So it's too hot to walk or run outside, you say? Don't feel like riding a bike or playing tennis in the brutal heat? Do you want to enjoy your outdoor summer exercise without that sweaty, sticky feeling? How about hopping in the pool and doing your workout the luxurious way? The pool just might be the only place where you can do cardiovascular work, toning and stretching without even feeling like you've broken a sweat!
Cardiovascular: The Warm-Up
Swimming laps is one of the best things you can do to strengthen your heart and lungs. If you're a decent swimmer and enjoy lap swims, spend a few minutes a day at it to warm up for toning and stretching.
Otherwise, walking or running in the pool is just as effective. It may sound easy, but just try it! If you go in up to your shoulders and run, you'll get your heart rate up with no problem. It may be very difficult to sustain at first, but try to build up your time to at least twenty minutes. One very important thing to remember is to keep your feet as fully planted as possible while you do your pool exercises, especially when walking and running. If you tiptoe (which people tend to do without realizing it), your calves will be killing you the next day. Keep those heels down!
Toning: Eight Great Moves You Can Do In The Pool
The wonderful thing about water is that it gives you natural resistance with absolutely no impact to the joints. For those with severe arthritis or other joint problems, it offers the perfect alternative to lifting weights. You really can tone up in the pool. Just like weight training, your muscles are contracting against resistance, becoming stronger with each session.
There are exercises you can do for every muscle group, and your risk of injury is extremely low. Think about exercises you do with free weights. The beauty of resistance training is that it is very easily modified. Anything that you do with dumbbells can be translated into a water exercise. If you already have a routine with free weights, you have a license to create your own water move that does the same thing.
Be creative, but also be mindful at all times of your body position (which can be thrown off in the water). Keep your weight distributed evenly and check your posture often. Keep your abdominals tucked in to support your back throughout every exercise. Don't bend, stretch or reach any further than you do on land. It takes time to grow accustomed to the gravitational difference in water, but as your experience grows, your body will become more in-tune with the water. Here are a few examples of modified free weight exercises:
Modified Free Weight Exercises For The Water
For the quadriceps (front of the thighs), hamstrings and glutes: Stand with your feet hip-width apart in shallow water with your arms bent at your sides, hands out flat with fingers together and palms up. Slowly bend your knees into a squat position, sticking your derriere out behind you (don't worry about looking silly—you're under water!). Do not allow your knees to extend beyond your toes, but try to simulate a sitting-in-a-chair position. Cupping your hands, keeping your back neutral (not arched) and abs tucked in, exhale and stand up straight. Turn your hands to return to the starting position. Be very careful to maintain perfect form throughout this exercise.
Hips and Glutes:
For hips and glutes: Facing the edge of the pool, hold on with both hands and slowly bring one leg out to your side, keeping your back straight. Exhale while you bring it up as high as you comfortably can without turning at the ankle (this probably won't be as high as you could if you did turn your ankle). Bring it back down and repeat, doing a full set for each leg. For glutes: Kick! You can breeze around on a kickboard or hold onto the side of the pool, but the scissoring motion is great for the buttocks and hamstrings, and it indirectly tones the abdominals. What could be more fun than this?
Back and Shoulders:
For the back, shoulders and arms: Do pull-ups. Grasp the side of the pool and lower your body as far as your arms will allow. Keeping your knees bent, exhale and pull yourself up as high as you can (the range of motion for this will vary greatly from one person to another). For the chest: Standing in water up to your neck, reach your hands out to each side, with your elbows unbent and your palms forward. Slowly bring them together, clapping your hands, and then turn your hands to return to the starting position.
For triceps: Stand straight, with your open hands palms-down on the surface of the water. Keeping your elbows locked at your sides (pretend they're glued to your rib cage), exhale and push down until your hands are beside your hips. Turn your hands and bring them back to the starting position.
For biceps: Bring your open hands to the side of each hip, palms forward, with your fingers close together. Exhale as you slowly bend at the elbow to bring your hands toward your shoulders.
For abs, you can simulate crunches, or here's a toughie: stand with your back to the side of the pool, holding onto the rim with your elbows. Keeping your knees unbent, slowly bring both legs up to a sitting position and hold it for ten seconds. Do not hold your breath, though. Breath slowly throughout this exercise. Then bend at the knee to bring them down, repeating this as many times as you'd like to. Be careful to keep your back straight throughout this exercise.
There are lots of gadgets available for toning; you can get these at most department stores or athletic supply stores. They make the work a little more challenging and possibly give you speedier results, but it's better to begin water exercise without them. Once you feel like you need to push yourself a little harder, go ahead and use them. They'll add a new flavor to your old workout, keeping you motivated and interested.
Stretching: The Dessert
Just about any of the stretches you do on land can also be done in the water. When you're finished with your toning, hold the side of the pool with one hand, stand on one foot, bend the other knee and grasp your ankle with your free hand to stretch your quadriceps and hip flexors. Hold the side of the pool with one hand and turn your body by pointing your toes away from the wall to stretch your biceps and pectorals.
There are many, many stretches that you can do. Just make sure that you're properly warmed up (this takes a little longer in the pool) and keep your feet flat on the floor at all times.
Finito! You're done. Remember that your perceived exertion is a little off in the pool - you may feel like you didn't work that hard, but you did. You also may be a little sore the next day, so don't push yourself too hard until you know how much you can handle.
Important note: you are not a fish.
You don't have gills to keep your body hydrated, and it is possible to become dehydrated in the pool, so make sure you drink water before and after your workout. Once working out in the pool becomes a part of your summer lifestyle, you may begin to think you're a fish, but that's only because pool exercise is so fun, it has you hooked!