Power in Resistance
Workouts with water.
Changing the Way People See Water Exercise continued...
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.
The Unbearable Lightness of Water
So what makes water so great? Several things. First, its natural viscosity,
or thickness, challenges your body with a constant state of resistance. To
generate greater resistance you have several options: for instance, if you wear
gloves or hold your fingers closed, you'll find it harder to move your hands
through the water. Pushing yourself to go faster creates more resistance.
Current and depth can also make your workout harder. Ever try to swim in choppy
ocean waters? The deeper you go, the tougher the work.
For the injury-prone, injury-wary, or already-injured person, water is an
extremely forgiving environment. During a run on land, your foot strikes the
ground between 800 and 2,000 times per mile, each time at a force of up to four
times your body weight, says David Brennan, aqua running expert and assistant
clinical professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Baylor College of
Medicine in Houston. Your knees, ankles, and back take the brunt of this
pounding, but in water your joints and skeleton are cushioned. You can work as
hard and as fast as you want, but without the impact-related problems.
Skiers, dancers, need to work on your balance? Dive in, says Sanders. The
muscles you use for balance and posture are all challenged by the constant
push-pull of water. Try a one-legged squat in waist-deep water, she suggests.
Not hard enough? Do it with your eyes closed and try to stay balanced. Strength
work, too, can be done in water, with foam dumbbells. Think about a biceps
curl, says Sanders. On land, this movement only works the biceps, whereas in
water, you'll also target the triceps as you fight the dumbbell's buoyancy to
lower your arm.