Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Workout to Refresh

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

Prepare for summer! Hit the pool for a workout to take wherever you journey on the hot days ahead …

Workouts can be refreshing. They clear our head, reduce stress, and energize our body. Add the dynamic of water, and enjoy a powerful splash of mind-body invigoration. Submerged in water, you can cool down while burning off calories. That’s a rare combination, and a valuable one in the summer heat.

Aquatic workouts are sometimes overlooked. Assumed for the elderly or injured, the committed land exerciser may not take time to investigate the power behind water workouts. Pause to reflect on the physique of professional swimmers, lifeguards, and water athletes (Surf’s up, dude!). Hopefully, the stereotypical water-wader is now banished from your mind.

Discover Your Inner Fish

In life, there are those who dive right in and those who prefer the stairs one step at a time. The same is true when entering water. You don’t need to be able to swim to experience the water’s fitness benefits. And, it’s okay if you take the stairs, into the shallow end. Slowly. While gradually dampening your skin to avoid splash shock.

Once you’ve transitioned into the water in your own style and at your own pace, spend a couple minutes in mindful awareness. If the water is chilly, opt for mindful movement to avoid a quick exit to the closest towel. Notice how light your body feels. Emerged in the water’s buoyancy, you can naturally float with the flow. Discover a new flexibility and become fluid.

If you are not comfortable submerging yourself under water, wet your face. Tilt your head back and relax your neck into a cradle of water. (Bonus: Look like you’ve been doing deep dives without ever having to hold your breath.) Now, you’re starting to realize the water’s soothing effect. Your body temperature adjusts. Movement becomes less stressful and jarring. You are one swish closer to fish-hood.

Be comfortable in your own skin. You are unique.
Be comfortable in your own skin. You are unique.

Worried about suiting up? Think like a fish, each with its own size, shape, and scale pattern. Unique. Invest in a swimsuit that is comfortable for you. That choice also will be the most flattering. Even a bikini body won’t “rock the look” if the wearer feels self-conscious.

For a more modest approach, water shorts (longer board shorts for men) and swim shirts are a current trend. (This also makes it easier to transition to a land workout before or after your water routine.) Try not to harshly judge your appearance. Every body has flaws and assets. Accentuate positive features. The more you work out in a swimsuit, the more positive features you’ll notice. Focus on colors and patterns to fit your style. Radiate your inner awesomeness.

I’m In. What Next?

You don’t have to swim laps or take a water aerobics class to accomplish a great cardio and strengthening routine. Walk your way into it. Every movement meets the water’s gentle, but firm resistance to continuously build muscle. Water’s natural resistance offers its own strength training. Walk the perimeter of the pool. Increase laps and speed as you progress. Swing your arms, tighten your abs, and practice good posture. Water shoes help keep traction on the water’s floor. Notice how long it takes before muscles feel a healthy fatigue.

Enhance the water’s ability to strength train by using water weights, noodles, and belts. Hand webs and other resistance devices increase the water’s strengthening power. Incorporate these tools to boost your caloric burn.

As you feel more confident, head to deeper water. You’ll gain additional resistance in muscles throughout the body. Use a noodle to balance yourself and stay afloat. If you’re fearful or cannot swim, a floatation belt or vest offers peace-of-mind. Increase intensity by advancing to a jog in deep water.

When in natural bodies of water, be cautious of going too deep, regardless of your swimming skills. It is best to save deep-water workouts for the safety of the Center’s lifeguarded pool.

Advancing Your Water Workout

The Aquatic Exercise Association indicates up to 500 calories can be zapped in a one-hour water aerobics routine. Aquatics Manager Evan Sharko adds, “Individuals trying to lose weight, or focusing on endurance training, must challenge the body in different ways. Cross train and add swimming to your weekly routine for an effective cardio challenge.”

Activity done in the pool or ocean can be a nice getaway from Plateau Land. Sessions should include running, jumping, and stretching with weights or a belt. Water adds resistance so repetitions can be decreased, making this a great workout when short on time.

Personal Trainer Sue Bunn demonstrates arm exercises. Add hand webs or water weights to increase intensity.
Personal Trainer Sue Bunn demonstrates arm exercises. Add hand webs or water weights to increase intensity.

Before you jump in, be sure to warm up. Regardless of the season, transitioning your body from air to water temperature can be harsh. Start with the aforementioned walking exercises as you adjust to the temperature change. Spend at least five minutes on a warm-up. Feel your muscles and joints loosen. Now, you are ready to work it!

Arms: Wearing hand webs, face palms up and splay fingers. Raise arms to waist-high water level. Flip palms facing down and push arms straight at sides again. Remember to keep good form with elbows remaining close to your body. Advance this exercise by adding water weights, which are handheld foam barbells. Complete 12-15 reps and wave good-bye to floppy biceps and triceps.

Focusing on the core.
Focusing on the core.


Core: Pull a kickboard in various directions to tackle a wide range of muscles in your trunk. A personal trainer can demonstrate different options. Many trainers are certified in aquatic fitness and offer sessions in the pool. Scoop up as many variations as you can to obtain a full-body workout.

Leg work.
Leg work.

Legs: Grab a piece of the pool’s side and do everything from basic kicks to squats. As an added perk, many leg exercises do double-duty to tighten hips and glutes. Consider putting a child’s arm flotation devices around your ankles to add resistance to a leg routine. Lean against the pool’s side for balance. Straighten leg in front of you, bend knee to about 90 degrees, then straighten to starting position. Complete 12- 15 reps and change legs.


Submerged in water to shoulder level, walking, jogging, and jumping are simple yet effective cardio workouts. Your heart rate will reach its target sooner. Enjoy the burn without the strain on joints you may experience when doing the same movements on land.

To keep cardio exciting and challenging, consider Group Fitness water classes. A Step or Zumba class in water may be possible for someone whose knees prevent it on land. Learn a routine and take it with you on vacation. Many moves can be done discretely. No one needs to notice you are burning off poolside snacks. Those frozen smoothies will taste that much better.

A Splash of Tips

A water workout is excellent for anyone, from the most skilled athlete to the individual with limited mobility. Those with arthritis, osteoporosis, and injuries often experience less pain, and better movement, in water. It offers a low-impact workout with high-impact results. As Evan mentions, “Swimming helps strengthen muscles around joints, which improves support to the skeletal system without reduced risk of further injury.”

Avoid an overzealous workout. You may not notice boundaries as easily as you can when exercising on land. Stretches and reps may feel less extreme, which is quickly realized upon return to solid ground. Be conscious of your form, easily pulled by the gravitational flow of water. Keep weight evenly distributed. Basic water shoes help avoid slips and sloppy movements. They also reduce unnecessary strain on calf muscles.

Feeling a little competitive? Consider advancing your swimming skills. Whether you join a swim team, or compete against yourself in time and reps, swimming offers a full-body cardio and strengthening workout.

Some people are fearful of the water, which is exacerbated when dealing with a rehabilitation situation. A few swimming lessons may be the difference between using the therapeutic benefits of water workouts or struggling through rehabilitation with a land routine. Check the Center’s Aquatic department for information on private or group swimming lessons. A friendly hand-holding may be all you need. As you improve, you actually may become the hot-shot who dives in– head first!

Woman in water, pic
Work out wherever there is water this summer.

Unlike a thirst-building fitness routine on land, we tend not to notice thirst as much during aquatic exercise. Hot, humid weather increases risk of dehydration. Travel with plenty of drinking water to sufficiently hydrate through your workout and time spent poolside or by the ocean. Poolside cocktails do not count.

Many land exercises can be easily adjusted to the water or waves. Do a little schooling in the Center’s pool. And be ready to cool off with a workout anytime  you can make a splash this summer.


Image Credits

Colorful sea life:



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