New instructors coming to water fitness generally fall into one of several categories:
those who have spent years teaching fitness on land
those who have had experience teaching swimming or life guarding
those who wish to graduate from participant to instructor
those who come from another discipline but wish to add water fitness to their career options
Former land instructors have to relearn the use of musculature using the properties of water and the protection of water. Working against buoyancy in place of gravity, will change the speed of their movements and how they instruct. To help fast track their skills land instructors need to get in the water to learn the differences between land and water fitness.
Former swim instructors have to adjust to the vertical exercise design in place of horizontal movement. They will need to learn basic exercise science and how the body works to create a well balanced fitness program. Additionally, they will have to learn teaching methods incorporating the resistance of water in place of using the least resistance or streamlining of swimming.
The former participant must now learn to lead a class instead of following an instructor and they have a lot of experience with what parts of a class they like and what parts they would like to change. Understanding exercise science much like the swim instructor may be the most challenging part of teaching a class.
The newcomer must start from scratch.
All instructors must maintain their standard of care and liability protection by completing a certification and standardized competency exams. Realizing that exercise design is constantly changing because of research and a changing clientele is critical. Also, that no one size fits all class is possible for the many populations needing fitness for a healthy lifestyle. Also realizing there are huge differences in instructing a swimmer or skilled individual versus a non skilled or non swimmer is the most challenging task of all –as typically they end up in a general group exercise program. Shallow water design helps to best accommodate this diverse clientele that shows up to a pool program.
Preparing to teach an aquatic fitness class is always a challenging process for all these instructors. Successful aquatic programming always requires safe, effective and enjoyable exercise design to meet a very diverse population.
The instructor needs to feel confident that he/she has made the appropriate choices for their clientele.
Following a simple checklist of questions can help organize this task:
- Who is the exercise program for? Skilled or non skilled?
- What is the purpose of the exercise program? Weight management, sports specific, fun, toning, function, etc
- What skills do the participants have or need to learn? Sculling, posture, recovery from a fall, etc.
- What properties of water are utilized and how do they affect program design?
- What is the temperature of the pool? Is the body able to thermo regulate?
- Are the planned movements biomechanically safe? Effective? Functional?
- Are the movements appropriate for the skill and fitness level of the clientele?
- What, if any, equipment is required to progress or adapt the program?
To progress, participants need to develop appropriate levels of muscular strength and endurance FIRST.
Large range of motion movements should be executed at one-half to one-third of land speed to take advantage of action/reaction.
Small, fast movements merely engaging isometric muscle contractions give a false sense of work because heart rates increase and muscles burn out. This is not the functional way we move. The goal of aquatic exercise is to help improvement on land.
Do not sacrifice range of motion to speed of movement
Do not compromise posture and form to increased resistance.
Travel should be included in every program. An instructor can cue arms to assist, resist or balance each movement depending upon the program level.
Use buoyancy to create more rest or increase the work in water. Buoyancy aids all upward movement (bringing arms and legs toward the surface), which requires less work, and resists downward movements, thereby creating more work. Buoyant equipment amplifies these effects.
For example: compare a standing biceps curl using a dumbbell on land with the same exercise using a foam dumbbell in water. The “overload” for curl on land is working against gravity on the upward movement – the curl in the water is assisted with buoyancy. Therefore, to receive any strengthening overload, it is important to understand that the start position for the curl must be changed in the water to engage the muscles against the buoyant resistance.
All programs needs variety using suitable body and working positions to optimize function as well as to protect joints from wear and tear. Always use a balance of loading, or weight bearing exercise and unloading (non weight bearing) to create challenge and allow participants the opportunity to work at their best level.
P.S Photo is a new group of instructors from St. Mary's Ontario. Pam Genge is teaching the session. Her daughter Emily is her third family member to become Certified. Way to go Emily !!!