Healing Bones and Aqua Running

Here are two similar recent inquiries relating to introducing aqua-running to a training program as part of recovery from bone fractures. Laura asks: I am 6 weeks post broken ankle and wanted to know if pool running would help me get back to running after this injury? And Matt asks: I have been diagnosed with a hip stress fracture, most probably caused by adding too much mileage or too much speed in a short time. I’ve been advised to stop running completely for the next 4 -6 weeks. In the meantime, can I aqua jog? I tried it yesterday, and felt no pain. Will it be beneficial to do, or would it be best to let the bone heal, then start again with pool running and later on hard ground?

Aqua-running is absolutely ideal for coming back from a broken ankle or any stress fracture because it reduces the pounding on that limb. Most bones in most people heal within 6-8 weeks.

Continued stress on the bones in the case of a stress fracture may either exacerbate it or prolong recovery. A stress fracture by nature is from pressure/pounding on that location (your hip in this case) which develops a “hot spot.” It needs to heal. So, it is critical not to put pressure on it during recovery.

Unless there is some other medical reason, both of you should be able to pursue the non-weight bearing approach in the deep end with the waist float. Then you can move to the partial weight bearing in the shallower end. Gradually reintroduce your hard ground running. A good way to do it is to alternate days… and listen to your body. Be sure you do the pool workouts in an interval fashion as described above for the most benefit.

You will need to reintroduce running on hard surfaces gradually. The last thing you need is to take two steps back after waiting so long to “get back at it.” One day a week for a couple weeks, then two per week. Only proceed if there is no pain at all. You have to read your body very well. This is not a case of “toughing it out.”

Be sure to review this with your doctor before pursuing it. There can be contraindications and so before you launch into a program (even in water) get the go-ahead from your doctor.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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6 Responses to Healing Bones and Aqua Running

  1. Christina says:

    I agree aqua running can help keep up some conditioning but your blog doesn’t mention how terribly boring aqua jogging is.

  2. ena says:

    If you are a serious runner it does not matter how boring it is training in the water. What about a 15:50 5K after training in the water ! and still do – it should be part of your training routine specially for marathoners so they can go for a warm down after Boston marathon – I can prove it!!

  3. Ena,
    You’re right on. Many elite runners do aqua running as an adjunct to their running. I think using it as a warm down – for those who can – is good advice too.

  4. Danyah says:


    My husband fractured his T-12 vertebrae and is now wearing a brace. Doctor says this is a stable fracture – the husband REALLY wants to get back to running form. He’s signed up for a marathon -is twelve weeks a realistic amount of time to prepare, or should he sit this one out (like I’ve been telling him – the experienced runner knows)!

  5. Dean Hebert says:

    OH boy. Ok, well, first heal 100%. Only then think of running. 12 weeks from ZERO to marathon. I would not advise.

    Is it possible…. perhaps depending on the runner… but it will NOT be a fun marathon. Again… PASS on this one… do it right for the next one. Why not get back into shorter races first… ????

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