Spiritually Speaking: The Joys of Water Aerobics

My ideal exercise is water aerobics. I think that I burn as many calories laughing at myself as I do actually doing the exercises. Originally I had my own aerobics routine which combined movements from physical therapy sessions for a bad back along with actual aerobic exercises remembered from the class I took at the High School in Edwards many, many years ago. I hope that you will use up some calories laughing at what I am about to share about the joys of water aerobics.

I used to pick up Mary Jean (Wayering/Hunter) for our weekly class in Edwards. The main thing I remember about the high school pool was that it was COOOOOOOLD! One of the joys of water aerobics is the relief one feels when the heart keeps beating in spite of the shock upon entering that coooooold water. Another joy is that moment when/if one’s body actually adjusts to the temperature and one can stop shivering. It is entirely possible to shiver throughout an entire hour of exercising.

But I am getting ahead of myself regarding these joys. Initially, joy is felt upon successfully putting on a bathing suit. Then there is the challenge of actually entering the pool itself. The pool where I exercise now (the Y in Fulton) has a wonderful little staircase. It is fairly easy to step down into the water gracefully. I have been in pools though where the only option is a step ladder carved into the side. Kids scale this feature with ease. Or they jump in the deep end with great joy and and a total absense of fear.

These wall ladders are not conducive to graceful entrances for someone of my age and stature.Seems to me that the Edwards pool had metal ladders which are a better option than the ones carved into the wall but not as good as the steps I get to use now. I no longer simply jump into any pool. I need a slow entry option. I want to savor that joy of adjusting to the cold gradually. I’m not a kid anymore. There is no longer any joy attached to jumping in the deep end. Another joy in Fulton is that there is no deep end. It is four foot deep all the way across. Still, walking down those steps into the pool is a challenge on days when the arthritis in my knees is acting up. But I digress.

When I first moved to Pennellville, I was overjoyed to discover the Y’s pool. Bonnie Frawley took me on the grand tour of Fulton including a dip in the pool at the Y. (Then we went to lunch at Mama Gina’s) For the first year, I was a regular. Two to three times a week I would work out for an hour, take a dip in the hot tub and treat myself to breakfast on the way home.Then we got snowed in the second winter. There were three weeks when I could not get to Fulton. My workouts got fewer and fewer until I wasn’t going at all. That is, until this summer when the horrible heat and back pain conspired and convinced me it was time to go back.

I used to work out from 7-8 a.m. Now I’m older. I sleep later. When I arrived at 7:30 a.m. expecting to have an hour to work out on my own, I discovered that there was an Aqua Aerobics class which met from 8-9 a.m. on MWF. No problem! I work out on my own for a half-hour, then work out with the class. A major part of the workout is the laughter. Do you know what happens when one places a 10-12 inch diameter ball between one’s legs and tries to move around the pool sideways? That’s what the instructor told us to do. First the ball popped up to the surface and bopped me in the back of the head. I replaced it. A few sidesteps later, it popped out the front and bopped me in the nose. I replaced it and heard the command to go the other way. I don’t know how many times that ball popped out that first day but I’m sure glad there were no video cameras on site. One of the other students shared the secret to success at the next class. Use a small, squishy ball. Don’t go for one of the fully inflated ones. Works like a charm. There’s a little green ball at least three inches smaller than the others that I try to grab before anyone else gets their hands on it. The joy at first was laughing at myself. Now the joy is the satisfaction of making it two complete rounds without losing that ball once!

We move on to using those styrofoam dumbbells. They weigh next to nothing. First we wave them over our head holding them with both hands until my shoulder muscles are screaming for relief. Then we do “up and out” motions, one in each hand until the muscles in my upper arms are screaming as loudly as the shoulder muscles. Phew! A bit of relief as we plunge the two of them with one hand down under the water – first on one side, then the other until a whole other set of muscles is begging for a rest, which we get. Because we’ve started on the legs – downhill ski, cross-country ski, crunches and knee taps. The teacher goes into a whole other routine which requires one’s head to be back in the water – one’s feet are supposed to be poking through the water in front of us. I jog in place and do my own variations. I had a serious ear infection last year. I am not supposed to get water in my ears. I have special ear plugs to wear. But if I wear them during class, I can’t hear the instructions.

Some days we get to play with the stretch bands – a giant-sized rubber band type torture device. After this routine of stretching and pulling, I am seriously wondering if God intended us to do this to our bodies. Other days, we sit and swing on those things called noodles, do leg lifts to the front, to the side, to the back, jump up and down off a lip on the wall of the pool, swish those noodles across the surface of the pool and then hold them over our heads so that they look like a rainbow and stretch to reach Heaven. Until finally, it is time to do the final stretching routine we call “cool down” where we stretch every part of our body that can be stretched – including our thumbs and individual fingers. Phew! We are done for the day. And where is the joy, you may ask?

The joy is that we have passed a profitable hour and our bodies are the better for all that stretching, jumping and squeezing that we have done. There is another joy in my corner of the pool. At least there is on sunny days. The sunlight somehow connects with the overhead light beams and creates a honeycomb design of rainbow lines on the floor of the pool. When my hurting muscles are telling me to quit, those colorful wavy lines of light help me to focus and keep going. It is also a joy to know there are others there sharing the pain and the gain of this class. I will miss the joy of their company and companionship.

The fall schedule moves the class to the 9-10 a.m. spot. I will continue to come in from 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. I will add some of the exercises I have learned to my own routine and do my exercises solo until next summer when the schedule changes back.
I started writing this on August 17th. Remember those 90 degree days? Sorry I missed the deadline these last couple of weeks. It was a challenge to just keep breathing on those days. I did not shower and change out of my suit at the Y. I wore that cold, wet suit home and it kept me cool for hours. What a joy that was! But now the heatwave has passed.

When class ends each day, the joys do not end. There is the challenge of climbing up the stairs to exit the pool. One feels weightless while in the water. When we pull our body up out of that water, it feels like the weight of the world descends upon the shoulders as we adjust to feeling our full weight outside the pool. Then there is the fun part of getting out of the wet bathing suit. It is a challenge getting a dry body into a dry suit. It is equally challenging to get a wet body out of a wet suit. A sense of humor helps a lot. Showering and getting dressed for the real world again entails almost as much effort as it took to exercise for an hour. It is always a joy when street clothes are back in place and we head for the door – happier and healthier than we were when we arrived. Try Aqua Aerobics for yourself! They are good for body and soul! Especially is one is willing to laugh at one’s self.