I am not going to lie..... The last three months have tested me!
For someone who loves instructing and being in the company of other people it has been bloody damn hard. I have immersed myself in different fitness teaching online, educating myself with online courses and just taken time to be me. After I partially accepted the way things were going to be for the period of COVID-19 lockdown, things became a little easier. This blog post is not about me however......
I thought a lot about my tribe that regularly attend my Aqua sessions in particular. We created a community for our participants, a safe place to exercise, socialise and meet new people. A lot of our tribe live alone, could not access online fitness sessions and were housebound, maybe with little or no company. Myself and my work colleague Adel contacted all our members during this time to check in with them, speak to them about how they were feeling and the results of this were astounding!
* Some of our aqua participants were completely sedentary or their only form of exercise was small walks through out our Covid closure.
* Some of our participants, particularly the elderly demographic, struggled to access other forms of exercise due to having no computer or smart phone to access online sessions or were physically unable to participate.
* At least 75% of people suffered pain in some form of another that had a huge impact on their daily lives and doing functional things.
* Some of our aqua tribe physically struggled to walk due to pain.
* Some participants who attended Aqua Fitness to treat their injuries and keep them at bay had old injuries flare up, causing pain and difficulty with daily functional tasks.
* Most of our aqua tribe reported a loss in strength and felt weak.
* Some of our tribe reported feeling depressed or "sad" with no daily exercise and social interaction (I know I felt this at some points and I have my family!)
* Our aqua tribe missed their social network and friends they had gained via attending Aqua Fitness class.
As a result of these conversations and how people were physically feeling, I made it my ultimate goal to make sure these people could return to exercising at our facility safely, and I don't mean COVID safe as that was always a given for us to be able to return to the water. I mean that I educated myself and our team that these people had not exercised in over 3 months and we will need to ease back in - get back to basics. They needed to build up their "water fitness" again - and when I say "water fitness" all of you aqua fitness junkies know that it is a lot different to land fitness! Educate yourself in the following for your return to aqua:
* Speak to people directly about any injuries and make sure you advise people to follow the advice of their health professionals - we are not doctors.
* Go back to basics - by this I mean keep it simple with exercises to start. This does NOT mean that you need to "dull down" your teaching. Bring your flare, personality and excitement!
* Your tribe will feel relief as soon as they hit the water due to the warmth (it is winter here in Australia!) and buoyancy allowing the pressure off their joints and bones. This does not mean they can tolerate extreme workouts.
* Ask your tribe to work within their own limits and rest when they require it.
* Monitor your classes very carefully and realise they will fatigue a lot faster than they used to. They will find some exercises harder than they were before your closure - let them know this is ok and they will get back to them eventually.
* Work on full body workouts that get participants moving and functional again.
*Let your tribe know they can expect they may feel a little soreness and fatigue purely because they have not exercised for a period of time...… and that this is normal. Encourage them to listen to their body.
* Their cardiovascular fitness and strength will return eventually - advise your tribe to celebrate the small wins and achievements as their fitness begins to return in time.
We returned to Aqua Fitness Classes on Monday the response was crazy excitement! Our classes booked out and our tribe returned with big smiles all round. I must admit I was super excited myself to hit the pool deck, so excited I could not sleep Sunday night! Everyone felt some relief on their bodies getting into the water and having the ability to exercise again. They also commented how much harder it was to exercise in water than before Covid-19 hit and that they could not physically do some exercises.
It goes to show how valuable aquatic exercise is to people - and not just the elderly demographic. ALL demographics can get a workout in water, and it will be an experience like nothing on land and it is damn hard work! Water workouts are very relative to the good old saying "You get out what you put in". The harder you push in the water, the harder the water makes you work - this is a scientific fact.
It has given me a realisation of how important we are as Aqua Instructors in the fitness world and how much of an impact we can make in peoples lives. There is truly something special about working out in a group in water cohesively and peoples lives are so much better off as a result of water workouts!