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That ruffled swim cap can stay in grandma’s closet because this water exercise program is anything but old-fashioned. “This is for a person who wants a more challenging aqua workout,” says trainer and fitness educator Sara Kooperman, who developed her nationally known Water in Motion program that incorporates yoga, Pilates and dance moves after she injured her back in a skiing accident.
When you do exercises in water, your abdominal muscles are engaged and lengthened because they’re working to keep you balanced. And the buoyancy of the water makes it easier to hold poses—such as yoga’s Warrior III—that you might not be able to hold as well on land, providing you with more toning benefits and enabling deeper stretches. “You can move within your own range of motion without being restricted by a machine or weighed down by gravity,” Kooperman says.
While everyone can benefit from low-impact workouts that are easier on the joints, exercising in water is ideal for expectant moms, says Kooperman. The cool, soothing aqua environment enables you to comfortably perform more repetitions than you could on land. That means you can challenge yourself, but the support the water provides makes it safer to do those extra reps, too. Plus, the pressure of the water helps relieve swelling in your extremities, an uncomfortable condition for some pregnant women. As you move your arms and legs against the water’s resistance, Kooperman adds, “It almost feels like you’re getting a massage.”
Don’t forget to stay hydrated during your aqua workout routine, Kooperman cautions: “In the water, you don’t feel yourself sweating, but you’re still losing fluids.” Becoming dehydrated can lead to uterine contractions, so keep a bottle of water poolside for frequent sips. Kooperman also advises against wearing a bathing cap because you need to dissipate heat through your head to keep cool. But be sure to wear a big hat and pregnancy-safe sunblock.
You’ll need a floating noodle and water shoes for safety, traction and resistance. To provide adequate resistance and buoyancy, the water should be at chest level. Repeat each exercise slowly, doing 10 to 20 reps of each and resting in between moves. Breathe deeply and keep your core muscles contracted.
Top-notch water workout classes are available across the country.
WATER WORKOUT AT EQUINOX FITNESS: Nationwide
Combining cardiovascular and muscle conditioning drills, this interval-based aqua class is easy on your joints.
WATER WORKS AT THE SPORTS CENTER AT CHELSEA PIERS: New York City
Cardio blasts are interspersed with toning exercises borrowed from volleyball, boxing, tennis and even golf.
AQUA ZUMBA AT 24 HOUR FITNESS: Nationwide
The dancelike cardio moves are set to upbeat Latin and international music— arriba! Go to 24hourfitness.com to find the nearest club offering Aqua Zumba and download a free weeklong pass.
RYKA HYDRO FIT 4: These quick-draining, quick-drying water shoes provide welcome traction for stronger leverage and greater comfort while moving in the pool, plus peace of mind on the slippery pool deck. $65, ryka.com
SPEEDO HYDRO RESISTANT COMBO SET: Slip these neoprene-lined tools on your arms and legs to provide added resistance when you’re doing strength-building or cardio-boosting moves in the pool. The ergonomic shapes mean there’s no added stress on your joints. $50, speedousa.com
FINIS AQUAPULSE: This unique heart rate monitor, designed specifically for water use, provides assurance you’re not overdoing—or underdoing—it. Thanks to bone-conduction technology, you can actually hear your heart rate as it’s picked up by an infrared sensor on your earlobe. $140, finisinc.com