Start a Laughter Pandemic

Hands up: who thought 2020 would be a great year? Really, those two “0”s are just begging to be doodled in as happy faces, aren’t they?
Smiley 2020

We are 20 years out from the turn of this century and the new millennium. All those wonderful millennial babies are becoming adults, bringing their fresh talents to the world. Loved ones have planned reunions, weddings, graduations, anniversaries, travel…  What could go wrong?

Twenty-twenty is a firm reminder that life isn’t fair, and seldom turns out the way we expect. If you have chosen to laugh your way through this abnormal, challenging situation, I applaud you! Given the fact that laughter is contagious (and you don’t have to be in proximity to spread it), I encourage you to start your own laughter epidemic! This article features facts about funny, and a number of quotes to get you thinking. Seriously, I hope you will share these ideas to help the spread of laughter in your community!

“As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.”  Jewish Proverb

Whatever you had planned this year, you probably didn’t predict your need for impeccable hand hygiene, mask-crafts, and graph-reading skills! I had no idea I could live in the same clothes for three months, without the aid of personal grooming of any kind. Who knew that our government would classify the liquor and cannabis stores as ‘essential services’? (We finally agree on something!). Now that you know how to wash your hands with vigor and purpose, why not wash your soul with laughter? A number of research studies show strong evidence that laughter dilates blood vessels. This effect (after watching a 30 minute humorous video), persisted for nearly 24 hours! Mediated by the release of endorphins, our minds and arteries relax with laughter. What could be simpler or better? Therefore, when choosing your binge-watching topics, seek out the ones that make you laugh, give you hope, and focus on the positive.

“Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”  Mark Twain

What makes you laugh? Often, laughter is generated with a swerve. You expect a story to go one way, then it takes a sudden turn to the unexpected or ridiculous. Isn’t that a perfect description for 2020? Are we fooling ourselves by laughing at this “unusual” year, or does laughter really help?

Laughter and a sense of humour can be bountifully beneficial when coping with tragic, or unfortunate circumstances. This does not mean cruel laughter at someone’s hardship, or making fun of sad situations. It is possible to take loss and hardship very seriously, yet find lighthearted moments to celebrate life.  At my father’s funeral this year, we shared hugs and tears (he passed pre-pandemic). We also enjoyed laughter about favourite memories, and Dad’s wonderful sense of humour. My father (a cowboy), would certainly endorse Will Rogers’ words, “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you have to do is stop digging!”

My dragon boat team (www.BreastStrokes.org) exemplifies this philosophy, and offers wonderful support to our members. We joke about our own treatment experiences, and the joy of life after breast cancer. As a result, we refer to ourselves as a giggle of paddlers. In our case, it’s a team decision to see the lighter side of life. We’re dead serious about staying healthy as we support each other. We spread ‘an attitude of gratitude’, as we laugh at the absurdities of life, and chuckle our way through challenging practices.

“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”  Voltaire

What can be more difficult than a global pandemic? Thousands of people have suffered tragic consequences, in a seemingly endless health crisis. A pandemic must be taken seriously, so we can find and follow the best pathway forward. However, as a herd (waiting for immunity to settle in), we can find humour in the absurdity of this hardship. Complete these sentences: “If 2020 was a song, the title would be ______” •  “Instead of singing ‘happy birthday’ while I wash my hands, now, I _______” •  “My favourite outfit for Zoom meetings is _________” • “I found a new use for my mask: ________” • Look at this picture of my self-inflicted Covid-haircut (insert photo).

“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.”  Jean Houston

People laugh more easily and more often in a group. It is thought to be a communication technique among primates that transcends age, language, and most cultural differences.

“Laughter serves as a blocking agent. Like a bulletproof vest, it may help protect you against the ravages of negative emotions that can assault you in disease.”  Norman Cousins

Laughter, humour, and a positive attitude, open the gates to creativity. Norman Cousins (Anatomy of an Illness), wrote: “Utilize laughter to create a mood in which the other positive emotions can be put to work for yourself and those around you.”

“(S)He who laughs, lasts!”  Mary Pettibone Poole

Whether it is genuine, or ‘fake’, laughter helps you feel better. There is now a groundswell of support regarding the therapeutic value of laughter in the treatment of disease. Evidence shows that surgeons used humor to distract patients from pain as early as the 13th century. Scientific study now supports the positive effects of humour on physical and mental wellness. Now, more than ever, we need humour for therapy and healing.

“If you can laugh in the face of adversity, you’re bullet-proof.”  Ricky Gervais

Dr. Madan Kataria created Laughter Yoga, which now has over 7000 free laughter yoga clubs in more than 72 countries. Laughter yoga sessions (combining yoga breathing and simulated laughter), are available online (https://www.youtube.com/laughteryoga). Dr. Kataria found that laughter was therapeutic, even when it was ‘artificial’. In other words, you did not have to think something was funny to receive laughter’s benefits. Humour (think of stand-up comedy), often pushes the boundaries of good taste. A joke that one person finds funny, is insulting to another.

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.”  Lord Byron

Dr. Kataria found that simply breathing deeply and ‘laughing for no reason’ was therapeutic, calming, and beneficial to health. I am a certified Laughter Yoga Leader. Having attended an international LY conference, I saw this technique worked well in prisons, factories, hospitals, and my own living room. Laughter for no reason is free. It helps people. I always connect patients in pain with Laughter Yoga. What have they got to lose?

“No matter what your heartache may be, laughing helps you forget it for a few seconds.”  Red Skelton

Try it right now:

  • Take in a deep slow breath…
  • As you breathe out, laugh as hard as you can! If you need inspiration, ‘laugh like Santa’.
  • Repeat…
  • Repeat…
  • Repeat!

Compared with when you began the exercise, how do you feel now? My guess is you will feel somewhat breathless and more relaxed. Perhaps others nearby saw you laughing and joined in. Look for www.LaughterYoga.org chapters in your community. Lots of useful activities are available on line, for free.

“We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we are happy because we laugh.”  William James

We walk our parrots (yes, I know…). One of them loves imitating laughter – and sometimes starts laughing on his own, for no reason. As we walk down the street, people hearing him start laughing. He laughs louder and more, imitating their laughter. You can see where I’m going with this.  Soon, everyone within earshot of this spectacle is crying with laughter. What could be better? Are you laughing now?

Documented physical benefits of laughter include:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Enhancing oxygen intake
  • Stimulating the heart and lungs
  • Relaxing muscles throughout the body
  • Triggering the release of endorphins
  • Easing digestion
  • Relieving pain
  • Balancing blood pressure
  • Improving mental functions

I hope you have taken time to laugh while reading this article – if only during the Laughter Yoga exercise. Laughter is helpful and healthful. Please, pass it on!

“I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can.”  Linda Ellerbee

References

What’s Keeping You in Suspense?

You found a way to leave gravity behind, but now you’re in way over your head! How do you stay afloat? This post highlights the benefits and challenges of vertical deep water exercise.  We will evaluate the pros and cons of flotation devices, keeping you in joyful suspense for your gravity-free workouts. Welcome to the deep end of the pool, and the wonderful possibilities of suspended exercise!

How Does the Body Respond to Vertical Immersion?HP HOWI 001

Suspended vertically, neck-deep in water, your joints are less compressed and typically, more mobile. Meanwhile, your core muscles have to work hard to maintain verticality and equilibrium: your core is your floor! 

Hydrostatic pressure (HP – the pressure of the water on your body) is more intense the deeper a body part is immersed. This means there is a greater HP squeezing force at your feet than at your shoulders.  Blood and fluids are pushed up from your feet toward your chest.  This upward shift in bodily fluids causes heart rate and respiratory changes. Breathing muscles experience a 60% increase in workload – an excellent training effect! Your heart pumps more efficiently because it is stretched by increased blood volume. Therefore, heart rate can be 10 – 15 beats/min less than it would be on land, even during vigorous exercise.  Physiology of immersion is a fascinating story, but let’s get back to suspension devices!

3 Howis BouyancyBody composition varies widely among humans. Some people are all muscle and bone (sinking man, left). Me, not so much! Still, even I am more dense than water (ask my family), especially when I breathe out.  In vertical alignment, I need to vigorously move my arms and legs to keep my head above water. If I don’t, I sink. I love deep water exercise, but continue to value my ability to breathe!

In order to exercise vertically in deep water (not just tread water), most of us require buoyant support. Without a flotation device, all movement is directed at keeping our head above water. Some people suggest that treading water (NOT using flotation equipment for deep water workouts) is a good thing, because it adds to intensity. I discourage this approach. My suspended workouts offer a wide variety of functional limb movements, building strength in all planes. With proper flotation, body alignment and exercise technique are vastly improved. Whether you are an instructor, trainer, or aqua exercise enthusiast, this article will help you evaluate flotation options for vertically suspended, deep water exercise.

IMG_6864
Exercising in deep water, wearing a flotation belt

Examples of typical floatation equipment include: flotation belts (strapped around the waist), buoyant devices that are held, or strapped to the limbs, riding or sitting on a noodle, and riding a pelvic flotation device.

Before discussing best options, I’d like to clarify flotation methods I don’t recommend, and why.

Continue reading “What’s Keeping You in Suspense?”

From Resolutions to Reality

SMART Goals vs the 3-Ps

It’s resolution time, everyone!  For many people, the beginning of a new year represents a fresh start. You may work as a trainer, instructor, life coach or therapist.  Your clients will be looking for motivation and guidance. Like others, I have tried hitting the ‘reset’ button, hoping for a better version of myself to magically appear. I am now old enough to know from experience, that nothing of lasting value occurs instantly or without planning and hard work. This article provides some background on resolutions, and what you can do to make them reality.

From statisticbrain.com, I learned the following about resolutions (based on research conducted by: University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, December, 2016).

News Years Resolution Statistics Data
Percent of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions 45 %
Percent of Americans who infrequently make New Year’s Resolutions 17 %
Percent of Americans who absolutely never make New Year’s Resolutions 38 %
Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolution 8 %
Percent who have infrequent success 49 %
Percent who never succeed and fail on their resolution each year 24 %
People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions
Type of Resolutions (Percent above 100% because of multiple resolutions) Data
Self Improvement or education related resolutions 47 %
Weight related resolutions 38 %
Money related resolutions 34 %
Relationship related resolutions 31 %
Age Success Rates Data
Percent of people in their twenties who achieve their resolution each year 39 %
Percent of people over 50 who achieve their resolution each year 14 %
Length of Resolutions Data
Resolution maintained through first week 75 %
Past two weeks 71 %
Past one month 64 %
Past six months 46 %

This is interesting: “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

So, even though the success rate isn’t as high as we might hope, there is value in setting goals. What is the best technique? A Google search yields about 160 million results! Ultimately, the best way to set personal goals is the one that works for you.

Years ago, I learned the SMART acronym for goals: Specific • Measurable • Attainable • Relevant/Realistic/Rewarding • Timed/Timely.  I like the SMART approach, but my resolution this year is to create my own new acronym.  Because I like things to be memorable, brief and to the point (like me) I’m going to try the 3Ps:

Passion  •  Pacing  •  Persistence

For me, Passion is key.  It puts the fire in my belly to fuel the work ahead.  Without passion, I find myself asking, ‘why am I doing this?’  Without passion, my resolve tends to fizzle at the first obstacle. Therefore, I know I have to set goals I REALLY want to accomplish.

Pacing addresses the time variable. I may not be able to achieve my resolution result in a week, or a month.  But when I set smaller, achievable goals, I am repeatedly successful. Accomplishing small goals fuels my passion, builds successful behaviours, and helps me keep the resolution on track.

Finally, Persistence is essential. Persistence will trump genius and talent every time, we are told. Even when I don’t succeed, I learn what didn’t work!  Persistence tells me, ‘that’s OK – find another way’. Many famous quotes extoll the value of staying the course.  The following quote is new to me, and promotes the quality of persistence:

“Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully; do it any way you have to, but do it.”
Steve Chandler, Reinventing Yourself: How to Become the Person You’ve Always Wanted to Be

Perhaps this quote inspired the famous Nike ‘Just Do It‘ slogan?  As 2018 continues to unfold, I wish you success with your personal goals, as well as inspiring others. I hope you find kindling to fuel your fire, a pace that works for you, and persistence to stay on track. Feel free to share your challenges and successes – I love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!

Revenue for Re$olution$

5 Steps to Grant Writing Success

How can your organization get serious funding for important projects?  What follows is the wisdom and experience of someone who as a 100% success rate when it comes to asking for free money! Julie Dawley, Supervisor of Aquatics for the Town of Tillsonburg, is a whiz at writing successful grant applications. In November this year, the Town of Tillsonburg hosted AQX training and certification for their AquaCycling instructors. This training course was held using a fleet of colourful new aquatic cycles from AquaCreek Products.

Would your facility be interested in having a fleet of new bikes, and money to train staff? Perhaps you need money for a different project. But how do you get funding for such costly endeavours? In the spirit of helping others realize their dreams, Julie has kindly offered to share her 5 Steps to Grant Writing Success. This gift of knowledge will help you find dollars for your important projects. Thanks, Julie, for sharing this gift with us!

“The Town of Tillsonburg was extremely fortunate to receive 100% funding from the Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund 2016-17: Local/Regional Stream for our new In Water Cycling Program. The grant covered all the costs of a fleet of bikes, as well as instructor training. Here are my 5 Steps to Success when writing a grant application:

  1. Grant applications come with a workbook. Always thoroughly read the entire workbook. Hi-light items you feel you will need assistance with and write notes for those items that you are sure of.
  2. Look through all the successful grant receivers from the previous year. If there is something that is similar to your application details, contact previous grant recipients and request a copy of their application for reference.
  3. In the grant workbook, you will find the name of your area advisor. Call your advisor, and introduce yourself. Let your advisor know what you are considering doing, and get their input about the idea. Once your application is completed, set up a meeting with the advisor to have them look over your application. Ask for, and use their feedback.
  4. Get letters of support from your community about your project. This lets the grant committee members know the community is behind your idea and your organization. Personal letters explaining how your project will change the quality of their lives are great motivators for approval!
  5. Be meticulous in your application. Proof read it several times and have your co-workers read it as well for their professional feedback. It is difficult to catch your own errors, so fresh perspectives are very helpful. The grant application process can be a long one, but is extremely rewarding when you are successful.”

Julie Dawley

Here are Julie Dawley’s comments about the AQX AquaCycling Course:

The Town of Tillsonburg is thrilled to have had the AQX AquaCycling Certification Level 1 course completed! This course assisted us in starting our very first AquaCycling program here in Tillsonburg. Over 10 of our staff were trained in how to properly size patrons for bikes, to ensure their safety while in our program. We are now well equipped to handle the setup and tear down of our new bikes, ensuring staff are safe during the procedures. All staff are now comfortable instructing the well balanced AQX AquaCycling workout. The instructors were motivating and captivating, and we all thoroughly enjoyed our day with them! We would highly recommend AQX for your aquatic fitness training needs.

AquaCycling Certification Course Video

For more information on AquaCycling, visit: http://www.FortheLoveofFit.com

Self-AquaStretch (SAS) is Here!

dscn8327
SAS – After knee replacement

In case it is new to you, AquaStretch™ (A/S) is a manual therapy performed in warm water. A trained AquaStretch™ Facilitator uses a prescribed set of grips and holds on a client’s body. The client moves intuitively, resolving stuck fascia, restoring movement range and comfort. AquaStretch™ is great – but can you perform it on yourself?

Self-AquaStretch (SAS) evolved from the author’s work with A/S clients.  SAS uses adapted AquaStretch™ grips and the play • freeze • pressure • move technique to allow people to liberate their own fascia.  Clients have been eager to learn SAS strategies, because they extend the benefits of decreased pain and improved movement into their daily lives. Their comments and results have shaped the SAS online course.

img_4451
SAS Ankle Grip

Self-AquaStretch (SAS) evolved for a variety of practical reasons, including the fact that many SAS techniques can be used on dry land. The pool offers many advantages for SAS, but is not always available when needed!

With pain-affected people, results have often been better when they use their own hands to explore and release fascia. When people learn to self-administer SAS techniques, they can resolve unwanted tightness and pain whenever and wherever it occurs.

sas-cj-janWhy Learn SAS?  Whether or not you have been trained in AquaStretch™, SAS will help you instruct others to liberate their fascia.  You can learn to use SAS on yourself.  SAS expands the one-on-one nature of AquaStretch™ for use in group classes and self-use by individuals. SAS is a wonderful compliment to any flexibility exercises, including yoga, and stretch classes.

Because individuals can self-administer the modified AquaStretch™ procedures and technique, SAS can be taught by aqua fitness leaders, trainers and therapists, as well as land-based group fitness leaders. 

SAS works best in warm, waist-to-chest deep water, but many of the procedures can be effectively adapted for use on land.  In any program where range of motion is the focus, SAS can offer improved results. The concept of ‘stretching’ will be forever changed once SAS is learned!  The SAS online course is now available at: FortheLoveofFit.Thinkific.com.

Continue reading “Self-AquaStretch (SAS) is Here!”

Knowledge = Power!

I believe the most powerful muscle we have is the one between our ears!  As a movement motivator (since before most of you were born), I know that client education is the key to spectacular customer service. When people know more about why and how they are exercising, they are mentally engaged.  They are more likely to remain committed to their exercise program, and loyal to YOU – their instructor, therapist, trainer, or business owner.

Legs UnderwaterHow do you help your clients create this knowledge base – this tower of power?

Let’s break the process into three important questions:

  1. How will you establish what people need to know?
  2. What gaps exist in your knowledge base (i.e.: you can’t just make stuff up!)?
  3. How and when will you empower your clients with relevant info?

At this stage of my career, I am working mostly in the aquatic environment.  Planet water is very different from planet earth.  In the pool, every aspect of the workout is created by how you stabilize and how you move.  Therefore, as aquatic instructors / trainers / therapists, we MUST educate well – to help people achieve results!  I believe client knowledge is important in all exercise formats.  Understanding purpose and technique yields rich results.

From my perspective, here are some answers to the above questions. You can tweak the approach to suit 1:1 training, small group, or larger group instruction.

  1. How will you establish what people need to know?  
    • Ask them! Depending on your business, this may include questionnaires, dialogue during orientation, planned or casual conversation. Establishing client expectations is part of this process. Do they understand how much effort it takes to look like a gymnast?
    • Ask instructors. If a team of people work with this person or population, it is wise to talk to each other about how your instructional techniques are working.
    • Observe how they move.  Nothing is a better measure of someone’s knowledge base than how they approach a piece of equipment, how they align their body for exercise, and how they perform movement.
    • Analyse your observations. Use your coach’s eye to determine whether they need help with general knowledge about exercise, specifics regarding a piece of equipment, movement technique, or training strategy.
    • Map a plan. Once you have a good picture of your client or group’s needs, you can move forward with appropriate instructional techniques and resources.
  2. What gaps exist in your knowledge base (i.e.: you can’t just make stuff up!)?
    • When you understand what people need to know, you will likely sense whether or not you have the chops to fill their gaps.  Is this an anatomical or rehab question?  If so, can you give accurate information?  Is your client asking about periodization or preparing for a first triathlon? Are you the best person to train someone having a hip replacement?
    • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.”  Or, “I think Jason would be the guy to help you get ready for that weight lifting competition. Would you like me to introduce you?”  Cross-referrals show that you want the best for the client.  Knowing the specializations of people you work with / people in your community is the key to excellent customer service. And you already know all about Karma.
    • Keep your training and re-certifications up to date. There are lots of great options for on-line training.  Conferences and workshops are excellent for in-person updates, including practical skills.  Talk to colleagues about their favourite resources, blogs and websites. Share resources when you can.
    • Beware of spending your hard-earned dollars on flashy “edutainment”, designed to thrill and exhaust instructors.  What you learn there may be completely inappropriate for your clients.  Ask yourself, “Can I use this information with my people on Monday?”
  3. How and when will you empower your clients with relevant info?
  • image1Every interaction with your client or group is an opportunity for them (and you) to learn something important!  Pounce on teachable moments, remembering the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep it Simple Sweetheart.
  • Telling Isn’t Teaching.  To learn well, people need opportunities to think, feel, question, observe, try, fail (try again), and reflect.
  • Learning opportunities can be as simple as a visual cue to reinforce Power Posture; asking your client to keep a food journal for a week; touching the muscle group that should be silent, or the one that should be active; reflecting on how it feels when increasing range of motion by 15% within a movement; hearing a short fit-tip during stretching; trying an exercise two or three different ways to select the one that works best.
  • Handouts work well for general information about a variety of topics.  They can be available in-person, or on your website. The benefits of handouts include: this info can be digested and processed outside exercise time, at the pace the client prefers. Handouts can be reviewed and edited, so you’re happy with order and content, including pictures, web-links, and references.  They can be re-visited and shared. Handouts can promote your knowledge, upcoming programs, and the quality brand of your business.
  • Client-based seminars or workshops can be offered as a customer reward.  Such events can be registered at a cost, or included in customer intake procedures. Do what works for your business.  Also, do your homework to keep presentations concise, professional, practical, informative and fun!
  • Your social media: website, FaceBook page, Blog, newsletter, Periscope, Instagram, YouTube channel….(wheeze)… can all include relevant client education.  Wait, while I hire a tech-savvy personal assistant.  Maybe this person will be willing to barter for some excellent personal training…

Lifestyle change is all about learning a new way of being.  Like it or not, movement professionals are educators and life-change motivators.  And you thought it was all about biomechanics and exercise physiology! I hope these ideas will help you move forward with this important process.

I’d love to hear from you.  Leave a comment or get in touch (especially if you are tech savvy, and like that barter idea)!  You can reach me through my website: www. FortheLoveofFit.com.  Please visit and ‘like’ www.FaceBook.com/fortheloveoffit

Aqua Fitness FAQ

Newcomers to aqua fitness, as well as some regular participants, often have questions about the way classes are taught.  Aquatic exercise has amazing fitness benefits, but is a different kind of workout.

People neeAqua on deck at Inn 004 copyd to understand why and how things are done at the pool. They need to learn: why the instructor teaches a certain way, how to move well, and why their results depend on their focused effort.

A number of years ago, at a pool reception desk in Kitchener Ontario, I saw a participant handout. It was designed for people attending aqua fitness classes, and it was brilliant!

This post is a revision and update of that document. Thanks to the wise folks in Kitchener, who recognized that working well in the water requires knowledge and skill.  I hope this article will prompt you to create or reinforce client education at your pool.

Here is a list of typical participant questions and answers appropriate to our style of teaching. Because the list is quite long, it may be best to present one point per week on the pool lobby bulletin board, or facility website.  I have also offered ‘Learn to Aqua Fit’ training seminars that included about 1 hour of theory in a classroom, followed by an aqua fitness class.  We created some very savvy exercisers.  Keep track of the questions you get, and start your own participant education plan!

  • Why don’t instructors teach from the water so they feel what we are feeling?

Our instructors teach from deck because most classes are large. This way, you can hear cues and clearly see the exercises being taught.  The instructor can observe how everyone is moving.  Sometimes, an instructor will teach while IN the pool – usually to a smaller group of experienced participants. The instructor may choose to teach from the pool (rather than the deck) if she is pregnant, or has health issues restricting her from teaching on the hot, humid deck.

  • Why are aqua fitness instructors so different from each other in style and experience?

The instructor teaching your class may be an experienced leader or an instructor trainer. She may be a newly trained instructor, developing skills in preparation for certification. Each instructor brings his or her own personality to the pool, creating a unique teaching style. Please feel free to provide your instructor with polite feedback that will help him or her understand how the class felt for you. Instructors of all levels are interested in improving skills and offering the best possible aqua fitness experience.

  • Why do instructors on deck demonstrate only one or two moves and then stop moving?

In the water, you are cooled and supported. The pool deck is hot, humid, wet and slippery. Due to heat stress and fall risk, it is not appropriate for your instructor to jump or move continuously.  This is not your instructor’s workout. Her job (once you understand how to do the exercise), is to observe, coach, motivate, and help you move well. Unlike a fitness studio, where you have a mirror to monitor your movement, your instructor is your mirror.

  • Why do instructors demonstrate moves like ski or jacks using only one leg?

Ski and jack – as well as some other aqua fitness movements – involve taking both feet off the floor at the same time, to move the legs in, out, forward or backward. In the water, class participants are supported as they lift both feet off the floor. On deck, the instructor must lift their body against gravity, landing on a slippery cement floor. For safety, moves cued from the pool deck are adapted to reduce or eliminate jumping. This decreases impact on the instructor’s joints and reduces fall risk.

  • Why does the instructor sometimes ask us to slow down and anchor our movements, eliminating bouncing? Isn’t faster movement with jumping more intense?

IMG_6965In shallower water, bouncing or jumping off the floor results in substantial joint stress!  To reduce joint loading, people with painful joints are advised to anchor (eliminating bouncing altogether), unweight (light floor contact in neck deep water) or suspend (no floor contact, using a flotation belt). Slower, anchored exercises are very beneficial because they allow you to move your arms and legs through a full range of motion with a stable torso. In order to do this powerfully, your core must be engaged. It’s like moving on land with weights on your arms and legs while balancing on a stability ball.

Anchoring is usually done specifically for muscle strengthening of the core, and limbs. Faster movements, with a choice of buoyancy options (light bouncing, or propulsive – where you are pushing off the floor to move up, out of the water), are often used during the cardiovascular component of your aqua fitness class. You may still choose to eliminate bouncing while doing cardiovascular work (in chest deep water), since this protects your joints while creating added work for your core.

  • How does depth of immersion (how deep I stand in the water) affect me?

When you stay vertical in the pool, gravity is offset by buoyancy. Below is a useful guide regarding how your body ‘weight’ changes, depending on depth of immersion. For example, a person that weights 70 kg (154 pounds) standing on land:Buoyancy % Pix

  • Standing in water that is NECK DEEP = 10% gravity – you feel 7 kg (15.4 pounds)
  • Standing in water that is CHEST DEEP = 25% gravity – you feel 23 kg (50.6 pounds)
  • Standing in water that is WAIST DEEP = 50% gravity- you feel 35 kg (77 pounds)

This is useful information for people with joint pain, or other reasons for taking advantage of the effects of buoyancy.

  • Do instructors actually get in the water and try the moves they teach?

Yes! Instructors spend several hours of their training course in the pool, learning how to do aquatic exercises correctly. The exercises learned in their AQX training course are well established to be effective and appropriate for aquatic training. In addition, they are encouraged to attend other instructors’ classes on a regular basis to continue to develop their understanding and skill.

  • Why don’t all instructors follow the same lesson plan?

Muscles have memory – they like to do what they have done before.  If you participate in the same activity on a regular basis, you may note that your level of fitness reaches a plateau and improvement stops. The body needs to be challenged to move in new ways in order to continue improvement in all components of fitness. For functional fitness results, it is best to attend a variety of classes lead by different instructors.

  • Why do the moves need to be so complicated? I sometimes have trouble following!

Challenging movement patterns require complex thinking. If things are ‘routine’ your mind does not have to exercise in order to learn new sequences. Coordination is an important component of fitness – especially as we age. If you are getting frustrated, try sculling (treading water) with your arms while you get the legs moving. Then, add the arm actions. For complex arm movements, keep your legs still until you master arm actions. It’s also important to relax, see the humour in your situation, and ‘go with the flow’. Have fun!

  • How can one set of exercises be appropriate for all the different fitness levels, ages, and body types in an aqua fitness class?

Throughout class, your instructor will reinforce techniques to modify aquatic exercise intensity. By changing your hand shape (slice, fist, and flat hand), lever length, speed, and range of motion, you can dramatically alter your workload. When you maintain focus on your alignment, and work to achieve ‘comfortable fatigue’ using these choices, you will have the perfect tailor-made workout for your body!

  • Why does the instructor ask us not to talk during class? We are there for a good time! It is our class. We should be able to do what we want to do.

Your instructor appreciates your need for socialization. However, to maintain awareness of your posture, alignment and exercise technique, you need INTERNAL focus on your body. Also, when you chat, others around you (who are trying to maintain focus), will have difficulty hearing the instructor. It isn’t appropriate to chat during a movie or other gathering where people are attending to a speaker. It’s even less appropriate to distract yourself, the instructor or other participants when movement and exertion are involved. When you devote your full attention to the instructor and your movements, you will get the MOST from your aqua fitness experience, and so will everyone else in the class. There is lots of time in the change room, as well as before or after class, to have a conversation with your friends. It is not appropriate to do so during the class.

  •  Why does the instructor ask me to bring water to class?

Rehydration is crucial during vertical aquatic exercise. Exercising while standing vertically in the pool, causes your kidneys to work overtime because of fluid shift from your legs and feet toward your chest. As you move vigorously, you also lose fluid due to breathing and sweating. Sip on water during the class, and have a big drink of water after every aquatic workout. Signs of dehydration include: dry eyes, fatigue, headaches, feeling light-headed, dark urine and muscle cramping.

  • What are the benefits of aquatic exercise compared to exercise on land?

Research tells us that exercise on land and in the pool are both beneficial. Key benefits of aquatic exercise are described below using the acronym: C.A.B.

Challenging:  In the pool, balance, core strength, the respiratory muscles and heart experience unique training benefits different from land-based exercise.  Cardiovascular conditioning and muscular strengthening exercises often happen simultaneously during aquatic exercise. Muscles can be worked in unique ways because any direction you move is resisted.

Adaptable: Aquatic resistance is easily altered to suit to a wide variety of needs, from Olympic athletes to weekend warriors, average people, and people in rehabilitation for health issues. Aquatic resistance, water depth, movement techniques and exercise intensity can be adjusted for a customized workout. You can choose the class and the pace within a workout that suits your specific needs on a given day!

Buoyant: Working vertically in water unloads your feet, knees, hips, back and arms, allowing you to move freely. Many people who could not run on land can run in the pool, effectively training their cardiovascular system. Both buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure help circulation, allowing your heart to work more efficiently. Your heart will beat slower during aqua fitness than it would for an equivalent workload on land – yet your training results can be the same.

  • Why do some instructors use equipment when others don’t?IMG_2017

A good aqua fitness program can be challenging and effective without any added equipment. Webbed gloves, resistance wands and buoyant dumbbells can be appropriate for participants whose fitness levels require additional challenge. However, this level of strength and fitness rarely applies to an entire group of participants. It is difficult for most people to stabilize their shoulder blades when working with hand-held equipment due to lack of strength and poor body awareness. When the shoulder blades are not properly stabilized, injury to the arms, neck and shoulders can result. In addition, instructors require specific training to be able to coach safe technique for participants using equipment. Hand held equipment is often a better fit in aquatic personal training sessions, where close supervision and the specific needs of one individual can be addressed.

What questions do you hear regularly at your pool?  Would a participant handout improve client knowledge and satisfaction?  Is it time to create a ‘Learn to Aqua Fit’ seminar for the start of each season?  I welcome your thoughts on these questions!

You can visit:  www.FortheLoveofFit.com for a downloadable version of this document.

Reference:

  • AQX Aqua Fitness Leadership Training Manual, author Connie Jasinskas, M.Sc.
  • City of Kitchener aqua fitness participant handout

 

Aquatic Resistance Explained

Working out in the water (this is about vertical exercise, not swimming), is entirely different from land-based exercise. People often think pool exercise is easy – something your Grandma would do.  In fact standing vertically in water does place less gravitational load on your joints.  However, movement in any direction is resisted. The harder, faster and bigger your movements, the greater the workload.  Holding Power Posture (see previous blog) while exercising in water, requires constant core stabilization.  From warm-up to stretch – the core muscles are working to keep you vertical and steady while your limbs move vigorously against aquatic resistance.IMG_0683

I have read a number of resources, and heard a number of respected presenters state the following: “Water has 12 times the resistance of air“.  This statement is false.  It could be true under a very specific set of circumstances that would have to be carefully defined. The fact is, the resistance we feel when moving in the water depends on a number of variables that are just that: VARIABLE!  I am not a physics major, but did re-visit university physics texts to research the following.  I promise to keep it simple. I’m not a math major either.

Resistance in water (R) is determined using a specific equation that takes into account the variables involved.  Written out, the equation looks like this:

R = Coefficient of Drag x Density of Water x (SOM squared) x Frontal Area

Here is what the variables mean:

Coefficient of drag (C of D):  this is an experimentally determined number that has no units.  C of D is based on how streamlined the object is as it passes through air, water, or any other substance being tested.  For example, a cupped hand pulled through water has a C of D different from a flat hand;  a ball has a different C of D from a stick; a high-tech bathing suit has a lower C of D than a hairy swimmer in a Speedo.  C of D experiments are typically done when testing boat hulls, car shapes, ski suits, etc. to determine how efficiently the object in question cuts through air or water.

Density of water is 1000; density of air is 1.  To give an accurate result, the C of D experiments require knowing the density of the substance you are moving through.  I do not know the density of honey, but a pool full of it would offer a very challenging workout!

Speed of motion (SOM) is the next item in the equation, and it is squared.  Resistance therefore changes exponentially with speed of motion, as the numbers below illustrate:

2 x SOM = 4 x resistance        3 x SOM = 9 x resistance      4 x SOM = 16 x Resistance!

Frontal area meeting the water in the direction of movement, is the last variable to be considered.  An ocean liner has a larger frontal area than a kayak, so requires more power to move it forward.

Resistance = Coefficient of Drag x Density of Water x (SOM squared) x Frontal Area

Look at the equation again.  Following math rules, and knowing accurate information for all the variables is required before you can accurately calculate aquatic resistance!  Even if you can do math well, the variable information is often unknown.

Example: Think about moving your arm forward and backward in the water, standing neck deep.

  • How big is your arm (length, surface area meeting the water, orientation and shape of your hand)?
  • Your arm / hand information involves Coefficient of Drag and Frontal Area variables.
  • Two people standing side-by-side in an aqua fitness class are likely to have very different numbers. Note that we are not factoring in body composition (how much bone, muscle and fat make up your arm).  These factors are not in our equation, but will make a difference regarding how hard or easy it is to pull your arm down, forward or backward in the water.
  • How fast are you moving the arm?  Whatever the speed (if you can find a way of measuring it), you have to square the speed of motion for this equation.
  • Finally (this goes to our next point), how far are you moving the arm?  Are you flexing your shoulder fully so you almost touch the surface in front; extending your shoulder fully so you almost touch the surface of the water behind you?

So far, we’ve just tried to quantify Resistance (load) during aquatic movement.  Work involves another calculation (I know, I know, we’re almost done):

Work = Resistance (force) x ROM (distance)

So, we need the Resistance number, calculated by knowing accurately, all variables listed above, and multiplying R by distance moved.

No wonder it is so hard to quantify work in the water!

This is not from a research paper.  This is from university physics texts re: fluid dynamics.  It’s kind of like the laws of gravity.

5 poundsNotice the aquatic dumbbell picture.* A metal hand-weight has been tied to it to show how much ‘weight’ has to be applied to just submerge the device.  Holding this object in your hand will change the Coefficient of Drag of your hand, as well as the Frontal Area.  You will also have to overcome the buoyancy of the object (5 lb).  Estimating work done when moving this buoyant object through the water must include the above resistance factors and the speed of motion, which will dramatically increase resistance.  Range of motion, multiplied by the Resistance calculation, will determine work done.  I’m tired already, and I haven’t gone to the pool yet!

2013-07-12 10.04.23Aquatic Resistance is wonderful!  It can be impossibly hard or soothingly gentle.  You are resisted in any direction or plane of movement you choose.  If you stop moving, resistance stops immediately.  If you move powerfully, you will be met by equal force.  In short, it is adaptable to whatever purpose you desire.  However, it is not easily quantified.  Therefore, the figure “12X the resistance of air” is frankly, useless.  When you hear this, shake your head and smile – you know better!

*Dumbbell photo credit:  Line Marr

Teaching Power Posture

Two Fool-Proof Habit-Helpers to Achieve Power Posture  

Ultimately, posture is a habit. It reflects our mood, energy levels, health and life history. I have become more and more entrenched in the belief that we can re-educate people (including ourselves) to achieve optimal alignment.  Results require persistence, but the pay off is huge!  Below is a posture script that I have found useful with physiotherapy patients and personal training clients. See what you think.  Your comments are welcome!

Posture education is always the first step with my clients. Please watch: Power Posture demo in the pool. There you will find clear, visual instructions for achieving Power Posture.  Here is the written script:

  • Standing with equal weight on the feet, unlock the knees. Rock the pelvis until you achieve neutral, level pelvis, then stabilize this pelvic alignment by activating the pelvic triad (see below).

Activate the pelvic ‘triad’ to stabilize neutral, level pelvis:

  • Attempt to pull the anterior superior iliac spines (ASIS) together – to tighten transversus abdominis without creating posterior pelvic tilt; without restricting breathing.  Note: “Pull the navel toward the spine” is not used because this cue can result in posterior pelvic tilt and restriction of breathing.
  • Activate the pelvic floor muscles: 3/10 activation intensity of pubo-coccygeal musculature.
  • Lift the anterior ribs slightly away from the ASIS – activating multifidus and other low spinal extensors a comfortable amount.

Establish scapular ‘set’:
• Roll the shoulder blades up, back & down a few times. 
• End with the scapulae in the ‘down’ position.
• “Pull the armpits downward toward the hips” is a useful cue to help clients maintain scapular set.  Note: This is different from pulling the shoulder blades together, which tends to create an undesirable increase in upper thoracic tension.

Retract the cervical spine: 
• Place the index finger in front of the lips like saying “shhhhh”.
• Breathe out making the ‘shhhh’ sound while pulling the lips / head straight back from the index finger.
• Relax 10%.

Ears-over-shoulders-over-hips, breathe!

Creating Better Postural Habits
Ultimately, posture is a habit.  Postural habits depend on a variety of factors, including: genetics, health history, ergonomics, social norms, and mood.  Through experience with clients, I find posture can be re-trained to decrease pain and optimize function.  I have witnessed many patients reduce or eliminate headaches and resolve related shoulder and arm issues by retraining their posture.  After learning Power Posture, here are some tips to help clients re-learn better alignment:

1.     Pre / Post Posture Pictures:  With the client’s permission, a lateral shot is taken on their phone showing their alignment before and after achieving Power Posture.  I suggest they put a print of these pictures in a prominent place where they will see themselves daily.

2.  Stickers: From the dollar store or office supply, get small stickers that can be placed at eye-level in your environment:  corner of the rear-view mirror and computer screen; corner of the cupboard door, filing cabinet or work station, etc.  Every time your eye sees that little happy face or flower or star sticker, take 30 sec to re-adjust your posture as trained.  This builds the habit of Power Posture.

%d bloggers like this: