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Supplement Feature - February 2018

Swimming Toward Wellness

Expand Aquatic Programming With a Focus on Fitness

By Dave Ramont


When it comes to water temperature, there is a vast amount of information out there, and a venue's team needs to do its homework depending on the offerings under consideration. Generally speaking, if your water is warm, 92 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit, your programs should be passive. If your water is moderate, 86 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then your programs can be more active.

To provide therapy to her special-needs clients, Scherbarth said she requires either a water wheelchair or a pool lift. And she pointed out that facilities need to make sure the equipment is up-to-date, and should retrofit any gear that is not compliant with accessibility guidelines. This might include making sure there are seatbelts and that leg wraps are removable. Also, are there any barriers that would keep a wheelchair from getting to the lift safely, such as a lip covering the pool filter? "All of these things can pose a liability risk to the facility," Scherbarth said.

Indeed, Abdo related how Largo once had a relationship with an apartment complex to offer their water exercise classes, since the complex had two heated pools, but the agreement was cancelled due to accessibility issues and new ADA guidelines.

As far as general equipment goes, See said there is a multitude of things available to fit every budget and every program format. "From traditional webbed gloves, kickboards, foam hand bars and noodles to high-tech underwater treadmills and bicycles; to innovative strength equipment that uses drag resistance to mimic land-based strength training, to aquatic boxing bags, trampolines and stand-up paddleboards for the pool."

These days, some pools are being designed with water wellness programming in mind. Abdo explained that he is in the process of pricing out his ideal outdoor heated therapy pool, because the multipurpose pool is not ideal for all water exercise classes due to limitations caused by depth, design, water temperature and when programs can be offered. "If renovating or building new," Abdo said, "the aquatic professional needs to be involved for design purposes."

See agreed, adding that facilities designing new pools should consider not only traditional swimming offerings, but vertical exercise formats as well. "It's imperative to take extra effort in water depths, bottom slopes, surfaces, etc."

Sue and Mick Nelson, through USA Swimming, oversee regional conferences advising on how to build pools wisely for a wide range of programming to make them profitable.

Abdo said that to stay competitive, aquatics professionals need to program out of the box; know your competition and current trends, network and attend seminars and conferences. "Talk to instructors and participants, look at industry periodicals and NRPA Gold Medal agency aquatic websites, and budget accordingly."

See has observed that many facilities now are offering more diverse types of fitness and wellness programs, to meet the needs of existing clients and to increase membership. "Aquatic programming offers an option for cross-training between land and water, a low-impact and comfortable alternative for those healing from an injury or surgery, a safe and less intimidating choice for new exercises (there are no mirrors at the pool!), and a fun yet functional training method for all ability levels and ages."

Scherbarth said that aquatics directors need to be more open-minded, exploring more specialized programming and designing programs depending on the pool space that's available. She's noticed that in some community programs, they don't have a dedicated person with the skill set to work with special needs patrons, and if they do, they don't necessarily help them to integrate into the community class with the other students. "There are people like me who love to create programs and serve the community; all we need is a little bit of space. It could be a mutually beneficial setup, especially in my area where there are pools that keep closing."

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