Feature Article - January 2007
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Beyond the Lap Lane

Get more people in the pool with fresh aquatic programming for adults

By Stacy St. Clair

Into the water

In terms of aquatic programming, there's one simple rule: If it can be done on land, it can be done in the water.

Tai chi, Spinning, jogging, even weightlifting. They all have been adapted for the pool.

"Just as land classes are diversifying, so are aquatics classes," Chewning explained. "Water follows the land trends. It's more than just water-walking. It's water kickboxing as well, which is a really good modality."

Ideally, facilities will have two pools in which to conduct classes. One should be a warm-water pool for therapeutic programming, and the other can be used for high-level fitness classes.

However, aquatic centers without these amenities should not despair. There are still plenty of options. First take a look around at your land classes and see what's being offered there. Are the weight training and Pilates classes filled? Experts suggest looking for ways to convert them into an aquatic option.

Several facilities have begun offering Aqua-Tri programs, which includes swimming, water jogging and riding a water bike. The classes attract hard-core triathletes looking to do some resistance training, as well as curious patrons looking to test the triathlon waters, so to speak.

Pool managers also can glean great ideas from the Aquatic Exercise Association. The organization has a wealth of information on classes and choreography. Some of its most inspired suggestions include abdominal workouts and "Combat Aqua," which combines kickboxing and water aerobics.

The AEA has information on how to conduct water-noodle-based and children's classes. It also can provide detailed instruction on how to provide special classes for breast cancer survivors, fibromyalgia sufferers and arthritic patrons.

Experts also advise checking with aquatic vendors for class suggestions. Many have created programs to complement their latest products and could offer invaluable thoughts on how to liven up programming.

"Exercise equipment for use specifically in the pool is being manufactured now," Chewning said. "The possibilities are endless."

It's also important to think of programming in terms of appealing to niche groups, Chewning suggested. Pregnant women, for example, are faithful participants in aquatic classes because of the health benefits and stress relief provided.

In addition to the universal advantages such as cardiovascular fitness and energy boosts, expectant mothers have other reasons to take to the pool. For example, breast growth and abdominal stretching change a woman's center of gravity during pregnancy. This means an increase in back pain and sciatica, pressure on the long nerve passing down the back of the leg.

Pregnancy also can cause laxity and mobility in joints, which increases the chances of injury to knees, hips and ankles. The zero-impact nature of water significantly reduces the chances of a mom-to-be injuring herself during class.

Aquatic exercise also helps battle water retention by burning calories and through the pressure exerted by the pool's water against the skin. Even better, it's a viable fitness option throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy.

"It's great for pregnant women," Chewning said. "It relieves back pain, reduces water retention and doesn't place any stress on the joints. It's just a fabulous option."

In addition to catering to pregnant women, today's hottest trends delve into the mind-body genre. Water yoga, Pilates, tai chi and stretching all have become popular exercise options because the pool adds to the relaxing experience that draws people to the land classes.

"It's the biggest trend in the industry today," Chewning said. "It's great because there's a lot less stress on the joints."

Personal aquatic training also has become more popular, but Chewning stresses that not all land instructors are automatically qualified to teach in the water. In fact, the AEA requires six months of practical teaching experience before sitting for an examination.

Instructors planning to work with special populations or in specialized formats must complete additional training. All AEA-certified teachers must maintain CPR training, water safety and first-aid training.

"There are a lot of jobs coming open for physical therapists who have experience in the water," Chewning said. "But it's important to remember that not just anyone is qualified to teach in the water. You need to have trained professionals."