Why and How I Started My Own
by Mark Canterbury
With experience as a coach and an undeniable passion for the water, Mark Canterbury decided to start his own Masters club. Building a club from the ground up can be intimidating, but Mark welcomed the challenge with open arms. Mark provides his personal account of why and how he started his own Masters program and offers you a checklist of "to-do's" to start your own Masters program...
Why and How I Started My Own Masters Program by Mark Canterbury
April 26, 2009
The water has always drawn me back. Having been a competitive swimmer for so many years of my life and coaching Masters and collegiately at Southern Illinois University in addition to coaching with Mecklenburg Aquatic Club, the water became a part of me. I was always drawn back in some way or another. This draw is what finally got me to found Water Exercise Technologies. W.E.T. is dedicated to the fulfillment of life, happiness and health through exercise in the water. With three factions of W.E.T. established; the wide range of aquatic classes, the aquatic therapy and rehab, and the private swimming lessons for adults and kids, the fourth and final component was the incorporation of a Masters club.
Why did I want to start my OWN Masters club? Well, after having been around Masters swimming for most of my life, and after having been involved with it myself for a number of years, I developed an idea of how I thought one should be run. I wanted to establish it and then grow it with my own ideals in mind without having to adhere to any policies a club or facility might impose. It was important for me to have this not just be another program but something that offers quality and consistency. So, yes, I was going to start my OWN club from scratch.
The first thing I had to do was find a venue. Having already nurtured a good relationship with TC Donahue at the Winter Park Racquet Club through my work with W.E.T., I decided to start there. I observed that there were several swimmers that would come and work out on their own, so I approached them first and asked if they'd be interested in having a Masters group at the club. Having found that there was a definite interest, I went to TC and proposed having the Masters club there. I was interested to hear that he too had been approached by a few members as well, so he was most enthusiastic and open to the idea. Great! I now had a pool as well as a few swimmers to get started with. Now what do I do?
Having talked to several of the potential swimmers, I had already gotten a feel for the best times to hold workouts to ensure that I started with a sufficient amount of swimmers to make it cost-effective for me, so the initial workout schedule was set as well. Now to register the club. I contacted the LMSC to go about the process of doing all the necessary paperwork and was surprised to find that it was relatively easy. But here is where I hit my first snag.
Once I had sent the initial paperwork in, I didn't hear anything. I didn't know what the next step was or even if there was anything else I needed to do. Which leads me to my biggest advice for anyone wanting to start up their own Masters club: DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP! I decided to turn over every stone I knew, and I decided to start with my dad, Kirk Canterbury.
My dad had been involved in Masters for as long as I knew and I knew he had lots of connections. I had no idea the connections he had though. Next thing I knew, I got a call from Mel Goldstein, the national director of club development for USMS. Apparently my dad called Rob Butcher, who in turn called Mel. Mel was nothing short of AMAZING! He has a WEALTH of information and experience that is an invaluable resource to be able to tap into. He answered all my questions. Not only that, but he offered to fly down at no expense to me and help me set it up!
So Mel arrived, we picked him up from the hotel and brought him to the club so he could see firsthand what we were working with. Upon stepping out of the car and seeing the location, his jaw just about hit the ground! He was staring at the lake that sat not 20 yards from the pool. Beautiful Lake Maitland. He said he was looking at a gold mine! He asked if I was going to offer open water swimming. I told him that I had thought about doing some every now and then, but he said that if I offered regular open water swims along with the regular pool workouts, I would have something very few Masters clubs had and the swimmers would flock to partake. Well, guess what? Added to the schedule was regular open water training swims three days a week.
Now I had everything I needed. I had the pool (and lake). I had some swimmers. I had the club registered. Now I just had to get the word out to grow the club. But that's the subject of another article.
If you're looking to start your own Masters club, here's a short checklist:
- Find a venue. Local Y's are a good place to look. Also, any area clubs that have pools. A lot of them are just looking for ways to get usage up.
- Talk it up and have a few swimmers ready to go when you are. It's much easier to grow interest when people see a group (even if its only three to five people) enjoying a workout together.
- Register the club with your Local Master Swimming Committee (LMSC). It's easy and very inexpensive.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. The swimming community is a tight-knit group! You never know where a good resource will come from.
If you'd like to hear more or have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Benefits of Aquatic Therapy
By D Swain, published May 07, 2007
From Therapy to a World Record by Sue Moucha
December 1, 2006
Sue demonstrates her flexibility
While millions of “fully abled” people find swimming invaluable for fitness, for me it goes deeper: Swimming allows me to function as a “normal” person. Masters Swimming is an ideal way for me to stay fit. Born with cerebral palsy affecting my entire right side, I wore a brace on my right leg until I was in the fifth grade. I endured years of physical therapy growing up with the most valuable part of that therapy being swimming.
In my early years mom would make me swim a few laps before I could play. The lifeguards and swim coach would tell her, “You’re working her too hard.” But mom knew best. And my weekly doctor visits always began with, “How’s the swimming coming?” Today, I’m extremely grateful for those “aquatic therapy” sessions and you literally can’t get me out of the water as I swim my daily 4000 meters.
When I went away to college I decided to continue swimming for exercise. I knew down the road I’d be a basket case if I failed to heed my doctor’s words: “You have to swim until the day you die.”
While millions of “fully abled” people find swimming invaluable for fitness, for me it goes deeper: Swimming allows me to function as a “normal” person. I grew up unable to do simple tasks with my right hand -- moving pots and pans, holding a drink without spilling it. Swimming, along with running and cycling, has helped me build the motor skills necessary for such tasks.
At Masters practice I’m treated just like everyone else. I want the same workout (with adjusted intervals), to be challenged in the same manner, and not be pitied. Swimming has allowed me to maintain my flexibility, which is of the utmost priority for a spastic cerebral palsy person. Constant repetition helps me form stronger neural pathways for all manner of daily living tasks.
When I am in the water I do not worry about how I look to the world. I focus inward -- working with my strokes, how to make them better, and always how to go faster. Moving across the pool as efficiently as my body positioning will allow is what training is all about.
Age has not been a factor to my participation in swimming. I was 23 when I first competed, and 25 years later I have no plans of stopping.
When I go to Masters meets I am given great respect. I alert the officials that I can use only one arm for breast and fly. I swim all I can, from 50’s to 1500 Free. When I received my first high-point age group award in 1994 at the Stanton C. Craige Swim Meet in Fort Pierce, Florida, I was on Cloud Nine for weeks.
Swimming has provided a concrete purpose for my therapy. The road has not been easy.
I had to change my attitude and start out small. I could either sink through life or swim and enjoy what life has to offer. I choose the latter. Accomplishment of the small trials (drills) led to the ultimate (world record) and beyond. Swimming has me hooked.
Sue Moucha is a 4-time Paralympian with five swimming medals, including a Gold Medal and World Record in the 4 x 50 Freestyle Relay at the World Disabled Swimming Championships, New Zealand, 1998. She was the USMS 2005 Virtual Swim Series Female Overall Champion (606.86 miles). She has won over 200 awards from able-bodied sports events including running races, biathlons, triathlons, open water and Masters Swimming.
Aquatic Therapy Reviewed
By Laura Inverarity, D.O., About.com
Created: November 7, 2005
About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board
See More About:Overview:
Aquatic therapy is a type of physical therapy that involves performing exercises in the water. Aquatic therapy is especially beneficial for people who have difficulty with weight bearing activities due to arthritis, recent fracture, sprains, or their weight. Exercising in the water provides several benefits that exercise on land can not. Below aquatic therapy will be reviewed as well as it's many benefits.
Why Aquatic Therapy?:
Exercising in the water provides many benefits that exercising on land can not. First, buoyancy of the water provides an unloading of the weight bearing joints of the spine, knee, and hips. This is helpful for those who can not tolerate exercising on land due to joint pain. Water also provides assistance and resistance while exercising so that one can progress through various levels of activity while increasing strength.
Aquatic Therapy and Strengthening:
Aquatic therapy can help one build strength in weak and injured muscles. Initially exercises can be performed in the direction of assistance. When strength progresses, the exercise can be modified to occur in a non resistant pattern, and finally against the resistance of the water. This unique feature is difficult to achieve while exercising on "land."
Aquatic Therapy and Healing:
Aquatic therapy also can help promote healing to the site of injury. By exercising in warm water, vasodilation of the blood vessels occurs. This will increase blood flow to the injury and result in increase oxygen delivery and healing of damaged tissue.
Aquatic Therapy and You:
Aquatic therapy is beneficial for a variety of patient populations. People who suffer from arthritis often have an improvement in range of motion from aquatic therapy. Water unloads uncomfortable extremities while helping to loosen stiff joints. Overweight patients also enjoy aquatic therapy by burning calories in an environment that assists in cushioning their joints. Another patient population that has found aquatic therapy to be quite beneficial includes patients with fibromyalgia.
OPEN WATER SWIM IN TRIATHLON - READ THIS TO SUCCEED
July 08, 2008
This article is written primarily for complete newbies and beginners, but it could also be helpful to experienced and competitive Triathletes.
The open water swim is considered by many as the hardest and worst part of Triathlon. Some are completely put off by it - hence the invention of a sport called Duathlon where swimming is eliminated altogether. But since you're reading this article, we bet you're looking for ways to make the mayhem of the swim a better experience for yourself. Below are a few suggestions that will help you succeed.
Article by Dr. Nicholas Romanov
Composed by L. Romanov
Workout Suggestions... From FOOTBALL players??? Football Players! What does our sport have in common with the hard-hitting sport of these gridiron heroes? More than you think!
Recently I tried a special workout inspired by an NFL super star. At first I didn't think much of it. I finished my workout, went on with my day and that was it. The next day I went for my "Maintenance Run"-- and easy 5 miles without a watch. At first my legs felt like I was carrying weight on my ankles! I tried to slow down, I tried to stretch, I tried everything! But they were HURTING! Discouraged through 4.9 miles of the run I thought of everything possible... then in the last 10th of a mile I realized what it was... my football-inspired workout! It was a killer... in a GREAT WAY!
My inspiration?- TO! AKA Terrell Owens of... what else? " The TO Show!!!" For you non-football junkies, TO is a football player in the NFL.
The once Cowboys (GO COWBOYS!) Wide Receiver has turned to reality TV in his last year of glory in the NFL. Hey! It could be worse... he COULD be Brett Favre (ooh burn). Anyways, in TOs first few episodes he's torn between his love of women and his love of the game-- with football always winning out. No matter what goes on in his life, he has intense workouts that he can turn to! One such workout caught my attention... the Pool!
Unfortunately we all can't have the view TO has when he works out!
In many of the episodes TO can be seen doing some funny pool exercises. These aren't your grandmas pool stretch & bob classes! The exercises he does promote strength & speed. TO incorporate resistance training (using the pool) to get a more intense workout. This includes pool sprints in shallow (3-4ft) water, as well as free-weights in the pool.
My Workout? Well I've been swimming in attempts to get cardio in while also saving my knees on off-running days. I added in some of TO's resistance training toward the end of my workout in between sets and boy did it make a whole new workout! I'll list below what I did... please forgive my lack of correct swim language
4X100 Freestyle Swim
4X50 Kicks (using a board)
4X50 Arms only (holding a water float between my knees)
... Add in the resistance!
1X25 HARD swim
1X 25 Yd Pool SPRINT! Resistance? The water only
1X25 Hard Kick
2X 25 Yd Pool Spring with Tube. Resistance: Water AND Tube
1X50 Recovery Freestyle Swim
2X25 Yd Pool Spring with water weights. Resistance: Water & Weights- Arms get a workout too!
1X25 Hard Kick
1X25 "High Knees" Across the pool. Resistance: Water
The added benefits?
~Calorie Burner AND strength training in one! I'm a huge proponent of strength training to help your speed & endurance (for you goal pace runners).
~Don't like/have free weights or don't like going to a gym?? Get your strength training in a pool!
~Ice as you workout. If you're in a colder pool you don't feel the pain of sprinting like you would on a track. Your muscles let you do more in the water for a longer time.
~Perk up your x-Training! I'm always looking for other forms of cross-training for my non-run days.
~Altitude training. If you would like to add the swim part in, then there is an added benefit for your higher altitude races. If you swim prior to going to a higher altitude area, it can help you adjust and run a more normal race.
Other Resistance Training
I don't have a lot of time for both cardio AND strength training, so this form of resistance and cardio combo are GREAT for me! However, there are lots of other ways you can incorporate resistance into your training-- in the water and out!
~Water Workouts~ This site gives a list of some workouts you can do in the water including, running, squats, etc.
~Resistance Bands~ This site gives a full moving visual of exercises, as well as tips to get the most from the workout.
~You can also use those resistance balls and Bosu balls at the gym in any of your exercises. Just ask one of the staff to give you a few pointers on how to use them. Posted by Stephanie Nichole at 4:21 AM
Taking the First Step - Benefits of Water Exercise
Karl Knopf, ED.D.
Benefits of Water Exercise
Aquatic Therapy Helps Reduce Back Pain
By Anne Asher, About.com
Updated: November 20, 2007
About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by our Medical Review Board
See More About:stretching your body. It also allows you to do more than you would on land by eliminating the constraints imposed by gravity.
Water exercise is done in shallow, mid-deep and deep water, depending upon your level of conditioning and the goals of your workout.
Muscle Strengthening Water exercise can strengthen back, ab and hip muscles, all key for a healthy spine. The flow of water resists movement, and functions similarly to weight training: it gets your muscles strong. Being immersed in water places pressure all over your body. To build strength, you must work your muscles against this pressure. The deeper in the water you go, the more pressure will be exerted, and the harder the workout will be.
Beginners should stay close to the shallow water, where the floor and sides of the pool can provide stability, if need be. Working in deeper water while wearing a flotation belt will increase the challenge.
Increasing Joint Range of Motion The buoyancy of the water helps take the load off your joints. It creates a significant degree of weightlessness, allowing you to perform movements with ease. To develop range of motion, the goal is to take each body part through its full path of motion. However, even with the weightlessness provided by the water, it is best to begin gently and slowly to avoid re-injury. Core Stabilization Exercise The pool is a great place to work on low back and core strengthening. Exercises that work the hips are good for stabilizing the low back. Water walking, bicycling (deep water only), kicks and ab exercises are common. In general, trunk stabilization is accomplished by first establishing a neutral spine, and then moving legs and arms while the spine stays where it is. Any water depth will provide benefits. Aquatic equipment such as the floatation belt and the dumbbells can support you in such a way as to accentuate access to the core muscles that stabilize body posture. Another way to develop trunk stabilization in the water is by working on your balance. You can position yourself on certain pieces of aquatic equipment such as kickboards or swim bars (long dumbbells) and try to stay there. You can try to sit, or kneel, or even stand. Balance exercises in the water will cause all muscles in your trunk to work to hold you upright.
Motivation Working out in water is relaxing. For many people it is pleasant and even fun. The buoyancy of water takes weight and load off of the joints, which can result in decreased joint pain. Together these benefits of working out in water result in longer and more frequent workouts, providing improved results in the healing or managing of back problems. Stay Fit While Your Heal Your Back InjuryHas your doctor or physical therapist advised you to avoid weight bearing and/or high impact exercise until your back heals? Many active people who are injured fret over lost time at the gym. But by substituting your normal routine with water workouts, you can minimize the loss of fitness due to the reduced activity. You can also use the opportunity to get strong in the right places, such as ab, back and hip muscles. Water aerobics can keep your heart and lungs fit. Deep water exercises wearing a flotation device and using other pieces of aquatic equipment can help you continue to get strong even through periods of reduced activity. Because you are not foing weight bearing exercises when you workout in the water, the chances of aggravating your injury is greatly reduced.
Decreased Pain When you workout in water, you are immersed in a supportive medium that minimized joint pain and makes it easy to move. This works especially well for people with arthritis. Australian researchers compared water exercise to land based exercise with 60 people who had low back pain, and found that both types of exercise significantly reduced pain in participants.
Sjogren T, Long N, Storay I, Smith J Physiother Res Int. 1997;2(4):212-22.
Konlian, C., [link url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve]Aquatic therapy: making a wave in the treatment of low back injuries. Orthop Nurs. 1999 Jan-Feb 18(1)
Kisner, C., & Colby, L.A. (2002). Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques.Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company.
Published: October 22, 2008 05:24 pm
Discover the benefits of water exercise
People are living longer than ever before and advances in medicine and improved exercise habits have contributed to this. In order to make your older years more productive and happy, you should adopt a lifestyle that promotes a total healthy well-being. This would include a nutritious diet and regular exercise.
No matter what your age, the benefits of exercise are the same. You will see increased energy, a more conditioned heart and lungs, improved muscle tone, better mobility, less sickness and greater function of the bones and joints.
One of the best ways to improve your health and fitness as you get older is to begin a water program. Before beginning this or any exercise program, it is important to get the proper clearance from your doctor. Listed here are a few safety tips to also remember when getting ready to exercise in the pool.
1) Make sure you are aware of the pool depth
2) If you are alone, make sure someone is nearby or keep a phone by the pool
3) Wait at least 45 minutes after eating before exercising
4) If the water is too cool, walk a few laps around the pool before beginning to get warmed up
5) If you have diabetes or slip easily, you may want to invest in pair of water shoes
The buoyancy of water means that you do not have the same restrictions as you do on land. You can do any movement in water (that you wouldn’t dare do on land!). Your imagination is the only limitation. But you’re in the right place to get some ideas. Water also provides assistance (helps build flexibility) and resistance (helps build strength).
Here are the four most basic full body exercises for your water exercise routine. These are great exercises to begin with and are in order of easy to hard:
1) Walking — walk in waist high water. Be sure to touch the floor with your whole foot, from heel to toe. Lift your knees up high, rather than forward. Lift your arms up to the sides to keep balanced.
2) Jogging and Sprinting — jog in chest high water. Push off with your toes, landing on the balls of your feet. Use the same arm action as you would in normal jogging, keeping fingers straight to cut the water. Keep lifting your knees high and pump your arms and legs as fast as you can to sprint. Remember good technique by keeping your head high and abdominals tight.
3) Jumping Jacks — stand with feet together and arms by your side in chest high water. Jump up, spread feet apart and lift arms to shoulder height. Land on balls of your feet. Then jump again, bring feet back together and arms back down. That’s one repetition. Repeat for 30 seconds to one minute then rest.
4) Cross Country Skiing — stand in chest high water with your right leg forward, left leg back and toes facing forward. Left arm straight out in front, right arm bent by your side. As you move your right leg back and left leg forward, punch your right arm ahead and bend your left arm back. Continue this action in a smooth movement.
For your workout, repeat exercises 1-4 over and over again for at least 30 minutes. As you get stronger, add five minutes to your routine. Don’t forget to cool down and stretch to finish your workout.
Besides getting into better shape, water exercises can be a form of relaxing and de-stressing. So hop in and enjoy!
Life in the Slow Lane by Martha Katzeff
May 1, 2006
I love to compete. I swam in my first competition at the tender young age of 50.
Until then, I had been a runner for 22 years. Knee surgery was the end of my daily running regimen and the start of crosstraining. I had always loved to swim in my younger days, but as an adult with work and family responsibilities it was far easier to put on running shoes and go out the door for an hour.
I rekindled my interest in swimming after the knee surgery and during my daughter’s swim team days. I took several private lessons from her coach and began swimming in earnest after a 30-year hiatus. Soon after, the manager of a pool company told me about Masters Swimming (explaining to me what it was first) and I found a team to join. I was convinced that my two or three times-a-week, 45-minute lap swimming put me in the “good swimmer” category. What an eye-opener that was! I had absolutely no idea that many Masters swimmers started out as competitive high school and college swimmers.
At the coach’s suggestion, I attended a stroke clinic before I went to an actual practice. Right then and there, I suspected that I might be out of my league, but persevered. When I did attend my first workout, I didn’t know what to expect. The coach suggested that I start in Lane 1 at the end of the lane. Having no idea what he was talking about, I just got in the water where he was pointing. In the lane already were five women who had clearly been swimming together for a long time and, to me, looked extremely intimidating. The coach wrote the workout on the board and I looked at all those numbers, turned to one of the women in the lane and said, “What’s that??” After collectively rolling their eyes, one of them explained the sequence to me. Still completely clueless, I got behind the last woman, started to swim and tried my best to stay out of everyone’s way. It was touch and go for me for about 2 months. I sorely tried the patience of both the coach and the other women in the lane (yes, we were all women most of the time), but finally, got it.
With the help of weekly stroke clinics, which I attended religiously, and patient tutoring from my lane mates (who warmed up to me after they realized that I was there to stay and eager to swim), I became a die-hard Masters swimmer.
Along the way, I struck up a friendship with another new-to-swimming (she had just learned how to swim a year earlier!) die-hard, Masters woman. Together, we decided that we were going to compete even though we’d only been swimming a short time.
We signed up for a local meet and off we went. My husband was gracious enough to give up his Sunday morning racquetball game to drive us there and cheer. When we got there and saw all the swimmers, we were so overcome with anxiety that we could hardly breathe, let alone swim. We stood mesmerized, watching the first few events, and then it dawned on us -- that -- wait a minute -- a lot of those swimmers are not so fast . . . and not so young.
We ended up becoming meet junkies and competing together whenever we could. In the summer we plot out all the open water swims we’re going to do (here in the Northeast, open water swim season is very short) and then tell our husbands that we’re busy every single summer Sunday morning and hope that they will understand.
Four years and many competitions later, I’m still a lane 1 swimmer, but now I’m the engine instead of the caboose. One of the best things about Masters swimming is the inclusiveness of all ages and abilities. Our lane 1 became a close-knit group of women who from time to time met outside the pool for a “lane 1 dinner.”
Last year, our team lost its pool when the building that housed it was sold. It was a devastating loss for all of us because there was no one pool available that could absorb our more than 100 swimmers. The team fell apart, although a large part of the team did merge with another local team. Sadly, our lane 1 group went its separate ways (although we still meet for dinner occasionally).
I joined a team locally known for its extreme competitiveness and landed in their midst just at the start of their gearing-up-for-Nationals training. It was quite a bit of culture shock for me to go, in the space of a week, from a mostly laid back group of swimmers to a flock of Type A personalities launching themselves into training hyper-drive. Still reeling from the loss of my other team, I threw myself into the fray and signed up for Nationals.
To the credit of the coaches of my new team, I was always given lots of encouragement and training for the competition, just as if I were one of the faster swimmers on the team, and, indeed, was the only representative from my lane on our Nationals team.
Upon reflection, I realized it took a lot of chutzpah for a lane 1 swimmer, and the newest member of the team, to even contemplate competing on that level. Nevertheless, I went to Nationals and even managed not to finish absolutely dead last in one of my events. The atmosphere in Florida was exhilarating. No one there ever questioned my right to swim with the “big guns” and the cheers were just as loud for the slower swimmers as for the record holders. (In some cases, louder!) I went home rejuvenated and ready to tackle whatever swim challenges the coaches threw at me. My coach asked me what my goals are for the coming season and I gave him quite an ambitious list and hope to meet as many as I can.
In the meantime I will continue to swim and cross-train with an eye toward the 2006 Nationals. The subject of Nationals came up in the locker room recently. One of the women mentioned several teams who had brought only their “best” swimmers to Nationals this past spring. This caused quite a stir among the rest of us. The general consensus was that bringing only the best swimmers goes against almost everything Masters swimming embodies. It flies in the face of the USMS rule that allows any swimmer to enter three events without meeting qualifying times, which levels the playing field. I certainly hope those teams reconsider their strategy and include their enthusiastic, not-quite-best yet swimmers the next time they go to a Nationals meet.
For me, competition keeps me motivated and focused. In fact, I look forward to entering Nationals at 90 so that I can enter six events without a qualifying time!
Water Exercise for SeniorsMake a (Fitness) Splash
By Dulce Zamora
Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson
Blah and old. That's how Patricia Culbert of Waterbury, Conn., felt about herself at 58. "I thought, 'This is it, it's over. I'm done, and I'm not doing any more,'" she says.
The substitute high school teacher yearned for the energy of her youth, and thought that if she could only get herself to work out on a stationary bike for 15 minutes a day, she would feel better. She even promised her niece that she would do it.
Weeks passed, however, and Patricia hadn't got anywhere near the bike. She felt like she was cheating herself and her niece.
So she searched the Web for a compatible activity that she could get excited about. That's when she found the AARP's TriUmph Classic, a triathlon race for people 50 years and older. Since one person or a group of three could perform the relay event, Patricia recruited her sisters -- a twin and one two years older -- to do it with her.
Patricia ended up training for the swim portion of the relay, even though she hadn't done a lap in 18 years. The first time she stepped into the pool, she was worried. "Oh my God," she thought, "My body's not doing what I want it to do."
But she pressed on, following AARP's training recommendations of gradually increasing the number of laps she could do without stopping. Twelve weeks later, at the official relay in San Dimas, Calif., Patricia swam her best ever: 400 meters nonstop in less than 11 minutes.
A Dive into Good Health
Experts in fitness for older adults aren't surprised about the benefits of water exercise.
"It's clear that aqua aerobics or water-based activities provide significant benefits for older adults, including increasing metabolism," says Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, PhD, head of the department of kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At his former post at the University of Alabama, he led research for 15 years that looked into the effects of physical activity (both on land and in water) among older adults.
In addition to increasing metabolism, Chodzko-Zajko says physical activity in general improves cardiovascular health, increases strength, slows down age-related loss of muscle mass, and the decrease of reaction time that comes with getting older.
There are psychological and social benefits as well. People feel better about themselves, are more engaged in community activities, and they tend to not lose their independence because they're physically fit, says Chodzko-Zajko.
Bottom line, there are many reasons for older adults to "just do it."
So when a recent study came out declaring the pluses of workouts in H20, no one threw up their goggles in excitement. The research led by Nobuo Takeshima of Nagoya City University of Japan appears in the March 2002 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise.
"It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know," says Shannon Whetstone Mescher, a certified health educator and vice president of programs and services for the ArthritisFoundation (AF), who reviewed the study.
Takeshima's research found that older women who participated in regular water exercise over 12 weeks experienced more strength, flexibility, and agility, and better total cholesterol levels.
Michael E. Rogers, PhD, Takeshima's co-author and director of the Center for Physical Activity and Aging at Wichita State University in Kansas, says the difference between their research and others lies in the focus of the investigation.
Previous studies, he says, concentrated on the cardiovascular benefits and safety of swimming or aqua aerobics. "Our study combined aqua aerobics -- walking and dancing in the water -- with actual strength training in the water. The participants lifted weights while they were in the water."
On average, he says aqua exercise participants increased their strength by 27% in the quadriceps, 40% in the hamstrings, and about 10% in the upper body region.
Rogers attributes the increase in strength to the resistance that can be more easily experienced in water than on land.
Aquatic Classes for the Masses
If anyone has put muscle behind water fitness programs, it's the Arthritis Foundation. The organization has been hosting aquatic classes for all ages at local gyms and hospitals in the last 25 years.
"It's our most popular program," says Whetstone Mescher, who observes that many people enjoy being able to exercise and socialize with others in the pool.
For those with bone, muscle, or joint troubles, the warmth, buoyancy, and resistance of the water supposedly challenges the body while easing strain on problematic areas. "Over a period of time," she says, "people see things like a decrease in pain, improved daily function, and improved perceived quality of life."
Even people who don't have access to a local pool can enjoy these benefits. The Arthritis Foundation offers a video on how to safely and effectively exercise in a spa or a hot tub. For more information about the video and to find the nearest AF aquatic class near you, call 1-800-283-7800 or log on to www.arthritis.org.
A Life-Changing Habit
Swimming three to four times a week has helped Patricia feel healthier and more coordinated. In the water, she doesn't feel any pain, even though she suffered a major back injury from an accident a few years before. Now almost 60 years old, she has more energy than ever, and is "having a blast" teaching high-schoolers.
Patricia plans to continue her water workouts. In fact, she's signed up for two more AARP relays with her sisters this year. The events have also given them the chance to be alone for the first time in 30 years. Last year, they were so excited about being together, they had facials and makeup done, and got uniforms for the triathlon.
The story is remarkable, but it is only one of many that show the life-changing effect of exercise.
"It's important to choose activities that you enjoy," advises Margaret Hawkins, Campaign Manager of Health for the AARP. "Search for that activity and make it a habit."
"It is never too late to introduce physical activity in life," says Chodzko-Zajko. And the AARP knows that. The oldest swimmer at one of their TriUmph Classics last year was 83.
To find out more about the AARP's exercise initiatives, call 1-800-424-3410 or go to their Web site at www.aarp.org.
Published April 12, 2002
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