This New Philly Pool Workout Is How You’ll Want to Exercise All Summer Long
Can’t stand the heat? Get in the pool.
Look, I’m not one of those girls who loves hanging out in her bathing suit. You’ll never find me sunbathing in a public park. I won’t come to your pool party. I’m not even a fan of wearing shorts, for heaven’s sake. So when I found myself agreeing to try a workout that takes place in and around Fitness Alive’s new Center City pool, I was filled with one feeling: dread.
And that’s exactly what was weighing heavily in my gut when I showed up to the 6 p.m. Tuesday evening “On the Top” class at Fitness Alive, which opened their second city location on Arch Street in March. I walked into the warm basement space, Fitness Alive’s cheerful blue logo on the wall, the smell in the air reminding me of childhood visits to the YMCA, wondering what exactly I’d gotten myself into.
But I quickly learned that a pool fitness class is nothing like a pool party. For one thing, there aren’t any showy bathing suits — just a lot of movement-friendly one-piece suits. For another, there’s security in a group and the fact that everyone is doing rounds of squats and planks to warm up. Everyone is thinking about their form, not their tan. Everyone is following the directions of the former collegiate swimmer who’s leading the class — and they’re all just as out of breath as you are.
After the short bodyweight warm up on the rubber mats lining the edge of the room, Josie, the perky coach with a powerful voice, calls everyone to hop in the pool. Oh, boy, I think, gearing up for the shock of cold water. But again, I find myself surprised: The water is warm, comfortable even.
We quickly move into a timed circuit — rounds of high knees in the water, pulling one arm at a time against the resistance of the water, and holding onto the edge of the pool and flutter-kicking our feet out behind us. All are fairly simply movements, and yet I find myself feeling muscles that rarely get this kind of attention.
After this quick, breathless introduction to the water, Josie gives the class a tour of the circuit stations around the room. At one end, we’ll hold planks on those rubber mats; at the other end of the pool, there are kettlebells on the deck for weighted squats. In another spot, we’ll do tricep dips. In the shallow end, we’ll do more high knees and one-armed strokes through the water. The stations will take us in and out of the pool multiple times, and we’ll keep moving, going around to the stations in one big circuit several times. It’s exhausting, and soon I can’t tell if the water on my forehead is sweat or from the pool.
All the activity and the fast-paced set up of the class soon banish my nerves. As I power through from one station to another, I find I’m actually enjoying myself, having fun moving my body in ways that are foreign and familiar at the same time. By the time we get to the final set — jump squats as a group in the shallow end — I find I can’t help but smile, even through the burning sensation in my hamstrings. There’s something about splashing around in the pool, trying to jump as high as I can against the water’s pull, that brings me back to childhood, to exuberant jumping for the sheer joy of it, not for the sake of compulsory exercise. And a workout that makes you forget it’s a workout? That’s something I’ll always be able to get behind.