Recently I had a humbling experience that apparently is not all too unusual for a land based trainer or athlete. I took an aqua HIIT class at the Truckee Community Pool. In this class I was clearly the rookie. I felt like I was really working hard, which mind you, is saying a lot. I train in and out of the gym at least 6 days a week, in addition to teaching group, personal and athletic clients. Somewhere in the back of my mind were these little whispers of facts on recovery, and how great being in the water can be for your body. I knew water felt good after workouts. I knew water workouts existed, but that was really the extent of my knowledge. Nevertheless I was intrigued, as an athlete and a trainer as to what water could bring to my personal training and recovery, as well as what incorporating it could bring to my clients. So when I was contacted by the Truckee Community Pool with the prospect of bringing some of my land based prowess to the water I jumped, literally and figuratively right in.
First I set out to see what other instructors were doing. Hence, my butt kicking Aqua HIIT experience. I was astounded by how satisfyingly worked aqua exercise made me feel, but without the next day soreness. I was acutely aware of my pounding heart and deep breathing during the workout. I also had fun, and was challenged by watching other class participants who were clearly more practiced and seemingly working way less hard than I. That’s when I knew there was more to this method than meets the eye. I subsequently attended a fitness professional conference with the intention of spending four days educating myself about aqua, what I learned there really got me excited to share this method of training, especially with those of you who are thinking things like; aqua exercises is easy, and imagining groups of leisurely movers in bathing caps. You’ve got it all wrong, and here is why.
The properties of water are astounding and make for a fantastic addition to your training protocol. Water offers a drag resistance that is 12 times that of air. That’s right, if you are a bodyweight trainer, like me, or if you train with weight or resistance, imagine the possibilities there. There are no eccentric muscle contractions in the water, and since it is generally thought that eccentric contractions are what cause muscle soreness that is likely why you won’t experience that unpleasant exercise side effect, which will lead to faster recovery time. If you have low body fat, aqua exercise will be especially hard since you lack the especially buoyant quality of the less lean. So potentially, the fitter you are, the harder the workout. Other benefits include; water increases exercise caloric output by up to 28%, the forgiveness of aqua training on the joints (while still being hard on muscles), it relives pressure on the spine, and results up to a 90% reduction of body weight, which is what makes it so great for our active agers, and injury recovering populations. The hydrostatic pressure of water surrounding your entire body improves circulation and breathing , quickens return of blood to the heart, and reduces swelling.
Think about how you can work water training into your current regiment for great benefits. Maybe you need an active recovery day, or maybe you want to find a unique way of improving your cardiovascular function, and performance thresholds that aren’t your typical dry land intervals. In my new class at the Truckee Aquatic Center, Aqua X, we will explore how water can regress or progress exercise. Imagine busting out your max of an exercise on land and then hitting the shallows for some water support and digging a little deeper, finding a few more reps. Or preforming a body weight exercise on deck, then moving to the water for an intense cardio interval, minus the pounding on your joints. Gone is the image of synchronized swimmers waving and kicking (although I have way more respect for how hard that probably is now) replaced with an athletic exerciser wearing training gear just like you would see in a gym, maybe even shoes, ready to for an intense, challenging and fun workout for all levels. Be ready to be humbled by aqua, and likely, fall in love with it too.