Pool Spa Life
Pool Spa Life

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Water workout routines

Want to save on the gym membership this spring or simply shed a few unwanted kilos before the festive season starts? These water workouts will get your heart rate up and have you ready for summer in no time.

Owning a swimming pool delivers some of life’s great delights – from taking a dip on a hot summer night when the mercury just won’t drop through to spending close times with family and friends while you celebrate special events.

One of the most significant (yet largely unsung) benefits is that you can exercise whenever you like without leaving the privacy of your own home. All you need is a bit of motivation and some basic moves to get you started.

Working out in water is a great all-round form of exercise that delivers the best of both worlds – it’s a fabulous cardio kicker that also uses water resistance to help build strength. The inbuilt buoyancy makes it a great option for anyone recovering from injury or with conditions that makes working out on land difficult.

Simple routines deliver full-body results

Despite the obvious benefits, somewhere along the line, water aerobics was unfairly labelled as exercise for ‘people of a certain age’, to put it politely.  The inference being that it wasn’t a ‘proper’ workout at all, just a bit of kicking and hand waving for seniors.

If you’ve done any lifesaving training, or learnt water survival techniques, you already know there’s nothing ‘soft’ about exercising in water. With just a few simple moves, it’s easy to get a full body workout a few times a week, progressing when you feel like you are ready to take on more.

Start with the basics and progress as you can

The size, shape and depth of your pool will have a bit of influence on the types of exercises you can perform and the equipment you may want to use. When starting out though, you can probably get away with nothing more than goggles and a swim cap and see how you feel as things progress.   

Walking…and running

Walking may seem like a pretty simple exercise, but it’s a lot harder in water than it is on dry land. Start in the shallow end of the pool at about waist height. When you step, try to keep pressure on your heels – you’ll have to fight a natural inclination to walk on your tiptoes. Hold your core tight and keep your arms by your side, moving them in the water as you walk. Using both arms and legs will help get your heart rate up and get you into a fat burning zone.

Start out slow and aim for about five minutes duration. Once you feel more confident you can move into deeper water – staying at about chest height – and continue on for about ten minutes.

There are other ways to progress, both with or without equipment. If you want to keep it simple, extend your arms out the side (with palms facing out) to increase resistance as you move through the water. If you’re keen to add equipment, use some ankle or wrist weights or even hold on to a set of aquatic dumbbells – you can get your hands on most of these options for as little as $20 or $30 a pair.

If you really want to take up a notch, and your heart can take the extra pace, try running. You don’t even need to move through the water for this one to have effect. Running on the spot in waist high water will definitely let you know you’re alive. Remember to connect your heels with the pool floor and stay off your tiptoes to get the full effect.

Star jumps and jump squats

The classic star jump – or jumping jack – will never let you down as a cardio exercise. Start in chest high water with your legs together and arms down by your sides. Jump your legs out to the side while bringing your arms up over your head in the classic motion. Reverse the move, returning your legs back together and arms by your sides. Try to keep the movement fluid and repeat about 10 or 12 times in total. Once you feel ready to take it up a notch, you can increase the number of sets (say, three sets of 10 repetitions) or add wrist or ankle weights.

Jump squats in the pool are a great lower body workout. Start with your feet hip width apart and squat down under the water. Jump up out of the water as high as you can. Repeat six to eight times and add ankle weights when it feels too easy.

Leg kicks

This one requires nothing more than the pool edge to get going and will work both your leg muscles and your core. Hold the pool edge and kick your legs as though you are using a kick board. Continue for around one minute then swap to a different kick – breaststroke, dolphin, scissor – any kick you can think of and are comfortable doing. Keep each of them up for around a minute, continuing till you’ve done five minutes in total. You can make this one harder by adding ankle weights.

Arm lifts

Arm lifts in water are a fantastic way to build up strength, using resistance. You’ll probably want a set of dumbbells for these two exercises.

The first focuses on arm, chest and back muscles. Stand shoulder deep in the water with your arms by your side, holding the dumbbells if you are using them and palms facing your thighs. Raise your arms to shoulder height, keeping them straight and forming a ‘T’ shape with your body. Hold for a second or two and slowly release. Repeat twelve times. Progress to three sets of twelve when you feel ready.

The second arm lift targets different arm muscles and also works best with dumbbells. Again, in shoulder deep water, hold the dumbbells at your side, though this time with palms facing up. Pull your arms up to the water level, rotate your wrist to turn your palms down and lower to the starting position. Repeat twelve times and progress to three sets of twelve repetitions.

Stay safe

While working out at home is a convenient option, that should never be at the expense of your comfort and, most importantly, safety. Always check with your doctor or health care professional before embarking on a new exercise regime. If you are not a confident swimmer, you should definitely consider an alternate exercise form. At the very outside, stick to the shallow end, wear a buoyancy vest or similar and ensure that someone is nearby in case you need assistance.

Contrary to what you would expect, it’s easy to dehydrate when exercising in water, as the environment masks the fact you are losing fluids through sweat. Keep a non-breakable water bottle in easy reach and make sure to take regular rest breaks. Stop if you feel dizzy, nauseous, faint, have trouble breathing or experience any chest pains or dull aches.  

These workout tips are just the beginning and there’s tones of information available online to give you more ideas. You can find programs and exercises to target specific body areas or to concentrate on your individual goals, including videos and diagrams to step you through each exercise and to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout.

Happy swimming!

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