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Originally published Friday, October 4, 2013 at 11:11 AM

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In the pool, everything is harder, in a good way

The water provides continual, low-impact resistance and an intense cardio workout.

Special to The Seattle Times


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I REGULARLY confront areas of growth in my personal fitness, especially for this column. I like to spread out my encounters with dance classes and confounding choreography, for example.

But I recently found my actual Achilles’ heel, the one to work on above all the others — the swimming pool.

Don’t assume I actually was swimming in said pool. I was there for Aqua Fit, or more specifically, the 8 a.m. Deep Liquid Intervals in the competition pool at the Bellevue Club on the Eastside.

I probably should have been more nervous, but I felt calm before class. It’s just water aerobics, I told myself. I grew up swimming at my local pool, though my main interaction with water these days is jumping in for a dip and getting out a few minutes later.

At the pool, an older man, who introduced himself as Angelo, told me most of the ladies wore a foam belt to keep afloat. He had some sort of floaties on his ankles, which I assumed meant he was tougher than the rest of us put together.

I got my props, including a foam noodle and floating dumbbells, secured my belt and eased into the water. I quickly learned the belt keeps your head above water, but just up to your chin. I might have gurgled briefly.

I joined the people slowly swimming around the deep end. Our perky instructor, Lynelle, soon was moving vigorously on the side of the pool and calling out to us to follow her.

I tried to keep up at first, then realized I could not match her tempo as she jogged, had us reach side-to-side, squeezing elbows to knees and leaping underwater. I soon realized other people couldn’t see what I was doing anyway under the water.

I also was breathing hard and was thankful no one could see my inelegant moves. The water provides continual, low-impact resistance and an intense cardio workout. I could never quite tell what part of my body I was working, and sometimes still felt like I was sinking despite my so-called belt.

When Lynelle called out for us to grab the noodles after more than 20 minutes of straight cardio, I was deeply grateful for another floatie device.

We used our noodles like bicycle handles, as resistance for planks and the piece de resistance — at least for me — standing on the noodle and finding our balance. I was challenged trying to stay upright, but I loved the extra buoyancy from the noodle. When Lynelle had us grab our dumbbells, I was reluctant to give up my noodle.

Happily, the dumbbells also provided some buoyancy, and when we pushed them underwater, added resistance to work our arms. Now that I’d had a moment to catch my breath, I started to enjoy it a little more.

At the end, we did a little speed challenge, swimming across the pool. Angelo left me in his wake.

Now I’m considering adding swimming to my routine. It feels like a great goal and a way to have more fun in the water. Aqua Fit is one way to get in a low-impact, yet thorough workout in the water. And get functionally fit.

Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: papercraneyoga@gmail.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.



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