Holiday Ideas for Your Class

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There is a lot to do during the holiday season: shopping, wrapping presents, decorating, baking, holiday parties and more. You know your water fitness class participants need to maintain their exercise routine to help them manage the holiday stress, but sometimes exercise moves near the bottom of their priority list. Try some of the following ideas to make your water fitness class more festive and encourage everyone to keep coming:

Holiday Music. Break out some holiday music to get everyone in a festive mood. All the fitness music companies have Christmas music playlists for sale. Check out:

(1) Super Happy Xmas Step (128-130 BPM) and Xmas Buzz (135 BPM) at Yes Fitness Music www.yesfitnessmusic.com.

(2) Tis The Season – Best of Christmas Hits Remixed (130 BPM) and Christmas Hits Remixed (135 BPM) at Power Music www.powermusic.com.

(3) Core Christmas Volume 2 (128 BPM) and Christmas in Motion 3 (135 BPM) at Muscle Mixes www.musclemixes.com.

Holiday Themed Games and Activities. Add fun activities at the end of your fitness routine to have everyone laughing and looking forward to the next class. Here are two ideas:

(1) Holiday Obstacle Course – Create an obstacle course with the pool equipment you have on hand, giving it a holiday theme. Station One: Have a participant begin by cross-country skiing to the North Pole, using either drag equipment or foam dumbbells. Station Two: Tie 3 noodles in a triangle to serve as a Christmas tree and have a bucket of small balls nearby. The participant throws the balls into the triangle to “decorate the tree.” Station Three: The participant picks up a paddle or a foam dumbbell and uses it to “stir up the Christmas cookie dough.” Station Four: The participant runs to 3 “elves” who are holding 3 balls. The participant helps in the toy shop by tossing the balls a set number of times back and forth to each elf. Station Five: The participant picks up 2 noodles and puts the ends of each noodle under an arm with the opposite ends sticking out in back. “Santa grabs the free ends and takes a seated position. The participant now takes the place of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and pulls Santa’s sleigh to the finish line. If your class is large, half of the participants can man the stations while the other half runs through the obstacle course; then the two groups
change places. If your class is small, have all your participants (but one) man the stations while the “contestant” runs the course. Then that person will take the place of another participant who will take a turn running the course.

(2) Sleigh Races – Have your class members partner up. One partner can be Rudolph and the other Santa. Rudolph then pulls the sleigh as in the obstacle course above, racing with all the other sleighs in the class. After one team wins the race, Rudolph will take a turn being Santa, and Santa will become Rudolph, and the teams race again.

Costumes. This is the perfect time to wear your red swim suit, a Santa hat, a Frosty the Snowman top hat, a red nose or a hat with reindeer antlers.

Holiday Gifts. Show your appreciation for your class by giving them each a small gift. If you are an H20 Wear AquaPRO, you can get coupons for your participants worth 10% off their first purchase of a swim suit. Contact them at H20_mail@h2owear.com to request coupons or to become an AquaPRO member. Some other gift ideas include a Clementine tangerine, a tree ornament, a peppermint candy cane, a Christmas cookie, a package of hot cocoa mix or some kind of homemade goodie. Here is an easy recipe if you would like to make your own treats:

Peppermint Crunch Puppy Chow

Ingredients: 5 cups Rice Chex, 10 ounces melting white chocolate, 1 cup crushed candy canes, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Pour the cereal into a large bowl. Melt white chocolate according to the package directions. Pour melted chocolate over cereal, stirring and folding until the cereal is completely covered. Fold in crushed candy canes.

Pour the confectioners’ sugar into a zipped-top bag. Pour the cereal mix in next. Seal the bag and shake until all the cereal is coated with the confectioners’ sugar. Discard excess powdered sugar.

Divide the puppy chow into individual bags and tie with a ribbon.

Merry Christmas!

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Chris Alexander

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Rubberized Equipment

Bands and tubing, used for resistance training in land exercise, have made their way into the aquatic environment. Chlorine is hard on rubberized equipment, but chlorine resistant bands and tubing are now available. It prolongs their life to rinse them in fresh water after every use, but even so you have to inspect them for deterioration before using them with your class.

Many of the same exercises done with rubberized equipment on land can be done in the pool. The equipment has to be anchored to something and the resistance is in pulling away from the anchor point. In the water, the anchor is usually another body part, such as the opposite hand or a foot. When designing exercises you have to consider whether the body position is practical in the water (for example, a reclining position will not work), whether your participants can maintain good alignment with the exercise, and whether your participants are able to attach the band to a body part that is under water. Bands can be tied in a loop and placed around the ankles for leg exercises, but I am not a big fan of that. Some people have difficulty getting the loop around the ankles for one thing, and the instructor has to untie all the knots after class. You can buy a set of flat bands and a set of loops to solve one of those problems. If your participants have difficulty getting a loop around their ankles you can get tubing instead. It is fairly easy to put your foot through the handles of the tubing, and the tubing is also long enough that you can step on it while holding the ends in your hands. The down side is that tubing is significantly more expensive than the bands. I use the bands and focus mainly on exercises for the upper body.

When using bands for the upper body in shallow water, the participant is usually in a stable lunge or squat position. In deep water, often you have to perform a stabilizing leg movement, such as jog, cross-country ski or jumping jacks while focusing on the arms. Here are some band exercises you can try:

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 Bowstring Pull                                                                       Works the trapezius and rhomboids                         Lunge position in shallow water                                     Cross-country ski in deep water

 

Chris arm press-down band     Chris arm press-down band deep

One Arm Press-Down                      Works the latissimus dorsi and posterior deltoids                              Lunge position in shallow water         Jog in deep water

 

 

Chest Press                                                                                                                                        Put the band around the upper back, hold the ends in the hands and push forward   Works the pectoralis major                                                                                                                 Squat position in shallow water                                                                                                         Jumping jacks in deep water

Chris shoulder raise band     Chris shoulder raise band deep

Arm Lift to Sides                                Works the medial deltoids                   Stand on one foot with band under the other thigh in shallow water             Seated position with band under thighs in deep water

 

Arm Curl                                                                                                                                              In the same position as for arm lift to sides, hold the ends of the band with palms up Works the biceps

Chris open door band     Chris open door band deep                                                          Elbow Sweep Out                              Works the triceps                                 Squat position in shallow water    Jumping jacks in deep water – extend the elbow as the feet come together

 

 

Forearm Press                                                                                                                               Hold the ends of the bands with the elbows down by the waist and pull apart               Works the rotator cuff                                                                                                                    Squat position in shallow water                                                                                               Jumping jacks in deep water – pull the ends apart as the feet come together

For information about how to modify these exercises, see my book Water Fitness Progressions. The book can be ordered from Human Kinetics (the publisher) or from Amazon.com. Just click on whichever source you wish to order from and the link will take you there.

Chris Book Cover    IMG_4509

See you in the pool!

Chris Alexander

More about Noodles

Noodles from Book   Noodle Hydrofit

Noodles are popular in water fitness. Often we think of using noodles for support during suspended exercises in shallow water. Of course we can do those same exercises without a noodle in deep water because we are already supported by a deep water belt. In both shallow and deep water noodles can also be used as a piece of buoyant resistance equipment. Buoyant means that the equipment floats toward the water’s surface. Buoyant equipment is only offering resistance when you are plunging it toward the pool floor.

The colorful noodles available at most pools do not offer a great deal of resistance making them ideal for beginners and for whenever you plan to do many repetitions of an exercise.  When greater resistance is desired, some people tie the noodle in a knotNoodle Knot to increase its surface area. I am not a big fan of that because it makes the noodle curly and useless for any other purpose. A better option is to use the larger more dense foam noodles available from Hydro-Fit. You can also progress to using foam dumbbells instead of noodles.

Since the resistance of a noodle occurs only when you are plunging it toward the pool floor, you need to be aware that you can only work one muscle of a muscle pair with this equipment. Hold the noodle in both hands with the palms facing up and perform an arm curl. You might think you are training the biceps, because that is what you would be training with weighted dumbbells in the gym. But the noodle wants to float to the surface anyway, so you are not using the biceps at all. Pull the noodle down toward the floor as if you are lowering weighted dumbbells and you are using the triceps, because the noodle is resisting that downward movement. Since the “arm curl” works the triceps, I prefer to turn the palms down (which puts less stress on the fingers), press the noodle toward the floor and call the exercise a “triceps extension.” The triceps contract concentrically in this exercise. If you slow down the noodle’s flotation toward the surface of the water, the triceps work eccentrically. If you wish to work the biceps, you may need to use a different kind of equipment.

Noodle resistance exercises can be performed with the noodle held in both hands (make sure the hands are shoulder distance apart), with the noodle held in one hand, and with the noodle under one foot. Some examples of strength training exercises you can do in shallow water with the noodles are:

  1. The chest press is shown in the Hydro-Fit drawing above. The exerciser is performing a rocking horse along with the chest press.
  2. The lat-pull down is being demonstrated by the instructor on the deck. The noodle is held in one hand extended to the side and is pressed down toward the floor.
  3. The squat is shown in the picture with a Hydro-Fit noodle. The noodle is being held down with the hands while the squat is performed, resisting the downward phase of the squat.

Shallow-water exercises with noodles need to be modified for deep water. For example, you cannot perform a rocking horse in deep water. However, you can do a chest press while leaning forward 45 degrees. A flutter kick in this position may help you stabilize while focusing on the pectoral muscles of the chest. Jog while performing the lat pull-down. The noodle will force you to travel sideways creating a challenge for the core muscles to maintain neutral posture while the lats are being trained. You cannot do squats in deep water, but you can place the noodle under one foot and perform a standing leg press.

For a chart showing which muscles are being trained with various exercises using buoyant equipment, see my new book Water Fitness Progressions. The book also contains lesson plans using noodles for both shallow water and deep water classes. The book can be ordered from Human Kinetics (the publisher) or from Amazon.com. Just click on whichever source you wish to order from and the link will take you there. Another resource for exercises with noodles is The Noodle Workout which is available from Hydro-Fit. Click on the Hydro-Fit link to order the booklet.

Have fun with your noodles! See you in the pool!

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Chris Alexander

 

Water Fitness Progressions

fullsizeoutput_1e57   I like my class participants. Over the years I’ve heard about their families, their pets, their challenges, and which of my playlists they like. They are more than just class participants, they are friends. I want them to get a good, safe, effective workout every time they come to my class. I don’t want to bore them with the same old routines. I want to challenge them to progress in their levels of fitness. I want to help them make their hearts stronger, to give them an opportunity to improve their muscular endurance, to challenge them mentally, and I want them to have fun doing it.

This means I have to keep learning. That’s why I attend conferences, workshops, and webinars and read water fitness books and articles. One of the things I’ve been looking for is a system for offering progressions. One system that I learned about is periodization. It’s a training tool used by athletes to help them be in the best possible shape during the most challenging season of their sport. Periodization divides the year into 4 seasons, Preseason, Transition Season, Peak Fitness Season and Active Recovery. Why not use this tool to train for the sport of daily living?

My experiments with periodization have become the basis for my new book, Water Fitness Progressions, which has just been published.

Chris Book Cover

Each season has its own focus. In the Preseason we focus on improving posture, performing the exercises with good form, increasing range of motion, doing low intensity intervals, and using the properties of water to create overload. In the Transition Season we improve the quality of our movement by paying attention to how the arms and legs move the water, increase interval training to moderate intensity, and add equipment to sessions of strength training. In Peak Fitness Season we focus on increasing power, performing high intensity interval training (HIIT) and using both concentric and eccentric muscle actions in our strength training with equipment. In Active Recovery we give our bodies a chance to repair any microtrauma that may have occurred during the previous months. We do light cardio-respiratory training, core strength training and have fun activities such as games or relay races to provide a mental break.

The book explains how to do all of this, complete with lesson plans. Each interval lesson plan has 3 versions, a low intensity version, a moderate intensity version and a high intensity (HIIT) version. There are strength training lesson plans using various properties of the water, using buoyant and drag equipment, and focusing on eccentric muscle actions. There is also a section of fun activities.

Thanks to the American College of Sports Medicine, the Aquatic Exercise Association, Pauline Ivens and Stephanie Thielen, who all provided some of the ideas used in this book. My special thanks goes to my water fitness classes, who are my inspiration. The book can be ordered from Human Kinetics (the publisher) or from Amazon.com. Just click on whichever source you wish to order from and the link will take you there.

See you in the pool!

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Chris Alexander

Pool Tools: Noodles

Noodles

Back when I started teaching water fitness in the early 1990’s, the only equipment we had was milk jugs, which we held under our arms for support during suspended exercises.

Milk jug  Milk jug  What was wrong with that? Plenty! When the body is suspended from milk jugs, the shoulders are unacceptably loaded, the tendons are pinched, and nerve damage may occur in the arm pits (Ivens and Holder, Do No Harm, 2011). Fortunately, today we have better equipment options.

One of the oldest and most popular options is the pool noodle. It is inexpensive (around $3 to $5 each) which means most facilities can afford them, and there are many ways to use them. One way is to use them under our arms for support during suspended exercises, just as we did with the jugs. But if we hang from noodles under our arm pits, we risk the same shoulder, tendon and nerve damage that occurred with the milk jugs. To avoid that risk, position the noodle below the shoulder blades with the arms resting on top of the noodle in a position called “posterior sling.”                                                                                                                                                                         Adam noodle kick

In this position, we can do kicks from the knees, flutter kicks, bicycle, leg press, seated jacks and ankle flexion. Alternate the legs or work only one leg. The kick from the knee, bicycle, leg press and ankle flexion can be performed with the legs in unison.  For the core muscles, you can do a seated waist twist, and recline backward for crunches.

Sit on the noodle like a swing to do most of those same exercises, and you have added a balance challenge because this position is less stable. You can not do crunches sitting on the noodle like a swing, but you can hike the hip side to side to work the obliques. Try holding on to the noodle with both hands, with just one hand or with arms extended to the sides. Place the arms inside the noodle or outside the noodle for arm movements. Sweep one arm either out or in to turn in a circle.

Kathy straddle noodle

When greater stability is desired, straddle the noodle as if riding a bicycle. All the leg movements you do with the noodle in a posterior sling can be done while straddling the noodle, including reclining for crunches. Squeeze the noodle between the knees to add resistance on the waist twist. Try crossing the ankles and using the arms only. Now you can row, do the breaststroke or reverse breaststroke, unison arm swing, clap hands, and rotator cuff sweep. Bicycle with both the arms and the legs. Bicycle races are a fun way to end a class.

More on noodles in my next post. See you in the pool!

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Chris Alexander