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.
Many states have loosened social distancing restrictions in order to get the economy going again. Now, however, we are seeing a rise in Corona virus cases. We would all like to know what to expect with this pandemic, but there is no way to know for sure how it will play out. My doctor’s practice, USMD Health System, has suggested three possible scenarios:
Scenario One — Begins with an initial wave in Spring 2020 followed by a series of smaller waves of infection that last up to two years.
Scenario Two — Begins in Spring 2020 and is followed by a second, larger wave this fall or winter and a smaller one in 2021. If this happens, communities will likely return to quarantines.
Scenario Three — Begins in Spring 2020 and is followed by what the Center for Infectious Disease Research And Policy (CIDRAP) describes as a “slow burn.” That means there’s no clear pattern. This scenario would likely not cause communities to return to quarantines, but infections and deaths would continue.
No matter the scenario, CIDRAP says we should prepare for another 18-24 months of COVID-19. That means we should continue to practice social distancing, wear face masks in public, and wash our hands often.
Our swimming pools have reopened. Lap swimming, swim lessons and water fitness classes are resuming. What should we know about the safety of returning to the pool and what kind of cautious response should we make? Sara Kooperman (the owner of SCW Mania Fitness conventions) and John Spannuth (the president of the US Water Fitness Association) have both asserted that chlorine used to disinfect pool water kills COVID-19. Craig Lord, the Swimming World Editor-in-Chief, agrees that disinfectants, including chlorine, act on viruses and it is reasonable to expect that would include COVID-19. He adds that pool operators also need to observe strict hygiene protocols, including correct maintenance of pool water and air in the facility, as well as heightened levels of cleaning of adjacent surfaces and environments, since the fundamental mode of transmission of COVID-19 is air and not water.
It is likely that if your favorite pool is reopening, the pool operator is aware of the necessary protocols and has trained the staff properly. Those of us who will be using the pool to teach or participate in a water fitness class also need to do our part. Yes Fitness Music has made the following suggestions:
Outdoor pools are safer because air circulation outdoors is better than indoor air circulation.
Our Texas sun and heat often makes an indoor pool preferable. Ask about the air ventilation. Fresh air is better. If the air is recycled, it should go through a filtration system.
Wear a mask.
Maintain social distancing, 6 feet away from the other swimmers or class participants.
Wash your clothing, towels and masks directly after class.
We can all do our part to protect ourselves and those around us. Enjoy the pool safely!
Most of the time when we hear the word “core” we think of our abdominals. And in fact it is important to keep the abdominals and all the other muscles of the trunk strong. These muscles work together to maintain good posture and to support and move the shoulders, the back and the hips. They are often referred to as the powerhouse of the body, stabilizing the trunk and allowing us to move our arms and legs powerfully and safely during exercise.
Beneath these core muscles are the muscles of the inner core and they have an important job to do. The brain is protected by the skull, the heart and lungs are protected by the rib cage, and the female reproductive organs are protected by the pelvic bone. But the remaining organs are protected by the inner core. The muscles of the inner core are the diaphragm at the top, the multifidus in the back, the transverse abdominis in the front, and the pelvic floor at the bottom. A weakness in the diaphram can lead to reflux. A weakness in the multifidus can lead to slipped discs, a weakness in the transverse abdominis can lead to a hernia. And a weakness in the pelvic floor can lead to incontinence.
Women are more likely than men to suffer from incontinence. However, in men sometimes an enlarged prostate exerts pressure on the urinary tract, controlling the flow of urine, and then the pelvic floor becomes weak. If the prostate is surgically removed, men will have a more serious issue with incontinence. Therefore, both men and women are encouraged to include pelvic floor exercises in their fitness routine. The Harvard Medical School recently published an article entitled “5 of the Best Exercises You Can Ever Do” which listed Kegel exercises as one of the five for both men and women. You can access the article at https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/5-of-the-best-exercises-you-can-ever-do
Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor are less often called Kegels because the research has changed the way the exercises are performed. To perform core contraction correctly, lift the pelvic floor and then gently draw in the transverse abdominis. There should be no change in your breathing. Incorrect core contraction involves strongly bracing the abdominals before lifting the pelvic floor, but this bracing puts downward pressure on the pelvic floor. Furthermore, you typically hold your breath during a strong brace of the core. Instead, keep your upper abdominals relaxed. Perform the exercise gently and slowly. Activate the pelvic floor smoothly. Draw in from the pubic bone. Use 30% effort when drawing in the transverse abdominis. Your breathing is gentle and continuous.
How long to hold the core contraction depends on the type of incontinence you are having a problem with (or wish to avoid). Stress incontinence is leaking when sneezing, coughing, etc. For this do 10 quick pelvic floor lifts 2 or 3 times a day. Urge incontinence is leaking on the way to the bathroom. For this do a maximum of 10 repetitions at a time, hold the contraction for 10 seconds at most, and take a 30 second break in between contractions.
My resource for this information is Marietta Mehanni, the pelvic floor ambassador in Australia, who presented a workshop entitled “Aquacise Your Pelvic Floor” for the Metroplex Association of Aquatic Professionals in Dallas on October 5, 2019. As you might guess, pelvic floor exercises can be done in a water fitness class.
Your muscles grow until around age 30 and after that they begin to decline. If nothing is done to prevent this loss of muscle mass, the end result is loss of grip strength, difficulty picking up heavier objects, trouble rising out of a chair, and an inability to get up off the floor. Who wants that?? The good news is that loss of muscle mass in not an inevitable part of aging. Like the saying goes, use it or lose it! Using it means strength training.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that every adult perform activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days a week. Adults over 65 should strength train two to three times a week. In other words, the older you get the more important strength training becomes.
You can strength train at home using bands. You can perform exercises that use your own body weight such as push ups, planks and wall sits. You can go to a gym and use free weights or weight machines. Most gyms have someone on staff who can show you how to use the weight machines. Or you can hire a personal trainer who can design a personalized strength training program. Ideally you will mix things up and do a variety of strength training routines. Lift the weight quickly but take 3-5 seconds to lower it. Choose 8 to 10 exercises targeting the major upper body, mid body and lower body muscle groups. Healthy adults should do 8-12 repetitions of each exercise with a weight heavy enough to be challenging but not so heavy that you have to strain to lift it. Older adults should do 10-15 repetitions using lighter weights.
You can also do your strength training in the pool. This requires some effort on your part. It is possible to do the exercises in your water fitness class by gently moving through the water, slicing your hand to minimize the resistance, possibly chatting with other exercisers at the same time. There may be benefits to this, but improving strength is not one of them. Instead of slicing, move your fist through the water, or even better, present an open hand with the fingers slightly cupped. Push hard against the water, with as much speed and power as you can. The harder you push, the harder the water pushes back. You want to create turbulence, making white water and waves. This kind of effort requires concentration but it is necessary to overload the muscles so that you can see gains in strength.
Equipment can be added to increase the resistance in water. Choose equipment that you can handle while maintaining good alignment. Then push and pull the equipment through the water with speed and power. Drag equipment, which does not float, can be pushed and pulled in any direction. Buoyant equipment, which floats, needs to be pushed toward the pool floor in order to be effective. The turbulence and waves you create with the equipment lets you know that you are overloading your muscles and improving your muscular strength and endurance.
There are other benefits to strength training. Improving your muscular strength and endurance can help prevent osteoporosis, decrease the risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of falling, and enhance the quality of life. It can postpone the day when you become frail to some time in the distant future. And that’s a very good thing! For more information and lesson plans that have strength training as their objective, see my book Water Fitness Progressions.
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
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