WHEN HOT WEATHER drives you poolside, it's tempting to combine cooling off with working out. But swimming laps can be boring: You're alone, you're stuck in a lane and the scenery doesn't change. There's another option: Incorporate the water into your exercise regimen.
"Bringing that element into [a workout] is amazing," says Alex Isaly, a lead trainer of WTRX, an in-pool class developed by Life Time Fitness and Speedo. "It increased how long I could actually go at a really high intensity. In the water, I feel like I can exert a lot more effort over a longer period of time."
WTRX combines the movements you'd normally do in a boot-camp-style circuit and the muscle-building benefits of lifting weights. Many of the exercises can be done by anyone with access to a pool, a lake or even the ocean. For example, the program calls for you to do lunges or squat jumps by pushing off the bottom of the pool and working against the water's resistance, and to do triceps dips and pushups on the pool wall. Set a goal to complete a certain number of reps or see how many reps you can do in a prescribed time, just as you would in the gym. To increase the resistance, use weights or hand paddles.
The water adds another element to your workout: instability. "When you're doing moves on one leg, you think that you'll have much better balance in the water," says Natalie Coughlin, who has won 12 Olympic swimming medals. "But the moving water actually challenges you in a different way." Balancing forces you to work your core and the small stabilizing muscles around joints.
An in-water training session also puts less stress on your body. "It works everything that you would do on land, but in a safer environment," says four-time Olympic swimming medalist and world-record holder Cullen Jones.
You don't even need special gear—you can actually hit the water in your quick-dry workout clothes, no bathing suit necessary. Form-fitting clothing works best, but if that's not available, take the extra resistance in stride.
"For me to run back and forth in the pool, that's so foreign to me, so it challenges me in a different way, working on coordination, flexibility and strength," Coughlin says. "Anytime you challenge yourself athletically, no matter what you're doing, you're going to make yourself into a better athlete."
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Here are a few in-water exercises to get started
Stand with feet wide, hands in front of chest, palms out. Drive right hand across body and twist torso while pulling left elbow back. Reverse.
Put on footwear and stand with hands gripping wall. Run as if trying to push the wall forward, driving off the bottom. Go for 30 seconds, then rest.
Stand with one leg forward, one back, hands at side, palms forward. Raise hands to shoulders, rotate inward, then push down. Keep shoulders level throughout.
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