Welcome

Author/Instructor Photo

Christine Alexander is the author of 2 books on water exercise each published by Human Kinetics.

Water Fitness Progressions (2019) was written for water fitness instructors and aquatic personal trainers. It describes how to use periodization to help class participants and clients progress in their level of fitness. It contains lesson plans that illustrate how to progressively increase intensity for both cardiorespiratory endurance and strength training.

Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography (2011) was written for water fitness instructors. It has 36 class ideas for shallow water exercise and 36 class ideas for deep water exercise. Individuals may find the exercise descriptions and photos useful for building a personal exercise routine.

High Intensity Interval Training in Deep Water

There are those who are passionate about deep-water exercise (and I am one of them). But for those who have never tried it, there is a degree of mystery about it. One of the concerns I hear most often is: “I don’t think I could tread water for an entire one-hour class.” You don’t have to! Everyone should wear a flotation belt in deep water. The second concern I hear is: “Can you get a workout in deep water as intense as the workout in shallow water? And the answer is definitely, yes!

Let’s back up to that flotation belt. It needs to be attached tightly around your waist so that it doesn’t slide up under your arm pits. And then you need some practice stabilizing, since your feet don’t touch the pool floor and there may be a tendency to tip forward or backward. The core muscles have to learn to contract to keep you upright, which is why most people see improvements in their core strength after taking a deep-water class for awhile. The second thing you need to learn is to continue to maintain that upright position in which you work against the water’s resistance with your entire body from the neck down, instead of trying to streamline by rounding forward, as in the drawing with the big X through it. In this position the bones of your spine are compressed on the front side, which is not good for the back.

Now, let’s talk about getting an intense workout in deep water. This means high intensity interval training (HIIT) where you work at 80-90% of your maximum effort for short periods followed by periods of active recovery. Achieving maximum effort requires focus. Your focus determines the number of muscle fibers that need to contract and the speed of those contractions. It’s important, then, that you are actively engaged, not reminiscing about vacation or chatting with another participant, when you are performing HIIT. The strategies for achieving high intensity in deep water are similar to the strategies in shallow water, but with some differences.

Step One: Start with the Base Moves. In deep water the base moves are jog, bicycle, kick, cross-country ski, and jumping jacks. These moves all have multiple variations. (1) Jog. You can jog with the feet hip distance apart or wide. You can cross the midline in front with an inner thigh lift or cross the midline in back with hopscotch. You can lift the knees in front or the heels in back. You can lean diagonally to the side or go all the way to side-lying. (2) Bicycle. Bicycle with the feet under you as if you are on a unicycle. You can bicycle tandem, with the feet pedaling in unison. You can lean diagonally to the side or go all the way to side-lying. (3) Kick. You can flutter kick, kick forward, kick across the midline, Cossack kick like a Russian dancer, or kick backward. (4) Cross-country ski. You can ski upright, add a tuck, lean diagonally to the side or go all the way to side-lying. (5) Jumping jacks. You can add a tuck or perform the jacks seated, with knees bent or in an “L” position. All the base moves can be varied by using different arm movements or different foot positions.

Step Two: Increase the Range of Motion. Large moves take more effort than smaller moves. Increasing the range of motion is one intensity variable. Get the knees high in your jog and pump the arms in big movements. Start your inner thigh lift with the feet wide apart and lift the inner thigh high. Start your hopscotch with the feet wide too. Bicycle in large round circles. Kick higher – front or back. Perform cross-country ski with your full range of motion, or do a helicopter ski, moving the legs in semi-circles around the body instead of in straight lines. Take your feet as wide as comfortably possible in your jumping jacks and cross the legs in the center. Focus on achieving your full range of motion. Depending your level of fitness, you may find large moves to be really intense. Alternate base moves with exercises using full range of motion for your intervals until that becomes easier.

Step Three: Add Speed. Faster moves increase intensity. The tendency, however, is to decrease the range of motion as speed is increased. You work much harder if you maintain the same full range of motion while speeding up. Pay attention to your exercises to avoid slowing down. Speed is a second intensity variable. Alternate base moves with faster exercises for your intervals until that becomes easier.

Step Four: Add Acceleration. There are two ways to do this. (1) Accelerate your leg movements toward center to lift your shoulders out of the water. This is called adding elevation. Examples are frog kick, breaststroke kick, cross-country ski, and tuck ski together (scissors kick). The body will rise and sink rhythmically. You can also use a scull to lift your shoulders out of the water with a jog, bicycle or flutter kick. Aim to stay elevated with your scull. (2) Accelerate against the water’s resistance, or add more force to the move. Take your jog to a steep climb by stretching out your arms and pressing alternating hands down while at the same time lifting the knees high and then pressing the heels down toward the pool floor, as if climbing a steep mountain with trekking poles. Lift your inner thigh with power as your press the opposite hand down forcefully toward the thigh. Bicycle with power as if you are climbing a hill in first gear. Perform a high kick powering the leg on the downward phase, or power both upward and downward. Kicks backward, cross-country ski and jumping jacks can all be performed with power. Be mindful about what you are doing because the harder you push against the water, the harder the water pushes back. Acceleration is a third intensity variable. Alternate base moves with accelerated moves for your intervals until that becomes easier.

Step Five: Combine Intensity Variables or Work in More than One Plane. One strategy for continuing to perform HIIT once you have achieved your fitness goals is to combine intensity variables. Go for full range of motion with power, elevation with speed, or power with travel continuing to use force as you move across the pool. Another strategy is to work in two or three planes at once. You can do this by alternating one move in the frontal plane, such as a frog kick with another move in the sagittal plane, such as a tuck ski together. A second way to work in multiple planes is to combine arm moves in one plane with leg moves in another plane. Examples include jumping jacks (frontal plane) with clapping hands (transverse plane); cross-country ski (sagittal plane) with arms sweeping side to side (transverse plane); and high kick (sagittal plane) clapping over the kick (transverse plane) then under the kick (frontal plane). Continue to focus on what you are doing, and your periods of high intensity will leave you breathing hard. You will need those periods of active recovery to catch your breath. For more information on interval training in both deep water and shallow water, including lesson plans using these five steps, see my book Water Fitness Progressions.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

High Intensity Interval Training

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is working at 80-90% of your maximum effort for short periods followed by periods of active recovery in which you work at a lower intensity. Achieving maximum effort requires focus. Your focus determines the number of muscle fibers that need to contract and the speed of those contractions. It’s important, then, that you are actively engaged, not reminiscing about vacation or stressing about your workday, when you are performing HIIT. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week, or 20 minutes of high intensity exercise three days a week. That means that if you work at a high intensity, you meet your exercise goal in less time. For that reason, HIIT is popular in all types of exercise, both on land and in the water. Whether you are taking a water fitness class or working in your backyard pool, you may be wondering how to achieve high intensity in the water.

Step One: Start with the Base Moves. In shallow water the base moves are walk, jog, kick, rocking horse, cross-country ski, and jumping jacks. Walking is good for warming up and cooling down. Jog, kick, rocking horse, cross-country ski and jumping jacks all have multiple variations. (1) Jog. You can jog with the feet hip distance apart or wide. You can cross the midline in front with an inner thigh lift or cross the midline in back with hopscotch. You can lift the knees in front or the heels in back. (2) Kick. You can kick forward, kick across the midline, kick side to side, or kick backward. (3) Rocking horse. Rocking horse can be done front to back or side to side. (4) Cross-country ski, jumping jacks and all the base moves can be varied by using different arm movements or different foot positions.

Step Two: Increase the Range of Motion. Large moves take more effort than smaller moves. Increasing the range of motion is one intensity variable. Get the knees high in your jog and pump the arms in big movements. Start your inner thigh lift with the feet wide apart and lift the inner thigh high. Start your hopscotch with the feet wide too. Kick higher – front, side or back. Lift your knees high in front and your heels high in back with your rocking horse. Perform cross-country ski with your full range of motion. Take your feet as wide as possible in your jumping jacks and cross the legs in the center. Focus on achieving your full range of motion. Depending your level of fitness, you may find large moves to be really intense. Alternate base moves with exercises using full range of motion for your intervals until that becomes easier.

Step Three: Add Speed. Faster moves increase intensity. The tendency, however, is to decrease the range of motion as speed is increased. You work much harder if you maintain the same full range of motion while speeding up. Pay attention to your exercises to avoid slowing down. Speed is a second intensity variable. Alternate base moves with faster exercises for your intervals until that becomes easier.

Step Four: Add Acceleration. There are two ways to do this. (1) Accelerate off the pool floor, or jump. Take your jog to a leap and your wide jog to a frog jump. Perform your inner thigh lift and hopscotch with a rebound. Rebound with your kicks as well. Jump and tuck your feet under you with cross-country ski. With jumping jacks, jump and touch your heels together before landing with your feet wide. (2) Accelerate against the water’s resistance, or add more force to the move. Take your jog to a steep climb by stretching out your arms and pressing alternating hands down while at the same time lifting the knees high and then pressing the heels down toward the pool floor, as if climbing a steep mountain with trekking poles. Lift your inner thigh with power as your press the opposite hand down forcefully toward the thigh. Perform a high kick powering the leg on the downward phase, or power both upward and downward. Kick side to side with arms and legs opposite, adding power to the move. Instead of rebounding as you kick side to side, you can stay grounded, and you might be surprised at how hard it is. Karate front kicks and side kicks also involve using force against the water. Kicks backward, cross-country ski and jumping jacks can all be performed with power. Try the cross-country ski low in the water so that more of your body has to push against the water’s resistance. Be mindful about what you are doing because the harder you push against the water, the harder the water pushes back. Acceleration is a third intensity variable. Alternate base moves with accelerated moves for your intervals until that becomes easier.

Step Five: Combine Intensity Variables or Work in More than One Plane. One strategy for continuing to perform HIIT once you have achieved your fitness goals is to combine intensity variables. Go for full range of motion, speed and jumping, or full range of motion, speed and power all at the same time. You can also continue to accelerate while traveling, either by rebounding and jumping or by continuing to use force as you move across the pool. Another strategy is to work in two or three planes at once. You can do this by alternating one move in the frontal plane, such as a frog jump with another move in the sagittal plane, such as a tuck ski. A second way to work in two planes is to combine arm moves in one plane with leg moves in another plane. Examples include kick side to side (frontal plane) with arms sweeping side to side (transverse plane); cross-country ski (sagittal plane) with palms together sweeping side to side (transverse plane); and high kick (sagittal plane) clapping over the kick (transverse plane) then under the kick (frontal plane). Continue to focus on what you are doing, and your periods of high intensity will leave you breathing hard. You will need those periods of active recovery to catch your breath. For more information on interval training in the pool, see my book Water Fitness Progressions.

High intensity interval training is also done on land, and it’s always a good idea to cross train if possible, doing some of your workouts in the pool and some on land. For those who are not comfortable training in a gym, you can still do HIIT at home. If you enjoy walking in your neighborhood, try picking up the pace to a fast walk for short periods, again being mindful of what you are doing, followed by periods of walking at your normal speed for active recovery. As you continue to practice, you will find that the pace of your fast walking increases. If you prefer to run, try HIIT running. There is some great information on HIIT running at home on Garage Gym Reviews at https://www.garagegymreviews.com/hiit-running-workouts

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

What Should a Water Fitness Instructor Know?

If you ask most people what a water fitness instructor should know, they would probably say pool exercises. While that is true, there is so much more to teaching a water fitness class than just knowing a variety of exercises. I teach a class for beginning water fitness instructors. While the class does not give participants a national certification, it does provide them with the basics to get them started and will help them prepare for getting certified later on. My next Beginning Water Fitness Instructor class will be October 9 and 16, 2021 from 10:00 AM – 2:30 PM at the McKinney Senior Pool in McKinney, Texas. Participants need to attend both Saturdays. Here is a sample of what I want them to learn:

Best Abdominal Muscle Illustrations, Royalty-Free Vector ...

It’s important to know the names of the muscles and what they do. What muscles are you using when you clap hands, push forward, do a side bend, kick backward, or do jumping jacks? You need to be aware of what muscles you are using when you plan your classes so that you don’t end up working the pectoralis major, triceps and quadriceps while leaving out the trapezius, gluteus maximus and hamstrings for an unbalanced workout. You need to know movement terms like flexion, extension, abduction and adduction, because different instructors use different names for the same exercises, but if you know the scientific name for the exercise you will know exactly what the exercise is.

Water fitness classes take place in water which is much different from classes on land. The properties of water offer many benefits. Buoyancy offloads the joints. Resistance promotes muscle balance. Hydrostatic pressure increases the stroke volume and cardiac output of the heart. If you understand Newton’s Laws of Motion, you can use them to your advantage. Make use of Newton’s First Law: Inertia by changing the direction of travel. Make use of Newton’s Law of Acceleration by using more force when pushing against the water. Make use of Newton’s Third Law: Action and Reaction by using impeding arms or legs. You need to know how to increase intensity to make the exercises harder. For example, you can increase the range of motion, increase the speed, add power or travel. You also need to know how to decrease intensity. You can slow the moves down, substitute a different move with shorter levers, or slice with the hands instead of cupping them.

Water fitness equipment is very popular, and it is important to know how to use the equipment that is available to you. Buoyant equipment, such as noodles and foam dumbbells float. That means they offer resistance only when pushing them down toward the pool floor. Drag equipment, such as paddles, provide resistance in any direction.

Then of course you do have to know a variety of exercises. It might surprise you to know that there are only seven basic shallow water exercises: walk, jog, kick, rocking horse, cross-country ski, and jumping jacks. All the other exercises are variations of these six. For example, you can take the basic exercise and change the arm movements; change the foot positions; work the move forward, sideways or backward; cross the midline; change the working position; or change the tempo. You can organize the exercises in many ways. Organizing the exercises into a lesson plan is writing choreography. There are a number of choreography styles that can help you do this. There is linear choreography, pyramid choreography, add-on choreography, the layer technique, and block choreography. Of course you want to put your choreography to music. Copyright laws prevent you from making playlists from your favorite musicians. Instead, buy your music from businesses that produce music specifically for fitness classes. For more information on teaching water fitness classes, see my books Water Fitness Progressions and Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography..

If you would like to take the course you can register at https://webtrac.mckinneytexas.org/wbwsc/webtrac.wsc/wb1000.html?wbp=1 You will have to create an account with the McKinney Parks and Recreation Department. For assistance in creating an account, call the McKinney Senior Pool at 972-547-7947. Search for the class by using the Activity Number 303191. From there, add the class to your cart (the small cart icon on the left) and complete payment. In-person registration is available at the Senior Pool at 1400 College St. in McKinney. For more information on the class, see page 14 of the Fall Activity Guide https://www.mckinneytexas.org/DocumentCenter/View/27936/Activity-Guide-PR-Fall-2021

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

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Effective Self-Care Techniques You May Not Have Considered Before

Photo Credit Pexels

This guest Blog Post was written by Cheryl Conklin. Check out her site at https://wellnesscentral.info/

Self-care is all the rage. No matter where you look, there’s someone posting about their favorite bath bomb or face mask or posting pics of their morning’s green smoothie. Although these are perfectly legitimate forms of self-care, they’re not effective for everyone. Some people won’t get as much out of a warm bath as they will out of re-organizing their pantry, for example.

Figuring out the self-care techniques that work for you and your lifestyle is essential for creating a happier, healthier life for yourself. Water Fitness Lessons wants to give you the tools you need to build the best habits. To start, it’s always important to make sure you’re exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. Here’s a look at a few more effective forms of self-care that many people don’t think of when planning healthy routines for themselves.

Assess Your Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and there are even good forms of stress. However, too much stress can take a toll on our physical and mental health. Stress reduction is a great form of self-care, and it can be simple to implement. For starters, gauge where most of your stress comes from. Is it taking care of your family? Is it the frustration of a supervisory role at work? Are you overextending yourself by agreeing to everything all the time? These are the first places to look.

Once you identify your biggest stressors, look for ways to mitigate their effects. At work, look to delegate tasks to your staff, or look into courses for more effective management techniques. If it’s family, ask your partner to take a larger share of responsibilities, or enlist your children to tackle chores and tasks that take up your time. Saying no will likely be the hardest but learning to say no will pay off down the road. Start small, then try it again. You don’t have to be available to everyone all the time.

Assess Your Budget

Few people would list budgeting at the top of their list of self-care techniques, but it’s a shockingly important form of taking care of yourself and your household. Finances cause more stress than you might realize, notes the American Psychological Association. When money is tight, you have to spend a lot of time and mental energy figuring out how to make ends meet. Good budgeting can help make sure your money stretches far enough to survive and thrive with long-term goals.

If you look at your monthly expenses and find that your monthly expenses are too high, there are several steps you can take. If you own a home, you can investigate refinancing to see if you can get a better rate (and a lower monthly payment) on your home loan. You can also save money by trying to cut back on restaurant visits and cooking more at home, or by buying items you use regularly in bulk to save on price per unit.

Schedule Alone Time

If you live with family, roommates, or any other household situation, you might need to consider working alone time into your schedule. Many people who live with others don’t really get to spend much if any time alone. Although having a strong social network is good for you, most of us need to have some time to ourselves to rest, recharge and relax. Without it, we can start to feel like we’re always “on” in a sense.

There are many great ways to enjoy some alone time. For example, you can pair your solitude with a walk around the neighborhood, going for a swim or an online exercise video. You can enjoy an exciting book or indulge in a favorite hobby. It’s usually best to pick something you can’t easily do with others, or something you know you’d especially enjoy tackling solo. This way you’re getting the most out of your time.

Get Outside

Finally, many of us spend nearly all our time indoors. This means we miss out on the myriad benefits you receive when spending time outside. Sunlight and fresh air are absolutely invaluable when it comes to health and wellbeing. Most directly, sunlight allows our bodies to produce Vitamin D, a vital nutrient that helps our body do everything from fight infection to regulate mood. More time outside can help you feel happier, more energized, and ready to take on the world.

This is just the start of the benefits of getting outside. According to Harvard Medical School, people who spend more time outdoors tend to be more active, have healthier habits over all, and may even live longer. Consider going on a hike or visiting a nearby park a few times a week. You can also look into creating a relaxing outdoor space on your property or get into an outdoor hobby like gardening.

Remember, self-care doesn’t have to be photogenic or glamorous — it needs to be effective. Search for the healthy habits and self-care techniques that suit your needs, passions, and lifestyle. In doing so, you’ll give yourself the best chance at sticking with them and fostering real, long-term change.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander

Ai Chi for Deep Water

Ai Chi (“energy of love”) is a water exercise and relaxation program that combines deep breathing and slow, large movements, performed in continuous, flowing patterns. It was created by Mr. Jun Konno of Japan and further developed my Ms. Ruth Sova in the United States. The YouTube video above shows Mr. Konno demonstrating Ai Chi.

Ai Chi, performed in shallow water, is so wonderfully relaxing that I wanted to try it with my deep water classes. This required modification, since weight shifting is not possible while suspended in deep water. I will present my modifications on Ai Chi Day, on Sunday July 25, 2021. The Zoom conference lasts from 8:00 AM – 12:00 noon EDT (7:00 AM – 11:00 AM CDT). There will be 18 presenters, including Jun Konno and Ruth Sova; my presentation is 10:10 – 10:19 AM EDT (9:10 – 9:19 AM CDT). If you are interested in attending, you can contact Ruth Sova at ruthsova@ruthsova.com for more information.

I am excited about presenting. Here is a preview of Ai Chi in deep water:

Contemplating
Floating
Enclosing

The first stage of Ai Chi is called Contemplating and it is a preparation for the moves to come. your body is in an upright posture with the spine in neutral and the legs apart. The arms are out to the sides near the surface of the water. Focus on your breathing. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the nose and mouth. Become aware of how your body rises and falls in the water. Then begin the first sequence, a series of four moves called Floating, Uplifting, Enclosing and Folding, which focus on breathing. They feature a series of arm moves. Most of the upper body moves work well in deep water, but upward movement, such as the front shoulder raise in Floating, tends to make the body sink. You can avoid sinking by turning the thumbs up and slicing through the water.

Gathering
Accepting

The second Ai Chi sequence focuses on healing, and includes exercises for the upper body and trunk stability. You will need to brace your core to stabilize in deep water. Webbed gloves can also help with stability if necessary. The movements in this sequence are called Soothing, Gathering and Accepting. The moves begin with a turn to the side. In deep water you will use a scull to assist in turning. The legs stay apart in a suspended lunge position while the arms sweep and flow. After you perform several repetitions of a move on one side, you turn to the other side and repeat the repetitions.

Balancing Begin
Balancing
Balancing

The third Ai Chi sequence is called healing and it focuses on the lower body. The moves are called Accepting with Grace, Rounding and Balancing. To get into position you turn to the side using a scull which puts the legs in a suspended lunge position. From there you need to drop the legs into neutral or the lower body movement tends to become a slow cross-country ski. Instead, brace the core and move one leg to the back, or to the front, or swing it front to back as in Balancing (in the photos above) while the arms sweep and flow. After performing several repetitions of each move on one side, turn to the other side and repeat the repetitions.

There is no right or wrong way to perform Ai Chi. Whatever adaptions you make, including deep water adaptations, will make it right for you. See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander