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Tech & Wearables

I Tried Fluid Running and Loved It

A waistbelt, Bluetooth headphones paired with an app, and deep water make for a great (non-boring!) workout.

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I’ve long been a fan of aqua jogging. I’ve loved it for its weightlessness, especially appreciated during my two pregnancies, when I’d head to the deep end of a community pool, clip a foam waist belt I got at a sporting goods store around my growing belly, and jog with zero impact on my joints (or on my uterus from the baby). I especially appreciated the water workout when my second son was born in late July—I could escape the heat by dunking in a pool and running.

Through more than a few running injuries, I’d hit the pool with my jogging belt to maintain running fitness. I always appreciated that I could mimic the running motion better in the water than I could on an elliptical or StairClimber, and without hurting my various injuries.

But I’d get bored. To keep myself entertained and therefore, in the pool long enough to feel like I’d gone for a run, I’d do things like travel back and forth in the pool. I’d spell out the alphabet with my moving body in the deep end, if I could. I’d do intervals, watch lap swimmers, or cruise around looking for drowning bugs which I’d then save by scooping up off the water and tossing them to the deck. Still, it was boring, and I’d struggle to stay in past 35 or 40 minutes, just wishing the clock would tick faster.

Enter: a solution! I recently got my hands on a Fluid Running system—a small, lightweight Bluetooth headset that pairs with an app I downloaded to my phone. The app holds an instructional video, and a host of aqua jogging workouts, from a 46-minute introductory session to a variety of almost-60 minute workouts.

Fluid running set up for aqua jogging workouts
Photo: Courtesy Fluid Running

I started with the introductory workout, which I downloaded from the app before heading to the pool and hit play when I was ready to get in the water.

The waist belt, like all waist belts I’ve tried, adjusts to fit various waist sizes and kept me afloat in a vertical position. I strapped it around myself (tip: wear a one-piece for comfort around the midsection), put on a hat and sunglasses and dipped into the deep end of a pool.

Fluid Running’s founder, Jennifer Conroyd, began instructing me through the ear buds in a calm but upbeat voice. She’s an A.C.E.-certified physical trainer, a USATF-certified coach, and has an Exercise in Medicine credential from ACSM. She developed the system after training exclusively for the 2010 Chicago Marathon in water, and successfully qualified for Boston.

Conroyd’s voice guided me through an engaging 46 minutes of water running, from base-level running (80% effort) to shorter sprints, Nordic ski-like movements, to arms- and legs-only intervals. She reminded me to keep good posture, saying things like, “shoulders back, chin down, tight core,” which I appreciated and realized I sorely needed.

The workout ended with some light stretching at the pool’s wall, and the 46 minutes flew by.

I took it out a second time to a community pool where my son and his friend played. Since my head was above water, I could watch them the whole time while getting in my run (in mid-80s heat; I was happy to be in water!). This time, I chose a 56-minute workout, and was guided through the hour with challenging moves and intervals. Again, the time flew by. I actually wanted to stay in until the very end, bummed I got kicked out by the lifeguard with four minutes to go. When I think back to all the other times I’d aqua jogged on my own, this kind of blows my mind.

The system is great. The headphones are lightweight and I barely felt them on. The sound quality is good, though broke up a bit if I strayed too far (20 or 25 feet) from my phone. The workout made me feel like I had run, without to jarring pains I sometimes have if I run everyday. (And aqua jogging provides water resistance strength training.) And the guidance from Conroyd was just the right mix of encouraging coaching and calmness (I’m not a fan of overly enthusiastic coaching in my ears). I also liked how the music was in the background, as I get cranky with blasting music I don’t like.

I’ll be using the Fluid Running system through the summer and beyond to train more than I can on land, while watching kids play at the pool, and when it’s just too dang hot for a run on land. And Conroyd gives just enough breaks that I can still save those drowning bugs.