By Jennifer Conroyd, Founder of Fluid Running and Certified U.S.A. Track and Field Coach and A.C.E. Trainer
There are 10.4 million residential pools in the U.S. and over 300,000 community pools. Did I know that in 2010? Absolutely not. Why would I? I was a die-hard runner. I didn’t spend time pondering pools or water aerobics. I was running marathons, doing triathlons, and even completing the Ironman. And then I found myself injured six weeks from one of the important races in my life. Torn calf muscle, “You can’t run,” my doctor said. I was devastated.
When I got home from finding out my training was over, I typed into Google: “How To Stay In Running Shape When Injured.” I came across an article about deep water running, and that’s when I learned the importance of pivoting—not only personally but professionally.
Running in water
The research I found about deep water running was scant, to say the least. But I found an article that led me to an elite trainer, whom I emailed immediately with my dilemma. As someone who has spent her life devoted to health and wellness, being unable to participate in a run that was so important to me and my family was not acceptable.
We were planning to run the 2010 Chicago Marathon to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation because my nephew had been diagnosed at a young age. All four of my siblings were training to run with me, and I was the team lead. We had already raised over $10,000, and I was determined. The author of that article responded quickly, and put me in touch with a coach who could help.
“I’ll get you to this marathon—in the water. Trust me.” So, he coached me, and I did all of my running in the deep end of the pool for the final six weeks leading up to the marathon. As I ran across the finish line—in one of my best times yet, qualifying for the Boston Marathon—I knew that I was ready to pivot again. I had to spread the word about deep water running and help so many others who may be unable to run on land, or even do traditional workouts.
The deep water pathway
My career has always been in marketing, though working with KFC, McDonald’s, and Domino’s Pizza, my work didn’t always reflect my devotion to health and wellness. After a while, I had decided I wanted to create a career in the industry, so I started by educating myself and getting health and fitness certifications—and with my discovery of deep water running, it was fate.
People with back, neck or joint pain usually never get to see the benefits of running or feel the joy of putting a running shoe to pavement. It’s simply too painful, sometimes even too painful to walk because of the pressure applied to the whole body when the foot meets the ground and gravity pushes down. But when you add water, these problems don’t exist. There’s no gravity or unnecessary pressure on joints and muscles.
After the Chicago Marathon, I traveled to Canada to become trained in deep water running so that I could help offer solutions to all the people who weren’t able to run or even exercise in the traditional way for any reason. When you’re floating in the water, the pressure is off your spine, your feet, any other problem areas—while still offering a valuable cardio-muscular workout.
Once I received my certification, I approached my local park district and asked if I could start an interval-based deep water running class. Our first challenge was getting people to try a form of exercise they’ve never heard of. Besides swimming, most people think of “grandma’s aqua aerobics” when working out in the water. And no offense to grandmas, but that’s not the workout that developed.
As the classes grew, I named the program Fluid Running. Once clients started trying the workout and seeing the results, the news spread like wildfire. The pools were full, and I had clients requesting one-on-one training. For a small business like ours, I firmly believe that word-of-mouth is your best friend. If you have a great product, people will tell their friends. I’ve even had Olympic athletes reach out with praise after doing our workout.
My initial goal to spread the word about the benefits of deep water running to as many people as possible began to seem more and more attainable. People from across the country started reaching out for more information on how to do the workout themselves, which is why with the help of my business partner Mike Lambert, we built the on-demand app, and bundled the equipment needed to create the Fluid Running system.
The do-it-yourself app-based version of the program includes instructional videos, coach-led, music-backed deep water running audio workouts, Bluetooth- waterproof headphones to keep you connected to your workout coach, and a flotation belt to keep you upright in the water. This app brings a life-altering platform to a broader audience. With the on-demand app and in-person classes, we have 10,000 Fluid Runners all over the U.S. and in many parts of the world. I’m committed to our customers, and I know that opening doors to this type of workout can increase options for those who need it.
From Peloton to YouTube, we live in a time where successful workouts have to be easy to implement and adaptable to a wide range of participants. With an app that can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, all you need is access to one of the millions of pools in the U.S.
Jennifer Conroyd is the founder of Fluid Running, a deep water running fitness company. She is an Ironman and has completed 16 marathons, qualifying for the Boston Marathon 15 times. Jennifer created Fluid Running after an injury left her unable to run in preparation for the 2010 Chicago Marathon. She ran exclusively in the deep water for the six weeks leading up to the race and not only finished that marathon but qualified for the Boston Marathon. Fluid Running offers group classes that Men’s Journal voted one of the Best Workouts in America. Jennifer’s company recently launched the Fluid Running app, which is the only deep water running workout that anyone can do anywhere in the world. Jennifer is an A.C.E. certified personal trainer, a USATF trained coach and a graduate of Miami University. She was named a finalist for the 2018 Women in Tech Founders award.