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

Yoga in the Pool

There are many physical and mental health benefits that you can enjoy from doing yoga. Physically, you can increase flexibility, tone your body and strengthen targeted muscle groups. Mentally, you can find peace of mind, decrease stress and anxiety, and use yoga to find your inner balance. It is not always easy to correctly perform yoga poses, especially if you have flexibility issues or injuries. This is problematic because yoga is most effective when you are able to hold the poses in the correct position. If you find performing yoga to be difficult for physical reasons, consider using water as your next yoga “weapon”!

How Does Water Help with Yoga?

Water helps the body stay upright and balanced, so if you have any joint problems, you can do standing poses more easily. What’s more, water naturally helps soothe the joints, reducing the pain you might feel while doing these poses. The water needs to be about chest height so that you will be able to enjoy the cushioning and buoyant effects all around your body.

3 Yoga Poses to Do in Water

  1. Padangusthasana

This is known as the Big Toe pose. Stand at the side of the pool and extend one arm to hold onto the edge of the pool. Bend your outer leg and bring your knee up to your chest. Grab your big toe and straighten the leg to the side as much as possible without losing the straightness of your body. As you move your leg, make sure to keep your hips and shoulders forward. When your leg reaches the side of your body, hold this pose for 10 seconds before letting go and placing your foot back on the ground. Repeat with the other side.

2. Arda Chandrasana

This is know as the Half Moon pose. Again, stand at the side of the pool facing the edge. Extend your right arm to the edge (rather than to the floor as in the photo) and place your left arm on your hip. Slowly bend forward at the hips while raising your left leg behind you, keeping both legs straight. Flex your foot as your leg raises up. When your left leg becomes parallel to the ground, move your hips to the left and raise your left arm straight upwards. Hold this pose 10 seconds and release. Repeat with the other side.

3. Vrksasana

This is known as the Standing Tree pose. While the tree pose might look simple, it can be difficult to do if you have issues with balance. Stand upright and plant both feet firmly on the ground. Raise one leg to the side and bend it at the knee, placing your sole on the inside thigh of your other leg. Place your hands above your head in a prayer position. Hold this pose for 15 seconds and release. Repeat on the other side.

Performing yoga poses in water is a great way to learn new poses or perfect ones that you have trouble doing. The more you perform yoga in water, the more it will strengthen your body and condition your muscles. Over time you’ll be prepared to perform these poses on land.

Want to know more about yoga, health and wellness? Our friends from Lotus Kitty would be happy to help. Go to www.lotuskitty.com for more tips.

Thanks to Lotus Kitty for this guest blog post!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander

Shelter in Place

COVID-19 still has most of us homebound these days with no definite end in sight. With my water exercise classes cancelled, I need projects to keep me busy. I’ve done the spring cleaning, hand washed my heavy sweaters and weeded my garden, so now what?

One project has been creating exercise videos and learning how to post them on YouTube (with the help of Jim, my husband). I did one exercise routine using for equipment items that we all have around the house (canned goods and a chair) https://youtu.be/xtGvywsYY4g.

I did a second video using exercise bands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwXrroDRaOc&feature=youtu.be

And now I have a third video with stretches. Our muscles are organized in pairs, and in order to stretch one muscle we have to contract the opposing muscle. Therefore a stretching program improves not only flexibility, but also strength. Besides that, stretching feels really good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oebXv3aByiI&t=33s.

Others are also making workout videos. Some of the best I’ve seen are from Rotha Crump at https://www.yourtimeandyourway.com/videos. She’s got five Balanced Bodies routines, plus aerobics, strength training and Yoga. Wave Makers have a number of videos including Balance Training Exercises for Fall Prevention, a Daily Core Strength Routine, Yoga for Core and Hips, and the Best Warmup Exercises to Do before a Walk. Walking is of course one of the best ways to exercise, and Jim and I are doing lots of walking around the neighborhood, crossing the street when necessary to maintain social distancing. Once we saw a woman on a bicycle with a cockatiel on her shoulder!

Of course we all need some entertainment to take our minds off the news once in awhile. If you like country music, check out WUSJ 96.3 FM in Jackson, Mississippi on Tune In radio, where my son “Fisher” is on the air from 3:00-7:00 PM Monday-Friday. Deejays have to acknowledge the difficulties our country is facing during the pandemic, share some personal experiences to let his audience know that he is in this with them, and still keep it light. Fisher does a good job of walking that fine line.

If you are into birds, the BBC series “The Life of Birds,” available on Amazon Prime, covers the history of birds, flight, migration, feeding and mating habits, bird calls and more. And the photography is so amazing, you’ll be left wondering how in the world they got those shots! This is spring and if you ever wished you could secretly watch birds raising chicks in their nests, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has bird cams that let you do just that. You get a close of view of several nests as well as bird activity at feeders on one of their web pages. Click on Bird Cams to view.

No one knows how long we will have to remain homebound, but I hope you will find projects to keep you busy, ways to continue exercising, and entertainment to make you smile. I’m looking forward to when we can get back in the pool!

Chris Alexander

Benefits of HIIT

Image result for pictures of water exercise

HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is popular in all kinds of fitness formats. HIIT was named the #1 Fitness Trend for 2018 according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s world wide survey. During HIIT the goal is to work so hard that it becomes difficult to breathe in enough oxygen to supply the demands of the muscles. You are working at 80-90% of your maximum effort. Once you get to 90% effort, your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds the oxygen supply available. This is called crossing the anaerobic threshold. Your body must now rely on energy sources that are stored in the muscles. Since there is only a limited amount of energy stored in the muscles, this level of intensity can only be sustained for a short time, ranging from a few seconds to 2 minutes, depending on your fitness level. The recovery period in anaerobic exercise is important. If the recovery period is shorter than the high-intensity period, then the body is unable to achieve full anaerobic recovery. Therefore, in most cases the recovery is longer than the work.

HIIT improves both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. It has also been shown to improve blood pressure, cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol profiles, and abdominal fat and body weight, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. HIIT burns more calories than continuous cardiorespiratory training, especially after the workout. This occurs because the heart and lungs work hard to supply oxygen to the working muscles and after the exercise ends, the body has excess oxygen to consume. About two hours are needed to use up the excess oxygen. This post exercise period adds around 15% more calories to the overall workout energy expenditure.

To increase intensity for interval training in water exercise you can increase the range of motion, increase the speed without decreasing the range of motion, go into the suspended position, and add acceleration by jumping or performing the exercise with power. (See my previous blog post: Make Your Heart Stronger with Intervals.) However to go into HIIT you will need to use two of the intensity variables at once, such as full range of motion with power, or speed with jumping. Try adding power while traveling. Another strategy is to work in two planes at the same time. You can do this by alternating one move in the frontal plane, such as a frog jump, with another move in the sagittal plan, such as tuck ski. A second way to work in two planes is to combine a leg move in one plane with an arm move in a different plane. Examples include kick side to side (frontal plane) with arms sweeping side to side (transverse plane); cross-country ski (sagittal plane) with rotation, hands together (transverse plane); and high kick (sagittal plane) clap over the leg (transverse plane) and under the leg (frontal plane). When you are working at 80% of your maximum effort you are able to grunt in response to questions but can only keep up the pace for a short time. At 90% of your maximum effort you will feel like you can’t do this much longer.

Since periods of high intensity are alternated with periods of recovery, HIIT provides the exerciser the opportunity to experience the extra benefits of intense exercise without creating an experience that is negative or unpleasant. However, not everyone in a class is willing or able to do HIIT. Some may have an injury that prevents them from performing certain moves. Some may have a condition that makes working at that level contraindicated. Some just may not be able to push it hard that day. For safety’s sake, participants should always modify the intensity to a level that is challenging for them rather than trying to keep up with other participants.

My book Water Fitness Progressions has information about HIIT along with sample lesson plans that include high intensity intervals with a variety of ways to configure the intervals. To order the book from the publisher, click on the title. The book can also be ordered from Amazon.com  

See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander

Make Your Heart Stronger with Intervals

The way to make your heart stronger is to make it beat faster. Since there is a direct correlation between how fast your heart is beating and how fast you are breathing, making your heart stronger means exercising at a pace that makes you breathe faster than normal. Interval training is a popular way to meet this objective.

Interval training is alternating bouts of fast paced exercise with slower paced exercise. The fast pace is called work and the slower pace is called recovery. One period of work plus one period of recovery is called a set. A group of sets is called a cycle. The chart above shows a cycle of five sets of intervals. If you are jogging, your work might be running and your recovery could be walking. In a water exercise class, your work might be performing an exercise faster, but there are other ways to increase intensity.

The basic aquatic exercises of jog, kick, cross-country ski and jumping jacks can all be performed at a somewhat easy level. Your breath will be faster than standing still, but you can still do the exercises while talking or even singing. To increase the intensity to a moderate level, increase the range of motion, that is, make the moves larger. Your breath will be a little faster and although you will still be able to talk, it will be harder to sing. To increase the intensity to a somewhat hard level, increase the speed of the exercise. Try not to lose range of motion as you go faster. For many people, taking the exercise to a suspended position is also somewhat hard. With faster moves or suspended moves you may be able to talk, but you will be breathing hard enough that you won’t really want to talk. To work at a hard level, add acceleration. This could be by jumping but you can also perform the exercise with power. The harder you push against the water the harder the water pushes back. Power moves are slower but the effort is greater. At this level, you might be able to grunt in response to a question and you will feel like you can only keep that pace for a short time.

Click on this linkhttps://youtu.be/g5V0lzwTi40 to watch a video of the basic exercise of cross-country ski in shallow water along with the variations of increasing range of motion, increasing speed, going suspended, adding power, and adding rotation (a variation of a power move). Each variation is performed for 4 counts.

Click on this link https://youtu.be/ZDJnhaxP5cU to watch a video of the basic exercise of cross-country ski in deep water along with the variations of increasing range of motion, increasing speed, adding elevation (accelerating the legs toward center to lift the shoulders out of the water), adding power and adding rotation. Each variation is performed for 4 counts.

The work period and the recovery period of an interval can last for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Usually the recovery period is longer than the work period so that you can recover fully before starting the next work period, but you can have a reduced recovery period for an added challenge. Some ways to time the intervals are:

  • Interval 30: 30 seconds of work to 90, 60 or 30 seconds of recovery
  • Interval 40: 40 seconds of work to 80, 60 or 40 seconds of recovery
  • Interval 60: 60 seconds of work to 120, 90 or 60 seconds of recovery
  • Reduced Recovery Time: 1, 2 or 3 minutes of work to 30, 60 or 90 seconds of recovery
  • Rolling Intervals: work for 1 minute, increase intensity for 1 minute, and increase intensity again for another minute
  • Surges: work for 45 seconds and increase intensity for 15 seconds to 60 seconds of recovery
  • Tabata – 20 seconds of work to 10 seconds of recovery 8 times
Chris Book Cover

These ways to time intervals, plus additional timing options, are explained in my book, Water Fitness Progressions. The book also includes sample lesson plans that use these timing options with variations for moderate, somewhat hard or hard intensities. To order the book from the publisher, click on the title. The book can also be ordered from Amazon.com  

See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander