If you think aerobics in the pool are just for the infirm, the injured, or the elderly, you couldn’t be more wrong. Plenty of athletes—in sports from football, basketball, soccer, and rugby to runners, dancers, and skiers—use the pool to cross-train. It’s a perfect way to maintain fitness when the weather keeps you from your normal routines.
Working out in the water offers other benefits too. The resistance offered by the water during basic movements fosters strength and balanced core stability, while the force and energy needed to move through the water helps muscle and bone strength along with cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
If you’re a water lover, swimming’s a no-brainer for fitness. It simultaneously boosts strength, stamina, and suppleness because it has all the cardiovascular benefits of running coupled with the strength-building effects of weight training.
Swimming also helps to keep your joints flexible, especially in the neck, shoulders, hips, and groin, as your limbs and body move through the water. And it’s the perfect workout for anyone with joint, back, or neck injuries. What’s more, all you need is a swimsuit—and you’re all set (water goggles and bathing cap, optional!).
Add the meditative motion of water all around you to your sun salutations and warrior poses, and you’re sure to leave these yoga sessions totally blissed out. One of the benefits of aqua yoga is that your body is more relaxed in the warm pool water, letting you get a better stretch in each pose.
But lest you think your muscles won’t get a workout from these sessions, think again. With the slight movement of the water, poses like balancing stick and tree force your muscles to work just a little harder to maintain your balance.
Do you miss your runs when the weather makes them impossible? Let’s face it: long winters mean long, leisurely runs aren’t always safe. But you can still put one foot purposefully in front of another for a long run—underwater. Aqua jogging can be done in shallow water (waist deep) or deep water, where the runner’s feet don’t touch the pool bottom.
Set yourself up for a more varied workout—running in water can get a little repetitive, and boring—by working through some pyramids, where you run through different intensity levels for set amounts of time.