How to Turn Your Pool Hang Into a Serious Sweat Session



With temperatures in Philly rising above 90 degrees, it can be tough to hit the hot pavement for a run. On days like these, the pool can be a great alternative to get in a workout without even realizing you’re sweating.

As local trainer and pool aficionado Holly Waters says, “Water aerobics is for newcomers and for those who are experienced because everyone can give his or her own 100 percent in the water.” We chatted with this pool pro to learn how to turn your pool hangout into a sweat session with exercises ranging from running-friendly to joint-friendly and more.

If you want a running-centric pool session …

Start your workout with a quick stretch in the shallow end of the pool, Waters says. Like on land, a good warm-up in the water lessens the risk of injury and improves workout quality. After warming up, swim laps, starting out with one or two if you’re new to it and building up to more laps every week. When swimming, Waters suggests focusing on lengthening your core and limbs by straightening the spine, which will strengthen your core and lead to better posture. (Yes, please!)

After you swim laps, switch to aqua jogging. Aqua jogging is exactly what it sounds like: running in the water, with or without the assistance of a flotation belt. Focusing on your running form in the water will help your form on land. Waters also suggests trying pick-ups while you aqua jog: Push harder for 30-second intervals to increase heart rate, then slow down for a minute of easy jogging, and once the minute is up, repeat.

If you want to work out your arms …

Dubbed the Queen of Wedding Arms (Waters works with a lot of brides pre-wedding), Waters knows a thing or two about building up arm strength in the pool. “Everything you can do in the gym, you can mimic in water,” Waters says, which means you can tone up your arms without ever picking up a weight. Waters suggests mimicking motions like biceps and triceps curls; “slicing” cleanly through the water during lap swimming (no splashing allowed!); and performing pretty much any other exercise you would usually do with a weight outside of the water — get creative! Why no weights? Because the resistance of the water is weight enough. You can also do dips off the edge of the pool or on the steps to work your arms and the muscles in your back.

If you want to work out your legs …

For your legs, place a noodle underwater and hold it down with your foot. Push the noodle downwards and slowly guide it back up. You’ll be surprised how much resistance the noddle offers in the water. You can do similar noodle exercises with your hamstrings and thighs: controlled lateral kicks in the water, at a high rep and pace, can work your thighs and hips. Also, squat jumps in shallow water work your glutes while taking pressure off your knees. Another exercise Waters suggests: Try holding the edge of the pool, fully extending your arms and legs, and kicking underwater (moving the entire leg from the hips, not just your feet) to strengthen your hips.

If you have joint problems …

“Being encompassed by the water takes all the pressure of your joints,” Waters explains. Instead of plyometrics in the pool, folks with joint problems or those rehabbing an injury should opt for elongation exercises in the pool, like stretching in the shallow end, which is safer to do in the water because you are less likely to overextend your muscles. Lap swimming and aqua jogging are good workouts for those who want to build endurance.

If you just want to up your heart rate …

For cardio, shake things up. Swim laps at a comfortable but challenging pace. Between lap sets, jump out of the water to complete plyometrics, like kettlebell swings, body squats or push-ups. Mixing mediums will work out different muscles and your heart rate will go up as you change movements and intensity.

Waters advises her trainees to start their water workouts sooner rather than later: “Water workouts aren’t just for old ladies. Don’t start when you’re 80. Start now, so you have hips that will let you do the things that you want to do when you’re 80,” she says.

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