Life in the Aquafit Lane

My friend Jeff once annoyed a woman so much that she splashed water in his face.

They were in the Canada Games Centre pool at the time. Jeff was calmly swimming some laps when it happened, so this naturally triggered a few questions, such as: “We’re both already wet – what are you going to accomplish by splashing me?”

Jeff and I are lane swimmers and the lady who splashed him was an aquafit enthusiast (“Aquafitter”?). There had always been tension between these groups and there was the odd warning sign – a withering “stink-eye” cast across the lane rope one night, suspicious bubbles in the “swirl pool” on another – but it had never come to an all-out face splashing.

As usual with these kinds of conflicts, misunderstandings are at the heart of the matter.

Lane swimmers don’t understand why the aquafitters need three-quarters of the pool while we get crowded into the one or two remaining lanes.

Aquafitters apparently don’t understand why the lane swimmers need to make waves when they swim, which occasionally causes them to get wet hair. Aquafitters, we gather, do not like getting their hair wet.

I resolved that all this pool-enthusiast on pool-enthusiast violence had to stop somewhere. So the other night, Speedo knotted extra tight, I screwed up my courage and doggy-paddled into the lions’ den: aquafit class in the CGC pool.

Cautiously, I made my way towards the shallow end. I was the only male lurking among the 20 or so waiting participants when it occured to me that I may have just raided a women’s only class.

Sudden panic. I crouched low, eyes flitting wildly from side-to-side, just barely above the surface of the water like a crocodile who just passed gas at a lagoon party when I spotted an elderly gentlemen making his way over. Phew.

Cheesy techno beats started thumping over the sound system, which drew more people over from the leisure pool and the sauna. Maybe this will be okay, I think to myself.

For the uninitiated, aquafit is sort of like an aerobics class in neck-deep water. The water supports most of your body weight and relieves any stress on knee and hip joints.

That makes aquafit a good choice for people with arthritis or other nagging problems, and also a good choice for seniors because there’s no risk of falling.

Our instructor, Cathryn Wallis, seems to get the best workout of anyone. Positioned on the pool deck, she does all the moves we’re doing in the water, but on dry ground. Just watching her is exhausting.

Wallis is knowledgeable, organized and enthusiastic and seems to have a familiar, friendly relationship with many of her regulars.

In conversation afterwards she further explains some of the benefits.

“Because of the water, you get hydrostatic pressure equally on all surfaces of the body. This means you’re working just as hard as on land, but your heart rate and body temperature stay lower.”

As a result, you burn more calories when exercising in the water compared to exercising on land. A one-hour aquafit class burns nearly 400 calories, comparable to jogging at a heart-thumping six to eight minutes per kilometre pace for the same time period.

Being submersed in water is a mixed blessing. I relish the fact that no one could see how badly I’m butchering the dance-type moves, but it would be nice if the instructor could see me to offer some feedback about how to improve.

Wallis did offer some tips on how to vary the amount of resistance you get by changing your hand position: slicing the water for the least resistance, making a fist or laying your palm flat for more, hitting the person in front of you for the most resistance (sorry, lady in the red bathing suit).

I’m glad I tried aquafit. I met some friendly folks who inspired me with their motivation, and flailing around in the water is always fun.

I need to tell you, however, that I did get my hair wet and I can’t blame it on any lane swimmers.

Maybe aquafitters actually don’t mind getting their hair wet. Maybe my friend Jeff is just annoying and that’s why the lady splashed him.

I knew it was all just a big misunderstanding.

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