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:

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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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Water Fitness Instructors Are Needed


Do you take a water fitness class? Do you like to be in the front of the class so that you always know what is going on? Do you like helping new participants feel comfortable in class? Are you naturally outgoing? Have you thought about becoming a water fitness instructor?

I’d like to invite you to take my Water Fitness Instructor Basic Training class. It is being offered on October 21 and 28 from 10:00 AM – 2:30 PM at the McKinney Senior Pool, 1400 South College Street, McKinney, Texas 75069. Participants need to attend both days. It is an opportunity for you to learn what is required in order to teach a water fitness class. You will not have a certification at the end of class, but you will have a foundation to begin working toward a certification.

We spend a good portion of the first day on anatomy. It is important to know something about the muscles and to be familiar with movement terminology so that you will know what muscles you are using in any given exercise. That way you can plan a well-balanced water fitness class for your participants. The second day includes an open-book quiz to give you practice in using a chart to figure out what muscles you are using in a variety of exercises.

We cover good body alignment, because neutral posture is important for safe exercise. We talk about the fitness recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine. You will learn ways to judge whether you are working in your target heart rate zone. Since you are exercising in water, you also need to know the properties of water that make water fitness different from land exercise.

Of course we will talk about how to plan a water exercise class. You will learn what the parts of a class are, how to increase and decrease intensity, how to use various types of water fitness equipment safely, and a variety of choreography styles. I also spend some time on contraindications, things to avoid because they might lead to an injury later on. You get a list of websites where you can go for equipment, choreography ideas and music, plus information on how to get certified and how to get continuing education.

I teach a sample class on the first day. You can keep the lesson plan for your own use later on. On the second day, you teach a 5 to 8-minute sample class to give you practice cuing and demonstrating exercises. After that you can get on the sub list for the McKinney Senior Pool. Or you can get started on your certification, so that you will be qualified to teach at any facility you choose. To see a list of facilities in the Dallas area that are looking for instructors, check out the Jobs page of the website of the Metroplex Association of Aquatic Professionals at www.maapdfw.com

If this sounds like something you would like to do, you can register on the McKinney Parks and Recreation website at https://webtrac.mckinneytexas.org On the Home page click the Search button. On the drop down window click Activities. In the Type window click Aquatic Classes. The class is listed at the bottom of page 2. The cost is $60 for McKinney residents and $65 for non-residents. All materials for the class are provided. Click on the address of the pool above for a link to a map to the facility.

I hope to see you there!


Chris Alexander

Exercise to Music

DSCN0422    It’s fun to exercise to music! Music is a great motivator. It helps you maintain a cadence so that you stay on track and achieve the desired intensity. It also makes the workout seem to go faster.

If you are working out in the gym, you can plug your headphones into your iPod and use whatever playlist you like. If you are exercising in your backyard pool, you can turn on your sound system and play your favorite musical artist. It’s not that simple if you are teaching a water fitness class. Copyright laws state that musicians have the right to charge a fee for the use of their music in public performance, and a water fitness class is considered a public performance.

ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) are the two largest companies worldwide that offer services to enable fitness professionals to access and use music without needing to contact each artist individually. Facilities that offer fitness classes must pay the appropriate ASCAP or BMI fees. Instructors should buy their music from companies that pay appropriate reproduction fees to produce CDs and music downloads for fitness applications. Some of these music companies are:

Dynamix  www.dynamixmusic.com

Muscle Mixes   www.musclemixes.com

Power Music     www.powermusic.com

Yes Fitness Music     www.yesfitnessmusic.com

Music can be purchased as CDs or downloads. A variety of titles are available or you can create your own playlists. For a shallow-water class, 125-150 beats per minute (BPM) is recommended. I personally like 130-140 BPM for my shallow-water classes. In deep-water classes, the drag forces of the water and increased range of motion require a slower cadence. 100-135 BPM is recommended, which is typical of music created for step classes. I like 126-128 BPM for my deep-water classes.

If you are playing a CD, you need a battery operated CD player or one plugged into an electrical outlet installed with Ground Fault Interrupters (GFIs). Do not adjust any knobs on the CD player with wet hands. Most CDs play 45 minutes or an hour. If your CD is 45 minutes and your class is an hour long and you are teaching in the water, either teach the last 15 minutes without music, or dry your hands very carefully before re-starting the CD. If you are teaching from the deck, this is not a problem.

If you downloaded a playlist to your iPod or MP3, you will need some type of speaker to plug it into. Again, you do not want to handle the equipment with wet hands. With a download, you can make the playlist the exact length of your class. You can even add cool down music for the stretches at the end of class. Apps are available that can adjust the tempo of your music so that you can play your download at 130 BPM for strength training with equipment one day, and 140 BPM for cardio another day. Be sure to listen to the music at the lower or faster speeds to make sure the voices don’t sound either draggy or like chipmunks.

If you choreograph your moves to specific songs, then you will use that playlist for that lesson plan every time you teach it. I prefer to create lesson plans that work with any of my playlists. Having a variety of lesson plans and a variety of playlists allows you to mix and match and change things around often. Variety is the spice of life!

See you in the pool!



Water Fitness Instructors Needed

Water fitness instructor class

Do you like being active? Do you enjoy the water? Do you like helping people? Are you interested in being a water fitness instructor?

There is a shortage of water fitness instructors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Check out the Job Postings on the website of the Metroplex Association of Aquatic Professionals at www.maapdfw.com to see how many facilities are looking for instructors. So how do you go about becoming a water fitness instructor? I’m glad you asked! You can sign up for my class coming up in October.

Beginning Water Fitness Instructor Class

Saturday October 3 and Saturday October 10 – Participants attend both days

Time: 10:00 am to 2:30 pm

Cost: $60 for residents of McKinney, $65 for non-residents

Location: McKinney Senior Pool, 1400 S. College Street, McKinney, TX 75069

To register, go to https://webtrac.mckinneytexas.org or stop by the pool and register in person or call 972-547-7495 for assistance.

The class gives basic information necessary to teach a water fitness class.

Bones & muscles     Heart rate    pool water    Aquatic equipment

Some of the things you will learn are:

  • The names of the muscles and how they work during exercise
  • How to increase and decrease intensity so that you achieve your target heart rate
  • The properties of water and how to manipulate them during a water fitness class
  • How to use various kinds of equipment

The class is ideal for people who want some idea of what they have to learn before they sign up to take a certification test, for people who have lots of questions, and for people who do better with hands on experience than with just reading a book.  The next step is to sign up to get a certification. A good entry level certification is offered by the United States Water Fitness Association (USWFA). You do not have to take my Beginning Water Fitness Instructor course in order to get their certification. If you have some fitness experience and don’t feel like you need any additional training, you can contact the USWFA directly at www.uswfa.org. The cost for a certification is $247. They will send you a water fitness instructor manual, an open book test, and some forms to fill out, which you will bring to a National Testing Day (NTD). At the NTD you take a closed book test and teach an 8-minute sample class. The instructor-trainer tells you at the end of the day whether you passed. After that, you can contact some of those facilities looking for instructors and get your own class.

See you in the pool!