From Vertical to Horizontal…Take the Plunge
But wait. What is going on over on the other side of the pool today? You see an instructor in the water with two adults and you think to yourself, “They look about my age.” You notice they are horizontal in the water! And what is that they are wearing? Goggles on their face and fins on their feet. Wow that looks really fun! The instructor is working directly with the two and they are having a great time. They are learning to float glide and even swim because they are taking part in a learn-to-swim program.
In today’s aquatic exercise and fitness world, there are an increasing number of options for the water-minded. The benefits of aquatic exercise and fitness are becoming well known throughout the country. Water is being utilized and enjoyed by all ages and abilities. Vertical aquatic exercise provides a total workout targeting all major muscle groups, while going easy on the bones and joints. These exercises also provide immense benefits for the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Aquatic centers everywhere have been implementing vertical aquatic exercise in the form of shallow and deep water fitness classes, one-on-one aquatic personal training sessions and even customized aquatic programs to help clients reach their individual goals.
However, once a client becomes comfortable and feels safe in an aquatic exercise setting, it is not uncommon for them to seek out new and exciting options to fulfill their fitness goals. Most Aquatic Fitness Professionals have at their disposal a unique opportunity to provide clients with that little “something extra” – an adult learn-to-swim program. Whether your clients are seasoned citizens or young adults, all can enjoy the challenge and gratification of a quality learn-to-swim program. The learn-to-swim professional at your aquatic center can provide your clients with an alternative to their vertical aquatic exercise program while teaching a series of aquatic skills for them to master. Improved strength, flexibility and circulation, a stronger heart, as well as relief from tension and stress are just a few of the benefits derived from participating in a learn-to-swim program. Fitness experts agree that a variety of aquatic exercise (or cross training) is an excellent way to keep the mind and body involved, and provides the best results to help reach fitness goals. Since most aquatic vertical exercisers already feel comfortable and safe in the water, the next step involves learning basic techniques and movements as related to the fundamental swimming strokes such as, floating, gliding, kicking and arm movements. Here are some examples:
Floating – As you first learn to move the body through the water, body alignment is the key to success while being aided with proper floatation. Remember, that those less buoyant will glide easier than they float. While standing on the bottom of the pool, take a deep breath, hold that breath and lean forward. Bending at the waist and putting the head in the water allows the knees to flex slightly and the feet to lift off the bottom. The arms and legs hang from the body and the back will rise to the surface. Recovery is simply accomplished by dropping the feet and standing up. Moving the arms in a reverse circular motion can assist with balancing the standing up motion.
Gliding – Once floating is accomplished, gliding is the next progression and comes quite easy as forward movement aids in the floatation. With the body in the floating position, give a slight push forward off the bottom of the pool while holding arms and legs in the streamline position. An instructor can aid in the forward momentum. When momentum slows, simply recover as before. Gliding can also be done with floatation aids until good body control is achieved.
Kicking – Kicking is not only used as a means of forward propulsion, but as a body stabilizer as well. A flutter kick (or freestyle kick) is the most common and easiest to learn. Moving the legs from the hips and the knees, using an alternating up and down motion while letting the feet just break the surface of the water, will move the body through the water. This can also be done in a stationary position such as holding the pool wall and then progressing to holding a kick board or other floatation device. The next progression is to add the kick to a front float with no kickboard or flotation device. Kicking, when mastered, becomes an excellent fitness activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.
Swimming Strokes – The basic swimming strokes are easy to learn once the correct progressions are mastered. The front crawl (or freestyle) is the most common and easiest to learn for most beginners. Body position, arm and leg movements, body awareness and breath control are all combined through a series of natural learning progressions. Other strokes such as the back crawl (backstroke), elementary backstroke, side stroke, breaststroke, and butterfly are also used in fitness swimming and can be very beneficial to those looking to add a cardiovascular component to their fitness routine.
There are many other components to a learn-to-swim program and fitness swimming. Do not be intimidated by those horizontal exercisers you see going back and forth in the lap lanes. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Learning these life-skills can add the variety and excitement to your aquatic exercise program. Seeking out a qualified swim instructor or certified learn-to-swim program is your first step to taking the plunge from vertical to horizontal aquatic exercise. When it comes to a learn-to-swim program, the majority of aquatic centers have a variety of programming options from group classes to private/semi-private lessons. As a vertical aquatic exerciser you will see many benefits from a safe and well-structured learn-to-swim program. So don’t be afraid to get your face wet and enjoy a quality learn to swim program. Take the plunge!
For more information on learn-to-swim programs in your area, contact USA Swimming at usaswimming.org or call 719-866-3594.
American Red Cross, Water Safety Instructors Manual (copyright 2004), StayWell Yardley, PA 19067
Dane has a BS in Movement Science and Education from Florida State University. Having over 20 years expierence in the aquatic industry, Dane has worked in the fields of competitive swimming, fitness swimming, aquatic exercise and aquatic therapy and is currently employed by the United States Olympic Committee as an Aquatic Specialist, working at the Olypic Training Center pool in Colorado Springs.