It’s 8:40 on a Saturday morning, and I’m late (again) for water aerobics. But no matter—I’m here, and that’s the important thing. I slide into my usual spot to join the mostly 70- and 80-somethings in jumping jacks, cross-country skiing, and running in place. The heart rate is up, the limbs are moving, and we’re trying to keep up with our high-energy instructor. It’s wellness as usual in the Lakeshore Foundation fitness pool.
I’m the new kid on the block here, with only a couple of years under my flotation belt. It’s long enough to have worn out several swimsuits, and to know most people’s names, but not all of their histories. At 61, I’m one of the youngest in the group, but I feel a kinship with all my pool pals. Must be something in the water.
Or maybe it’s this place. Designed to help people with severe disabilities improve mobility, Lakeshore is a hub for everyone from arthritic seniors to young people encumbered by cerebral palsy and neurological diseases. Most recently, the Foundation has developed programs for injured returning veterans. It’s breathtaking to watch individuals who are confined to wheelchairs on land become swimmers and walkers in the water. In the pool, we are all able.
This sense of community is pervasive here. People chat freely during the classes, though most are working hard at the routines. The instructors are used to this lack of respect, and focus on those of us who are paying attention. We are all here to further our well-being in one way or another, whether to strengthen damaged hearts, rebuild atrophied muscles, or loosen joints. But for some, the social interaction is as critical as the movement, perhaps more so.
At first, I pooh-poohed the efficacy of working out in the pool. It seemed. . . soft. . .not the kind of thing to build muscles, burn fat, and promote elder-athlete conditioning. If I’m going to make the effort to work out, I want it to count! But I learned that while the water supports your weight, protecting joints, you’re also working against its pressure, producing results similar to those gained by holding light weights during dry-land workouts. Use foam barbells in the water, and you get extra resistance. The hydrostatic pressure also makes your kidneys work harder, which is why you usually need to hit the bathroom immediately after you climb out the pool. (Repeat after me—use the bathroom, not the pool!)
The trick to water aerobics, as with any exercise, is that you have to do it regularly, and do it right. So suit up, and come join us in the pool. And don’t feel bad if the 80-year-olds show you up-you’ll catch up with them eventually.