Fitness: Just Add Water

It’s winter—everyone into the pool!

The latest trend in fitness might sound familiar: It’s water sports. Water-based exercise is becoming more popular as fitness professionals expand their roster of classes and lessons. Your local pool is a valuable resource all year round to keep your workout routine fresh and exciting, and it’s less expensive than a trip to the beach.

Water sports can provide a multi-dimensional range of movement that activates different muscle groups while alleviating pressure on the joints. Many people find water activity an enjoyable way to get cardiovascular exercise with a low risk of injury.

Water aerobics is growing in popularity, with both shallow and deep water classes, but this is not the water aerobics you might remember. Equipment and routines are all evolving. Rather than using foam dumbbells, many facilities have adopted plastic drag systems for both barbells and dumbbells. These allow participants to challenge themselves to the best of their abilities. Beginners and advanced athletes can work side by side with the same equipment but different levels of intensity.

Another new class that’s rising in popularity is aquatic spin classes based around specialized stationary bikes that are designed to be used in the water. (The athlete is submerged in water only up to mid-chest level, so don’t worry…you won’t need to hold your breath!) The activity was developed for rehabilitation, but physical therapists noted that adding resistant fins to the bike can make this a challenging workout. It’s more than just leg exercise; it will work your respiratory system and your core. I instruct my clients to tighten their abdomens as they pedal to increase their overall workout on the bike. These bikes might not be at every facility, but I recommend speaking to pool management about availability.

While there many new techniques and classes to try at the pool, the most popular swim exercise is still swimming laps. This total body activity challenges your cardiovascular health and strength. Not everyone is a natural-born swimmer, and if you’re not, don’t be intimidated. There are many ways to ease yourself into swimming.

If performing arm strokes with kicking feels overwhelming or tiring, hold a kickboard with your arms. This allows you to focus only on kicking while you become more relaxed and comfortable in the water. You can keep your head up or practice exhaling into the water while lifting your head up to breathe when you need to. This kicking exercise will allow you to strengthen your hips, knees, and ankles. Remember to engage your abdominal muscles, too. Don’t think this is a beginner-only routine. Swimmers at all levels practice this technique. Want to work your arms instead? Ask a trainer how to use a pull buoy between your legs to focus on arm movement.

Water exercises are some of the most recommended routines by physical therapists. If this is a new form of exercise for you, don’t be afraid to seek out lessons or classes to help improve your technique and learn new moves.

Kyle Ciminski is a personal trainer and Fitness Manager at the Fidalgo Pool & Fitness Center in Anacortes. He holds over 30 professional certifications, and you can reach him at or at 360-969-1386. Learn more at


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