Fitness: Take the plunge, but know how to use the water to your advantage

Too hot to exercise? Get out of the heat and into the pool.

It’s the coolest place to exercise during the hot summer and you don’t have to be a swimmer to reap the benefits of a pool workout. Aquatic gymnastics and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts have just as much cardiovascular fitness potential as those done on land, making them a perfect option if your pool is more for fun than swimming.

Another bonus to working out in the water is that you can jump, jog and sprint with less stress than in the gym. But to get all the high-intensity fitness benefits of water training, you need to know how to make water’s unique properties work to your advantage. In water, depth, temperature and resistance make a difference.

Deeper water displaces more of your body weight than shallower water. At the height of the chest (at the level of the nipples), about 60 percent of the body weight is relieved with the help of buoyancy, which makes some exercises more suitable for shallow or deep training.

The density of water is also at play (water provides more resistance than air), which slows down movement. When used strategically, that resistance is what makes water workouts so difficult, and is one of the downsides of moving your workout into a pool, lake, or ocean.

Temperature also makes a difference. Colder water (18-25 degrees C) lowers heart rate, so you can’t use that as a measure of intensity. Instead, use the simple method of perceived effort: if you feel like you’re working hard, you probably are. The same goes for the recovery part of the training: if the exercise is easy for you, it probably is.

For other strategies for more effective water exercise, check out the tips below. Keep in mind that it takes a while to get used to sweating in the water, but once it clicks, you’ll end up spending more time in the pool than at the gym during the dog days of summer.

Try intervals

Popular HIIT workouts can easily be incorporated into an aquatic environment, alternating between short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by longer periods of active recovery. Start with 20-30 seconds of work (running or jumping in place or on the move) followed by 60-90 seconds of light movement (walking or jogging). Repeat 10 times, warming up 5-10 minutes before starting the interval. Remember, the key to great HIIT workouts is maintaining the intensity during the hard interval, so if you need a longer recovery, go ahead and get it. Or, if you prefer, increase the length and decrease the intensity of your work intervals (30 seconds to two minutes) and shorten the recovery period. Both options will help you reach your fitness goals.

Move around

Moving against the resistance of the water increases the intensity of your workout, so cover as much as possible. If you run out of space, change direction frequently, including going back into the current you just created without losing speed. If possible, stay hip-to-chest deep so you can maintain contact with the bottom and easily adjust the speed, direction, and range of motion. Too deep and you’ll start to float. Too shallow and you won’t get the full benefit of the water’s natural resistance.

Go big

The big, powerful, controlled movements of running, walking, and jumping will engage more muscles and create more resistance, all while getting your heart rate up where you want it. Get your arms in on the action too, keeping them under water as much as possible, swinging them by your side, around your body or pushing them back and forth exposing as much surface area of ​​your body as possible (think of pushing against the water versus cutting).

Mix it up

Alternations between large and small, fast and slow, stationary and moving movements prevent the exercise from becoming boring. Big, fast movements will get your heart pumping, while slower movements are a better choice when you need to slow it down. Alternate 20 seconds of big side-to-side jumps so your knees almost break the surface of the water, then 60 seconds of recovery at a gentle knee-high jog. Or sprint across the width of the pool with your arms pumping at your sides as many times as possible for 20 seconds, followed by a minute of easy walking. Repeat as many times as possible for 20 minutes. The exercise is over.

Go deep

If deep water is your only option, grab a pool noodle and go. Wrap the pool noodles around your back and under your arms, resting your forearms along the length of the noodle and maintaining an upright posture. Run on the spot, move your legs in a ski run or cross motion, or move them laterally bringing both knees to the surface of the water with each left and right movement of your legs. If you have room to move, do some pool noodles and start running through the water alternating between fast and slow intervals.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2022

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