Alternative Exercise: Water Workouts For Non-Swimmers

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 9:17am

By Michele Silence, MA

You’ve heard how wonderful water workouts can be—how they’re gentle on your joints and great for chronic problems. Better yet, the water has great therapeutic value in helping regain function after injuries.

The only problem is that you can’t swim. Moreover, you don’t even like the water very much—your hair gets wet, you smell like chlorine, and you’re afraid you’ll get swept away in a whirlpool.

Relax. The most hesitant non-swimmers often become water workout converts once they’ve tried one. Water workouts are refreshing, effective, and energizing. In addition, they offer relief from pain and are doable by anyone.

If you’re skeptical about putting on your swimsuit and getting into the water, try positively shaping your first experience by using the following guidelines. If you stick to them the first few times, I guarantee that you’ll greatly increase your chances of having an enjoyable water workout experience.

Water workout guidelines

1.   Wear comfortable clothing - you don't have to wear a swimsuit!

Your clothing absolutely must be comfortable. Not just physically but psychologically as well. Don’t even think of wearing a swimsuit if you don’t feel good walking around freely in it. Choose instead a pair of old shorts and t-shirt. If you aren’t comfortable with how you look you won’t be comfortable with anything else. And, wardrobe malfunctions can ruin the entire workout right from the start.

2.   Wear appropriate footwear - it gives control and avoids slipping during a water workout

Equally important is what you wear on your feet. Wear an old pair of shoes or buy a pair of water shoes made especially for the purpose. When your feet have traction you feel more grounded and in control. And, you’re less likely to slip on algae or slick pool surfaces.

3.   Water depth for your workout - find the level you are comfortable with

Do not attempt to exercise in water any higher than chest level. The higher the water, the less control you will have against it. As you improve, you can go into deeper water.

4.   Control your speed of movement and so maintain your balance in the water

The faster you travel, the greater the chances you’ll lose control of your balance and possibly slip. Instead of running, march or walk.

5.   Avoid high-impact movement to avoid slipping in the water

Keep the movements grounded. Instead of jumping high, bounce just a little. The higher you rebound, the greater your chance of slipping and going under.

6.   Avoid sudden changes of direction  - it creates a pull in the water

Be aware that changing directions suddenly can create a pull similar to that of a rip tide. Avoid moving in the reverse direction suddenly.

7.   Use devices to ensure you remain afloat

Have a tool to help you stay afloat. A foam noodle under both arms or between the legs (like riding a horse) can give you some extra confidence by holding you up in case you trip or slip. Flotation belts are also a great tool. Look for these and others on this website.

Whether you get in the pool with a few friends or enroll in a water class you can enjoy it. Prepare yourself and then jump in. The water is refreshing like no other workout, especially on a warm, sunny day. If you can relax, you’ll absolutely love how it feels on your body, how effective it is in giving you a great workout, and how good it leaves you feeling afterwards. Take the plunge and see.