Part I – Every Body in the Swimming Pool
Top athletes love water workouts because they provide an alternative to the stresses and pounding associated with workouts on land. Serious competitors count on deep water to counteract gravity and provide the high intensity training they need while minimizing risk of injury or reinjury.
After Surgery or Injury
Athletes in top shape are certainly not the only ones who gain from workouts afloat. Lynda Huey, author of The Waterpower Workout, put Wilt Chamberlain in the water after elbow surgery. One of the greatest athletes ever, Chamberlain started water workouts the day his cast was removed, to speed healing and increase range of motion. Anyone recovering from surgery can reap similar benefits during rehabilitation.
Mary Slaney is one of the best known examples of a champion who benefited from water workouts after an injury. Under the guidance of her coach, Dick Brown, she trained only in the water for three weeks following an achilles tendon injury. After less than one week of land training she set a world record in the 1000 meters.
Using water to speed recovery from injury or surgery is hardly new. The whirlpool tub was the tried and true method for decades, bringing more blood and oxygen to the injured area.
The benefits of getting into deeper water while wearing an AquaJoggerÂ® include freedom of movement and not having to paddle to stay up. That means you can be relaxed and without restrictions and stretch any part of the body to its full extension. Or you can walk or run wet, simulating the exact effort of a dry run, so to speak. You need not lose fitness just because you are impaired.
Aging is often associated with stiffness, slowed metabolism, mental sluggishness and reduced strength and endurance. Research shows these are exactly the same symptoms that develop at any age from lack of physical activity. Olympic marathon runner and Sports Illustrated writer Kenny Moore says, “You don’t stop exercising because you grow old, you grow old because you stop exercising.”
Any exercise will add to the joy of life as it adds healthy years. Water workouts are especially valuable for the elderly who have been out of condition a long time and want to restore strength and flexibility without risk of injury. Warm water, safe floating, being able to begin gradually and not having to be out on the streets are all attractive to many older adults.
Besides, getting in a warm pool with a group of like-minded friends is fun. At any age. Which brings us to the social aspect of water training. Can you think of any other form of exercise where you and an Olympic athlete can work out side by side, never getting in each other’s way, each at your own level of output, each achieving exactly what you need while carrying on a conversation with your hair dry and glasses on?
Couples, business associates, parents and kids, old and young, fit and unfit can share time together while working toward conditioning goals. Let’s hear it for the social value of exercise afloat in the pool.
People With Orthopedic Problems
Many orthopedic problems caused by accident or congenital malformation respond well to exercising afloat. By definition, an orthopedic problem impairs mobility in some part of the body. This means many forms of exercise are difficult or painful. People with impairments move more easily in the water without pressure on joints, bones or nerves.
If the orthopedic problem was caused by trauma it may be simply a matter of time until it heals and that time will be shortened by a good exercise program. But not by an excessive or improperly designed exercise program, which can aggravate any injury. Consult a doctor or physical therapist before you begin.
If the problem is structural it is not going to go away. But even an impairment serious enough to confine a person to a wheelchair may not inhibit exercise in deep water. A person who cannot do a strenuous land based workout can use floating workouts to restore aerobic capacity, muscle tone and the wonderful feeling of well-being that is a natural part of physical fitness and good health.