injuries.
So says Timothy Miller, Regional Director of Sports Rehabilitation at St. Luke’s Physical Therapy in Pennsylvania.
“Water is a great medium to exercise in,” Miller said, speaking with RunnersWorld. “The buoyancy of the water decreases stress on the joints, the viscosity provides resistance for strength training, and the hydrostatic pressure helps support the body providing a safe workout environment.
“Waist-height water reduces your body weight by about 50 percent. Chest-height water creates close to a 75-percent weight reduction. This lowers the impact forces on an existing injury so you can begin therapy sooner while retaining muscle strength and conditioning.”
While athletes have previously been able to do something similar in swimming pools around the world, essentially copying the motion of running while in water, having the actual machinery under your feet grants you more control and benefits to your work out.
“Aqua jogging involves mimicking running form while in a pool,” Miller said. “When you’re aqua jogging, your feet aren’t touching the floor, and you’re propelled at a very slow pace. [On an underwater treadmill], you’re able to actually work on mechanics and running technique. It’s a mix between running outside and running on a treadmill but still having the effects of the aquatics.
“But for an off-day recovery run, aqua jogging works fine because you can go through and relieve all those stresses.”