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A Safe and Effective Shallow H20 Warm Up

Taking the time to prepare a successful and safe warm up is key for exercise safety and efficacy. The first 5-10 minutes of any program should orient the Instructor to their group as well as make the group feel both comfortable and ready for the workout.     

An Instructor should avoid fast tracking the warm up for several reasons 
1) movement lubricates the joints with synovial fluid) to alleviate pain and discomfort and gets the body adapted to the water temperature.

2) movement engages the large muscles to maintain and increase body heat to keep participants warm & happy. The goal is to start warm and stay warm.

3) movement gives people the opportunity to adapt  their balance and gait which changes as they move from gravity on land to the buoyancy and resistance of water.

The warm up  is a very important part of a class because everyone needs to understand the exercise goals and be able to follow the moves to work at their personal self paced intensity. Warming up thoroughly will prevent injury and confusion.  Taking the time to gradually increase range of motion and mobility will not only help people to "get into " the program this will allow clients to feel how the water is unique to land movement especially balance.  

This preparation time will help the class review or learn a variety of basic movements such as, walking with correct foot movement, kicking with arms in opposition, ankle touches front and behind the body, side rock (short or long levers), forward and backwards rock.  Using simple walking patterns and other basic moves will help to  orient the mind and prepare the joints, muscles and heart for the workout to follow.

Typically people with a variety of health histories, skill levels, fitness levels attend any given class. Some have been there for years and some for minutes. That is why it is so important to let everyone move  and adapt to their own movement speed and intensity. All movement patterns in a warm up should be performed at a lesser intensity and speed than during the workout. The goal is to help the group "get ready" and organized and not overwhelm nor burn them out. Letting your group move at their personal  best "water " speed is key for gradually learning the coordination and technique of the movements. Some people take 4-6 repetitions to even learn a new movement so helping them know the basics is key to success. Additionally, allow everyone to perform as many repetitions as they feel  will benefit their body. Performing too many repetitions of the same movement or adding muscular overloads in the warm up defeats the purpose of the warm-up.

Reviewing a variety of movement  in different movement planes as well as different directions will safely
prepare the body and the mind for the workout section which is generally 20-40 minutes depending on total duration of class.

WaterART Fitness divides the warm  up into three sections (and the first two are generally mandatory)

1) The Buoyancy Warm Up helps participants transition from land ( working with gravity) to water ( using buoyancy and resistance as well as many other unique properties of water). Essentially upward movements on land are made easy with buoyancy. The new client must learn to handle the water and work against the multi-dimensional resistance and the currents which challenge their balance. Balance is transferred to the feet and although water feels effortless at first - the currents and resistance may literally sweep someone off their feet. Another consideration is water temperature. Cooler water requires more movement to engage the large lower body muscles.  An Instructor must move people as soon as they get into the pool and not allow them to stand around and talk.  If water is 90 Fahrenheit or the equivalent  of 30 Celsius  the program design should be slower using  less mobility and more stationary exercises. There is no way to dissipate heat if the water and air  temperatures are too warm.  Here skills such walking and taking a  body check, sculling  for balance and simple stretching moves can be introduced.

2) The Cardiovascular Warm Up prepares the heart and lungs gradually to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Gradually increasing intensity helps the heart to pump the blood to the heart and regulate breathing. In terms of intensity, participants should work light to moderate or 3-5 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE scale). A key area to focus on is working positions to help participants choose their impact and intensity levels throughout the workout. Illustrating how to work intensely but without impact is the benefit of water training especially for older adults with joint issues. This is the time for the modified rebound and neutral working positions to be reviewed. Traveling movements are also important to review (at a lesser intensity) so that everyone may understand how and where to move in a class. Especially traveling backwards and sideways will help to naturally stretch and balance the body to prevent overuse patterns utilized on land. Groups should learn how to look behind or beside them to prevent bumping into other people or walls. In doing so, this will create a movement awareness to additionally help balance and proprioception.The CV  warm up component may be eliminated if water temperature is too warm or there is no cardiovascular component with exercise. In that instance just add more mobility warm up time.


3) The Joint Mobility Warm Up is especially important for older adults with joint issues. Taking the time to move with a smaller range of motion (ROM) to larger range of motion with all joints. Synovial fluid is released in the joint with more movement, so helps to nourish the joint. That is why exercise often helps someone feel better than just sitting all day. Joint mobility, although important may be performed after the buoyancy warm up or omitted depending on clientele and water temperature. In cooler water you may want to omit the joint warm up  after the cardio warm up whereas in a pool with warmer water and with older clientele you need to include lots of joint mobility to complete a safer warm up and preparation of the body.

There are always many considerations with clientele and environment that the Instructor should consider and keeping the warm up simple yet interesting. and, most importantly, welcoming.  This is the time to get to know your clients, their goals  and teach skills and drills to help people to become more proficient  and motivated to move. Helping inspire your group to exercise regularly will be one of the greatest things an instructor can aspire to. Start on time, stay on time and take the time to help everyone prepare their body and mind while working within a group comprising of  varieties of skills, personalities and fitness levels. Ultimately, this will help  to create a positive and meaningful experience for regular attendance and participation.


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