Power in Resistance
Workouts with water.
June 12, 2000 -- I've always had a so-so relationship with water. At summer
camp in Maine, I remember desperately clinging to the docks until the very last
moment, when my frustrated swim counselor nearly drop-kicked me into the icy
lake. Summer after summer, I was grouped with the tadpoles and the guppies,
never the dolphins or sharks.
So it was no surprise that as an adult I gravitated towards land-based
activities like running. But about seven years ago, my back rebelled, which
wreaked havoc on my 6-mile-a-day jogging habit. I couldn't imagine giving up on
running. Luckily, I'd just read in a fitness magazine that working out in water
was as good as doing it on land. So I slapped on my ratty old Speedo and took
to the water.
Walking onto the pool deck that first day, wearing a big blue aqua running
belt that would keep me buoyant in the deep water, I scanned the pool for other
aqua exercisers. There were some silver-haired ladies schmoozing by the stairs
and the usual lines of lap swimmers, but there were no other water runners. I
slunk over to the slow lane and slipped in. As I began my soggy jog to nowhere,
I felt vaguely ridiculous and overly aware of curious glances.
But after about an hour, my legs were tired, my heart was racing, and my
back didn't hurt. So I kept at it. When my back finally got better, and I laced
up my sneakers again, my heart and muscles felt strong, and I hadn't lost a
Changing the Way People See Water Exercise
Before I started this routine, I thought of aqua exercise as something that
might be fine for my grandmother, but way too wimpy for me. "That's
wrong," says Mary E. Sanders, MS, professor of health ecology at the
University of Nevada, Reno, and creator of many aquatics programs. "While
water exercise can be great for older and overweight people, it's equally good
for serious -- even competitive -- athletes." What's more, if you're
pressed for time, water exercise is a great way to squeeze an intense workout
into a short period.
Sanders should know. Besides looking the part of someone who's discovered a
terrific workout, she's done numerous studies comparing water exercise to its
land-based counterparts. Time and again she's found that the wet workouts are
as good or better than dry ones in terms of fat and calorie burning,
cardiovascular efficiency, and endurance.
In one of her studies, walkers who water-trained for four months increased
their on-land walking speeds by more than 16% and their stride lengths by 10%.
And check out these numbers: a 130-pound person burns about 6 calories per
minute by aerobic dancing. The same person running in deep water at an
11-minute-per-mile pace burns about 11 calories per minute.
And more and more people are diving in. Besides ordinary folks like me,
world-class athletes such as Carl Lewis are into water exercise. Their pool
workouts give their bodies a break between grueling land sessions, while
helping to increase speed and sharpen form. "Active recovery," they
call it. College runners and basketball and volleyball players also can
routinely be found training in water.