Last week, James Cullum and I got a taste of what a water aerobics class entails when Ellen Jones, the aquatics supervisor at the Alexandria YMCA, designed a class just for us. First, we got in the water and stretched our muscles by treading water and doing some basic exercises. Then, we put on our flotation belts and our water shoes.
“The benefit to water aerobics is that it gives you an opportunity to work all of your muscles in a variety of ways,” Ellen told us. “You can get a range of motion in the water that is impossible to get on land because you can exercise in more positions. Water aerobics is good for increasing flexibility and for getting people started on an exercise program who have not exercised in a long time.”
It’s also not easy. Jogging in water shoes going forward is hard but going backward is even harder. Doing torso twists in a vertical position is hard but horizontally, it’s even harder.
Just when we thought we were used to the water shoes, Ellen added smart bells. “They’re just like dumbbells but for the water,” Ellen told us. “Your water shoes have already increased the resistance on your legs and these are going to increase resistance when you move your arms.”
Our first test was jumping jacks, done horizontally and vertically…great for the arms and the legs. Ellen also taught us some great exercises just for the arms, requiring us to move ourselves through the water, forward and backward, just using our arms.
After the smart bells, we removed our water shoes and our flotation belts and got foam noodles. Ellen told us to bend our noodle into a smiley face and stand on it with both feet. Then we had to bend our knees and lift the noodle. After we mastered that, we had to do the same exercise with alternating feet.
There are great ab exercises in the water as well. Standing with your stomach against the wall, bend your head back and bring your feet up to touch your head, all the while, keeping your stomach in contact with the wall of the pool.
We spent 60 minutes in water aerobics class. “Many people start by doing 30 minutes three times a week and building up to a 60-minute class,” Ellen said. “Also, we make it harder to fit the ability of our students.”
The Y offers low impact classes in shallow water and the deep water aerobics class that James and I experienced. Currently, there is a deep water class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 7:30, and a morning class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 to 9:30. The classes can be purchased at the Y and work on a punch card system so that busy people can come when they can until they have used all of the classes on their card.
For more information on water aerobics, contact Ellen Jones at 703 838-8085.