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.

How to Adjust Your Fitness Routine When You-re Stuck at Home

Stuck at home? Dreaming of the days early last year when you were killing it at your local aquatic center? Well, you’ve come to the right place. With a little tweaking of your routine, a willingness to try new things, and the determination to see it through, you can stay in shape until you feel safe enough to return to the pool.

Water Fitness Lessons is dedicated to aquatic fitness. For guidelines on how to safely swim during the pandemic as well as other helpful insight, be sure to bookmark my blog!

Exercising When You Can’t take an Aquatic Fitness Class. If your favorite physical activity is water exercise or swimming, and you’re still not ready to get into the water, there are other ways to stay active until it’s time to jump back in the pool:

Finding Effective Home Workouts. In addition to biking or running, look to at-home workouts to switch up your routine and keep your muscles guessing:

Staying Motivated. It’s important to find ways to stay motivated, so find some tried and true ways to make these new routines stick:

Yes, sticking with your aquatic fitness routine is great, but until you can get back there, find other ways to take care of yourself. Exercise, eat right and stay well.

This guest Blog post was written by Anya Willis. Check out her website at FitKids

We hope to see you back in the pool soon!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander

CDC Guidelines for Pools

senior women led by female instructor at water aerobics A group of senior ladies take part in a water aerobics session. They are using pool noodles and are being led by a young female instructor. They are all laughing and smiling water aerobics stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

The CDC is not aware of any scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools, water playgrounds, or other treated aquatic venues. The virus most commonly spreads from person-to-person by respiratory droplets during close physical contact. Droplets are released when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. They can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The virus might also spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose, mouth, or possibly eyes. Infected people can spread the virus whether or not they have symptoms.

It has not been easy for many people to maintain their level of fitness while sheltering in place, and we are eager to get back to our regular exercise routines. If that means taking a water fitness class, the CDC has recommendations for you to be able to do that safely.

  • Correctly and consistently wear a mask that completely covers your nose and mouth. See my previous post “More about Masks” for more information https://waterfitnesslessonsblog.com/2021/01/30/more-about-masks/ Wear the mask until just before you get into the pool. You should not wear the mask in the water because a wet mask it is hard to breathe through. After class dry your hands and face and put the mask back on.
  • Arrive at the pool with your swim suit on, ready to get in the water. This eliminates or at least minimizes the amount of time you spend in the locker room.
  • Stay at least six feet away from others who do not live with you. Six feet is a few inches longer than a typical pool noodle which is a good image to help you visualize the proper distance. Six feet is a good separation if your class is low intensity, for example aqua yoga or light aerobics. However, if your class involves sweating and heavy breathing, such as high intensity interval training, then air is coming out of your mouth with more force and traveling farther. For that reason, you should spread farther apart. In my classes we use periodization, beginning with low intensity in the pre-season and working up to high intensity during peak fitness. If you want to go all out during peak fitness then you will want to be 12-15 feet away from other participants.
  • Avoid crowds. Do not congregate on the pool deck with other participants unless you have your mask on and are standing 6 feet apart.
  • Do not share equipment. Since there is a chance that you could pick up the virus from a contaminated surface, deep-water belts and pool equipment should be sanitized before using them again.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Get vaccinated when the vaccine is available to you. Getting vaccinated does not mean that you can dispense with the previous recommendations. The vaccines are not 100% effective, so you might still get infected. New variants of the disease are circulating that are more contagious. It is expected that if you did get infected after you were vaccinated, you would have a mild case or perhaps no symptoms at all. Little is known about whether vaccinated people can spread the virus to others.
  • Get tested if you have signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or if you think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

For more information on CDC Guidelines, see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/beaches-pools.html Additional information for this article comes from NPR November 20, 2020, NY Times 4/15/2020, The Dallas Morning News 2/8/2020 and 2/9/2020.

The last thing any of us want is a new surge of infections before enough people have been vaccinated that we achieve herd immunity. It is not known exactly what proportion of the population that would be, as the rate varies by disease. For now, continue to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, wash your hands, and sign up to get the vaccine when you can.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander

More about Masks

The Coronavirus is mutating and newer variants have emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. These variants are more contagious than the version that is currently causing most of the cases of COVID-19 in the United States. The new variants have already been detected in the United States and may become more dominant here in the coming weeks. It is therefore important to continue wearing masks, stay 6 feet apart and avoid crowds. COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout, or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in. Masks are a barrier that prevents your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Masks also offer some protection to you as well. To increase the protection when you are going to be in an area with a lot of other people, you might even consider wearing two masks. Medical masks and N-95 respirators should not be used because they should be conserved for healthcare personnel. Aside from those, there are several varieties of masks available, and some of them are more effective than others.

Coronavirus Masks: Types, Protection, How & When to Use

Non-medical disposable masks are made of fluid resistant paper and are recommended by the CDC. They are not the same as surgical or other medical masks. They are good in situations where your mask is likely to get wet or dirty. Bring extra disposable masks with you in case you need to change out a wet or dirty mask. Discard them after a single use.

Five Tips for Wearing a Face Mask

Cloth face masks made with breathable fabric, such as cotton and cotton blends are also recommended by the CDC. The fabric should be tightly woven. Hold the fabric up to a light source and if you can see light through the fabric, then it is a loosely woven or knit fabric, which is not recommended. If you don’t see light through the fabric, then the material is tightly woven. There should be 2 or 3 layers of fabric. Single layers work less well because there is not as much material between you and the microbe.

How to make a Face Mask Filter with HEPA Fabric - video tutorial —  SewCanShe | Free Sewing Patterns and Tutorials

Masks with an inner filter pocket are also recommended by the CDC. Use a PM2.5 filter or a HEPA filter, which can be purchased online. You can also use a coffee filter cut to fit. The filter can be reused, but discard it after a week, or sooner if it is used every day.

Gaiter Mask Face Covers | Ohio Is Home

Gaiters are not recommended because they tend to be single-layer cloth, and they do not usually offer a snug fit.

How to Turn a Bandana into a Stylish Face Mask – Spirit Halloween Blog

Scarf and bandana face masks are also not recommended. Not only is the fabric single layer, it most likely will not be tight around the mouth and nose. Good fit matters.

Why masks with breathing valves don't stop COVID-19 spread

The CDC does not recommend using masks with exhalation valves or vents because this type of mask may not prevent you from spreading COVID-19 to others. The hole in the material may allow your respiratory droplets to escape and reach others.

Make sure your mask fits properly. The more snug the fit, the better. Avoid masks with gaps that allow droplets to escape. Do not wear a mask with your nose or mouth uncovered.

How to Wash a Cloth Face Covering | CDC

If you have a disposable mask, throw it away after wearing it once. Wash a cloth mask whenever it gets dirty or at least daily. It was previously recommended that you wash your mask in a bleach solution, but that is no longer recommended because toxic bleach fumes can remain in the fabric. The CDC now recommends that you wash masks in the washing machine with your regular laundry, using laundry detergent and the appropriate settings according to the fabric label. You can also wash by hand with detergent or soap, being sure to rinse thoroughly. Dry your mask completely in the dryer. You can also hang it in direct sunlight. If that is not possible, hang or lay it flat and let dry completely.

If you are taking your mask off temporarily, for example to eat or drink outside of your home, you can place it somewhere safe to keep it clean, such as your pocket, purse or a paper bag. Make sure to wash or sanitize your hands after removing your mask. Put your mask back on with the same side facing out, and wash or sanitize your hands again afterwards.

For more information on masks see the January/February AARP Bulletin “How to Beat COVID This Year.” Also see the CDC Guidelines for Wearing Masks and the CDC Guidelines on How to Store and Wash Masks.

Stay safe!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander

The Benefits of Water Exercise

Here we are at the beginning of 2021 and not sorry to see the end of 2020. Many of us had to give up our fitness routines last year because COVID-19 closed the gyms and we were sheltering in place. And many of us lost some level of fitness and gained weight as a result. Now we have vaccines, and although we have to continue to wear masks and social distance for awhile longer, we can look forward to the day when it will be safe to get back to working out as we did before COVID. Even if your fitness routine did not previously include water exercise, there are many good reasons to consider working out in the pool. The properties of water provide these benefits.

Buoyancy. Buoyancy is the upward vertical force of water. This force allows you to float and decreases the compression of your joints. As a result, you are able to exercise with greater range of motion, which improves flexibility. People with joint issues experience decreased pain, which is why water exercise is so popular with people who have arthritis. Buoyancy reduces the body’s weight by 90% in neck deep water, by 65-75% in chest deep water, and by 50% in waist deep water. People who cannot exercise on land, where they must bear their full weight, are able to exercise comfortably and vigorously in the water. Water exercise is ideal for the obese who tend to drop out of other forms of exercise because it is too uncomfortable. Buoyancy is responsible for the feeling of fun many people experience in the water, even when they are working hard. It is the reason why so many people who try water exercise end up staying with the program.

Drag Resistance. It is often said that the resistance of water is 12-14X greater than the resistance of air on land. In fact, the resistance depends on how much force you are using when you move your limbs through the water, since the harder you push, the harder the water pushes back. Drag resistance slows movement down. This allows you to perform rebounding moves and other sports-based activities without risk of injury, while at the same time improving skills. Drag is experienced with every movement in every direction, which means you have a constant muscle load provided by water. People who exercise in water see improved muscular strength and endurance. Both of the muscles in opposing pairs are worked equally, which promotes muscle balance. It used to be thought that water exercise was not a good option for maintaining or improving bone density. But when researchers looked at water exercise as resistance exercise instead of weight bearing exercise, they designed experiments in which participants performed strength training exercises with maximal effort and without shortening the range of motion. The results were increased bone formation in post-menopausal women. Similar results were obtained in a study that looked at aquatic high intensity interval training. The key for both is maximal effort and full range of motion.

Hydrostatic pressure. Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure exerted by the molecules of water on an immersed body. This pressure is exerted equally on all surfaces of the body, and it increases with depth. Hydrostatic pressure decreases swelling, especially in the lower extremities which are immersed more deeply. This is one reason why aquatic physical therapy is often prescribed for certain injuries and conditions. Hydrostatic pressure is exerted on the chest cavity, which helps condition the muscles of respiration to inhale deeply and forcefully.

Water exercise improves cardiovascular fitness. Immersion relaxes the blood vessels so that they can carry more blood while presenting less resistance to the heart, which is pumping that blood. This decreases blood pressure. Decreased blood pressure lingers for awhile after you get out of the pool. With regular aquatic exercise, the vessels themselves become more pliant and supple. Since stiffening of the blood vessels is a primary factor that causes blood pressure to increase with age, keeping them pliant reduces the risk for hypertension. The hydrostatic pressure of the water pushes blood out to the extremities, and in combination with more supple blood vessels, stroke volume and cardiac output increases. This means that the heart becomes more efficient, pumping more blood with each stroke. Blood flow to the muscles during water exercise can increase an amazing 250%. With this kind of blood flow, heart rate is lowered. Target heart rates while exercising in shallow water average about 7 beats per minute lower than the same intensity exercise on land. The exact number of beats depends on many factors, including the fitness level of the individual. An added benefit of increased cardiac output is that a greater blood volume is pushed through the kidneys, which in turn improves kidney function and increases urine output.

The working muscles and kidneys are not the only beneficiaries of improved cardiac output. Blood flow to the brain increases progressively with immersion from zero depth to shoulder depth. The blood flow persists throughout the exercise period, delivering oxygen and nutrients which the brain uses to repair and regenerate brain and nerve cells. It is reasonable to assume that this would help slow the deterioration of age-related brain performance.

Conclusion. Water’s properties of buoyancy, drag resistance and hydrostatic pressure have many benefits. Water exercise improves flexibility, decreases pain, allows you to exercise comfortably, slows movement down reducing the risk of injury, improves muscular strength and endurance, promotes muscle balance, increases bone formation in post-menopausal women, reduces swelling, conditions the muscles of respiration, improves cardiovascular fitness, decreases blood pressure, improves cardiac output, improves kidney function, and slows the deterioration of age-related brain function. As if that weren’t enough, most people perceive water exercise as fun. When it is time for you to resume a pre-COVIC exercise routine, I hope to see you in the pool.

Resources: Information for this article comes from Dr. Bruce Becker, Director of the National Aquatics & Sports Medicine Institute and other researchers https://www.playcore.com/programs/water-immersion-works and the Aquatic Exercise Association’s Aquatic Fitness Professional Manual (2018) https://aeawave.org/Shop/Books For more information on water exercise, see my book Water Fitness Progressions available from Amazon.

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander

Squats

An important exercise to add to your fitness routine is the squat. A squat is a functional movement because you use it whenever you sit in a chair, get into the car, use the toilet, or pick up a basket of laundry. Practicing the squat will enable you to continue to perform these activities of daily living much longer. Squatting uses your hips, knees, ankles, glutes, quads and core. Strengthening these muscles in your lower body will also make you more stable and help prevent falls.

Sit down and stand up

So how to get started? Begin by sitting in a chair and standing up. If this is difficult, then hold on to a table or counter while performing the move. Progress to sitting down and standing up without holding on. When you are comfortable with this, see how many times you can sit down and stand up in 30 seconds. The goal is 12 repetitions.

Incorrect Squat
Correct Squat

The next progression is to squat without a chair. How deeply you squat is not important, but make sure your knees are not projecting forward over your toes, as in the first picture. Instead, bend forward from your hips while keeping your knees aligned over the toes, and your weight on your heels, as in the second picture. You will feel it mostly in your quads and glutes. There are several ways to vary the squat. Try squatting with the feet close together or wide apart. You can also try the squat with one foot in front of the other. A lunge is essentially a one-legged squat, with the weight on the front leg and the back leg assisting with balance. Another progression is to hold weights while squatting. If you have a bar you can hold onto, you can take your squats deeper. To see a video with additional information about squats, check out the Being Balanced website at https://www.beingbalancedmethod.com/fitness-videos

Feet Close Together
Feet Wide Apart
One Foot in Front
Lunge

Squat on Step
Squat One Foot on Step
Lunge on Step

Take Your Squats to the Pool. When you squat on land, gravity assists as you lower your body, and the quads and glutes do the work as you rise. The dynamic is different in the water. There buoyancy assists you to rise, and the hamstrings do the work to lower your body toward the floor. This is not necessarily a bad thing. You can increase the work for the hamstrings by holding buoyant equipment, such as foam dumbbells, down by your sides as you squat. One way to work the glutes and quads in the pool is to do squats and lunges on an aquatic step. In this way, more of your body is out of the water and therefore gravity comes more into play. Another way to work the glutes and quads is to perform rebounding moves in which you push off from the floor with both feet. Examples are cross-country ski, jumping jacks and various kinds of jumps, as in the pictures below.

Tuck Jump
Split Jump
Skateboard Jump

Squats and jumps are not options in deep water, but there are other exercises that can be used to work the glutes and quads. One option is to focus on pressing the heels toward the pool floor during a knee-high jog. You can perform a seated leg press, an action similar to using a leg press machine, or rock climb, leaning forward and moving the arms and legs as if climbing a rock wall. Glutes can be worked individually with a cross-country ski or skate kick; and quads can be worked individually with a seated kick. All the underwater photos are from my book Water Fitness Lesson Plans and Choreography.

Seated Leg Press
Rock Climb
Cross-Country Ski

Recommendation: To be able to continue to do important activities of daily living such as sitting in a chair and standing up, driving your car and using the toilet, be sure to include squats in your fitness routine or work your glutes and quads in the pool or do both!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander