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Checklist of Questions to Help Organize a Successful Program
Preparing to teach an aquatic fitness class may be a challenging process. An instructor often does not have a sign up record nor access to everyone’s health history or assessment results. Successful aquatic programming requires a basic understanding of the properties of water, how to use the water to its best advantage and why each movement is being used in a program. A Certified Instructor needs to constantly check how to design programs that are more effective and safe for a variety of people coming to any given program. Also, the instructor needs to feel confident that he/she has made the appropriate choices for their clientele.
The following simple checklist can help to organize thing to think about prior to teaching any group.
  1.  How is the class advertized? Seniors, Arthritis, Athletes, Beginners, or a combination?
  2. What is the main purpose of the exercise program? Is the program to have fun OR to help people change their lives for the better to gain results and improve well being?
  3. What skills do the participants have or need to learn? Teaching swimmers versus non-swimmers is very different. It is far more challenging for a non-swimmer to get into the water than for someone already comfortable in the water. Non swimmers who are not comfortable may also lack the skills required to take part in a large class because the turbulence and currents created by so many people may be too overwhelming for them. They may be better off to start with a smaller group or even one on one training.
  4. What properties of water are utilized and how do they affect program design? Too many programs are offered as water “Aerobics” and, because the word aerobic is equated with jumping for high energy, it ends up as a land program dumped in the water. This does not work. Water has many properties which should be utilized to optimize exercise design as well as offer the protection of water.
  5. What is the temperature of the pool? Working in a cool pool is very different to a hot or warm water pool. Everyone thermal-regulates differently. To be comfortable in water a person will need to feel sufficiently warm to move without shivering. Always ask people are they comfortable with the water & air temperature. Explain the necessity to move to generate heat.  Often, people will require more clothes or thermal wear if they do not have the muscle mass to generate a comfortable body temperature.
  6. Are the planned movements biomechanically safe? Effective? Functional? All exercises and movements need to be designed with purpose in mind. An instructor should always know what component of fitness they are training and how to design the movements to meet the exercise goal.
  7. Are the movements appropriate for the skill and fitness level of the clientele? Advanced moves require advanced skills and coordination. Breaking down each movement to a basic movement or pattern then gradually adding progressions for the skills required to meet the intensity is a good formula for success.
8.   What, if any, equipment is required to progress or adapt the program?
Ø       To progress, participants need to develop appropriate levels of muscular strength and endurance FIRST.
Ø       Large range of motion movements should be executed at one-half to one-third of land speed to take advantage of the law of action and reaction.
Ø       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 FUNCTIONAL! Functional movement in the water needs to relate to how we move on land where the body functions as a weight bearing unit. Demonstration for the water must be slowed down to allow for each movement to be completed through a correct ROM  
Ø       Do not sacrifice ROM to SPEED. Going faster and doing less range of motion (ROM) will utilize little functional muscle work. A fit muscle is a long and strong muscle (not short and tight). Always increase ROM prior to increasing speed. That way the exercise design will maintain function and intensity.
Ø       Do not compromise posture and form to increased resistance. If you see someone using a sloppy move or in bad body alignment in the water assume that they may not have the core strength to maintain their posture. In this instance an instructor should decrease resistance and regain posture.
Ø       Programs should include travel. Travelling is the best way to increase intensity. Large classes may often have to utilize resistance patterns that allow people to move through or around each other. For example, one group is placed on one side of the pool and the other half on the other side and then they change sides. This creates inertia currents that moves with the group as they move away from the wall, and then against the group as they pass in the middle. In this instance the arms should be cued to assist or resist travel to help balance the movement as intensity is increased. .
Ø       Buoyancy can assist rest or increase work in water. It aids limb movements toward the surface, thereby requiring less work, and resists downward movements, thereby creating more work.
Ø       Buoyancy 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.
Ø       Balance loading and unloading the body and check what you are planning to target. The more ways the body and muscles train – the better! For example: Using a variety of working positions such as suspended or neutral (where more water surrounds the body) will require the use of the transverses abdominus and core muscles; whereas a rebounding move utilizes more lower body muscles but  there is little core engagement.
All programs should apply the principle of progressive overload. Overload refers to the level of stress imposed on the physiological systems involved. For training adaptation to occur, the system must be systematically stressed slightly more than it is accustomed to. Using too much intensity too soon – may injure a person or turn them off exercise because they are sore or overly challenged.
The best formula is to vary the methods of progressive overloads and utilize a variety of exercise and techniques.
Applying the concept of progressive overload for cardiovascular endurance requires increasing the exercise intensity, duration, and/or frequency. The best way to train cardiovascular progressive overloads is to work primarily lower body movements and change muscle groups or movement planes prior to muscular fatigue. Individuals should be cued to work at an intensity where they feel the work increases their breathing and raises the HR to a suitable level.
Conversely, sets for muscular conditioning exercise sets should focus on targeting specific muscular function as opposed to overloading the breathing. Each muscle group should be trained specific to their muscular joint action – and for stretching work to release the muscle and lengthen the muscle. For muscular endurance and strength try to work the muscles against the buoyancy of the water so that the localized muscle feels fatigue.   Stretch the tight muscles twice as much as the weak muscles and strengthen the loose or lax muscles twice as much as the already strong muscles.
Posture, balance, agility, function and stability also need to be incorporated to all programs for a balanced program. No one training “routine” may train all the components of fitness necessary to health and well-being –so assume that you may need to change up the exercise design constantly to incorporate all elements of training into a program.
Special Thanks to the Above Group - from the recent training in Halifax, NS at Soryfield Wave Pool
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