What to Expect from a Water Exercise Class – by Sherri Freifelder:
You’ve heard about aquatic fitness classes and you’re considering trying something new. But starting any new exercise routine can be scary and you’re not certain what to expect.
The first obstacle you may face is the feeling of dread people sometimes feel when they think about putting on a bathing suit and making the walk from the locker room to the pool. You’re imagining all of the fitness buffs in the pool with their bikini bodies and you’re not sure how you will measure up. Let me assure you, everyone looks just like you do! The first way to overcome this obstacle is to find a quality chlorine resistant bathing suit that you feel comfortable in. I personally prefer a one-piece swim suit with a high neckline. I typically wear swim suit shorts over top of the one piece because I like to have complete coverage when I work out in the pool. When everything is covered, I can focus on my workout, not on what’s popping out of my swim suit. But you should focus on finding a suit that fits your body type and personal style. You’re not going to a pool party or laying in the sun for a tan. Think about coverage and strong straps. It’s also important to consider wearing a pair of water shoes. Water shoes give you more traction and control on the pool floor. They protect your feet from injury and shoes can also add just a bit of extra resistance to help keep you grounded on the pool floor instead of standing on your toes the entire class. Once you have the right swim wear, you will easily overcome your first obstacle to aquatic fitness. And then you also realize it’s a very short walk between the locker room and the pool. Once you’re in the water, everyone looks the same!
There are many types of aquatic fitness classes. Some are done in shallow water with or without equipment. Some classes are held in deep water with the use of flotation devices like swim belts and noodles. Shallow water fitness classes are low impact on your joints but do typically have some impact on the pool floor as you are mostly standing in chest deep water. Most shallow water fitness classes do not require swimming ability. Deep water classes have zero impact on your joints because your entire body is submerged under the water and you’re floating with the assistance of a device. It is not recommended to have non-swimmers take deep water classes.
There are many types of classes to take both in the shallow area and the deep water. Many instructors use different types of music to set the cadence of the exercises. Some classes, like Aqua Zumba, are choreographed to music. Other classes, like Aqua Tabata or circuit classes, use music with special timers built in. The music is up beat and helps you feel motivated while doing an exercise, but it’s not choreographed. Some classes are silent where you only have an instructor offering exercises. Typically, your instructor will teach from the deck of the pool so you can see their entire body. In some formats the instructor offers mostly visual cues for each exercise and you follow their lead. In others, the instructor will give verbal instructions with the use of a microphone. There are some occasions where an instructor will teach a smaller sized class from inside the water. But it can be challenging for the participants to see and understand the exercises being demonstrated this way. The participants in the classes are typically very friendly with each other. There is no reason to feel self-conscious about doing everything “perfectly.” I tell my participants “what happens under the water, stays under the water.” Just focus on learning/using proper form to prevent injury and your body will learn how to move in the water vs. on land. No one sees what you’re doing under the water.
I suggest trying a variety of aquatic classes so that you can decide what you most prefer. Examine your motivation for taking a class. Are you going for the social interaction? Then a water walking class might be best for you. Participants walk through the pool together doing a variety of steps and exercises along the way. But there is opportunity for you to chat with your neighbors as you go. Are you overweight and looking for a challenging workout to scorch calories? Then consider an Aqua Tabata class or a HIIT class. High Intensity interval training is shown to challenge and confuse your metabolism so that you burn more calories during the workout and for up to 24 hours after the workout. Are you looking to burn calories and do general resistance training to get into better cardiovascular shape? Then consider an Aqua Zumba or aqua aerobics class. I am about to starting teaching a class called Hydro Jump using aquatic trampolines! It’s lots of fun and a great aerobic workout. Are you looking to build muscle and do strength training? There is typically a boot camp class in the water that focuses on strength exercises, sometimes using equipment like noodles, cords, or hand buoys. Many of these types of classes can be found in deep water as well. There are even Aqua Yoga and Ai Chi classes that you can take to help with stretching and mindfulness.
So now you have an idea of the various types of aquatic fitness classes available. But how do you locate a class, or more importantly, a qualified instructor? Swim and Sweat’s new People2Pool function is a great place to start! You can search your zip code to see instructors who are listed near you. It’s a great way to see their qualifications and experience and the types of classes they teach. Often you can contact the instructor directly to ask questions and gain information about their classes and style. No two instructors are the same and it’s important for you to find a qualified instructor that inspires you and whose teaching style you connect with. The best ones will have Aquatic Fitness Certifications, like an AEA Certification. Another way to find aquatic fitness classes is to search online or to contact local gyms and recreation centers in your area.
There are so many benefits to exercising in the water. Water helps you stay cool in the pool while you work out, so you never feel hot and sweaty. Your range of motion is much greater in the water than it is on land, so your body is able to do more. The pressure of the water on your body massages you and helps regulate your blood pressure as well as distribute fluids more evenly inside the body. You will typically burn twice as many calories in the same amount of time exercising in the water than you do on land due to the resistance in all directions. Because it is a low impact environment, you have less risk of injury and damage to your body. These are only a few of the many reasons why I encourage everyone to consider a water exercise class. The most important reason of them all is because aquatic fitness is lots of splashy fun!