Power Up Your Pool
by Ronda Brodsky, MS
Of course, swimming is an excellent way to exercise – in fact, we are going to address that in my article entitled, Swim Basics for Adults. But have you ever wanted to explore other ways to power up your pool workout? Vertical training is an exciting way to boost your fitness levels in the water through a wide range of options, both in shallow and deep water (depending on your comfort level and swim skills). From water walking and jogging, kickboxing and high intensity interval training to resistance training, aquatic yoga and gentle exercises for easing the pain of arthritis and related conditions. Explore your options and choose a class that best fits your goals and abilities.
Do not fear, you can still take an aquatic fitness class even if you cannot swim. Make sure you let your instructor know that you are not a strong swimmer; he/she can provide you with modifications and tips to make the workout safe and effective. ideally the pool will also have a lifeguard on duty during the class. But, that doesn’t let you off the hook – you must still be aware of your surroundings and know where the water gets deeper, especially if the depths gets over your head. Wear water shoes to limit the chance for slips & falls on the pool deck, protect your feet during the workout and enhance your training by providing better traction during transitions.
As with all new skills, there is a learning curve. Give yourself a couple weeks to become familiar with vertical training in the water, where buoyancy overrides gravity. Practice the skills needed to balance in the water, both while standing still and while moving (walking, running, jumping, kicking, etc.). Also, remember that your goal is to gradually progress your training; starting slow will usually leave you with a far better experience. Fitness and health are part of a lifelong process, something that you will continually work towards, adjusting your training as needed along the way.
Consider how “fit” you are to determine your FITT guidelines. FITT stands for exercise Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type.
- Frequency is how often your exercise per week.
- Intensity is how hard you are working.
- Time is how long per workout.
- Type is the kind of exercise you are doing.
Although you want to be active every day, you may want to begin with 2-3 aquatic classes per week and gradually increase that number. In the aquatic environment (in my opinion), you get a better workout as the intensity starts out greater than that of land exercises because the water surrounds your body. Resistance is the amount of water you are moving with your body and your limbs. The more resistance you want, the harder you move against the water. Most exercise classes are 45-60 minutes and you should check them out to see what works best for you. We mentioned a few different types of aquatic training previously but realize that there are many more choices available.
How much do you understand water and the effects on your body? How can you take advantage of being in the water? Having a basic understanding of immersion in the water will help you power up your training even further. For example, buoyancy reduces the impact on your joints and allows you to safely and comfortably do many activities that you might not consider outside the pool. There is less gravitational force in the water, so your body weight is reduced. If you are immersed up to your neck, you experience only about 10% of your body weight when performing impact activities such as running and jumping. Immersed to chest level, you experience only about 25-35% of your body weigh; at waist-depth, about half of your body weight.
Resistance is another thing to consider in the aquatic environment. For muscles to get toned and more developed, they must work against resistance. Water is more viscous than air and is therefore more resistant. Each move you make in the water is way more challenging to that of the same movement in the air. Muscles also work in pairs; targeting both is more easily accomplished in the water as they work in opposition to get the movement done against the water’s resistance. On land you must focus on the biceps and triceps separately. While in the water, unless you are using specialized equipment, you can train both muscles with one exercise. Any time you move in the water, you feel resistance, which means more muscle recruitment.
To get vertical in the water should now make more sense! Safety is first, but you must also know your personal goals (range of motion, strength, aerobic endurance, balance, etc.) and how you want to accomplish those goals. The more you acclimate yourself to the aquatic environment the more comfortable you should become, and you will enjoy it more and more. Find a class (preferably one with an AEA Certified instructor), jump in the pool, and enjoy the aquatic environment from a new perspective.
Ronda Brodsky is a Physical Education and Health Teacher at a charter school in Detroit, Michigan, with a master’s degree in Physical Education. Ronda is an American Red Cross CPR, first aid, lifeguarding and water safety instructor. She has over 30 years in the aquatic industry as an AEA certified professional and a past presenter at IAFC. Ronda is a frequent contributor to Akwa magazine, AEA’s member publication, and the author of Aquatastic: Swimming Made Simple. Ronda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org