Saturday, December 03, 2011
For the past few months I have been enjoying the new Aqua Zumba class at my health club and even beginning to venture into land Zumba via Zumba Gold. But the past few weeks I have been away from home visiting family, and was able to attend an AqZ class there. The contrast couldn't have been bigger. We'll call the two classes Home and Away.
At Home, the instructor is a bitty little blonde bundle of energy who has been a dancer all her life and a dance teacher for most of the adult part of it. She teaches all kinds of Zumba, but is gravitating toward the lower impact forms of Aqua and Gold. Her dances are very Latin, with lots of swivelly hips and shimmying shoulders.
The Away instructor is a 6-foot tall guy, a Federal cop who does his class on the way to his night shift at work. His dances are based mainly on hip hop and calisthenics, angular and precise, with a little bhangra thrown in. Just about 180 degrees different from Home.
The great thing is that I love both workouts! Both are really suited to the music played, and the contrast is a great illustration of the creative leeway that Zumba allows its instructors. And it's also incentive to try different instructors when I can; each one gives a different fun experience.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Several people at one of the private health clubs I visited said I simply MUST come to one of Countin' Bob's classes. Not so easy to do, as he only substitutes; he doesn't have his own regular class. I consulted the club's schedule and eventually found a class he was going to teach.
Countin' Bob is so called because he intentionally doesn't use any music. Instead, he gives a move to do and counts out the repeats: 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. I was skeptical that one could keep up the motion for an hour and a half (it's for some reason an extra long class) without a motivating beat, but the guy was so highly recommended I was curious to give it a try.
Once in the water I discovered that Countin' Bob had become Timing Bob. He now demonstrates a move to do and then gives an interval of time to do it. As I suspected, when I talked to him afterwards I found that he had made the change to allow people to move at their own rate of speed rather than dictate a pace that would not be comfortable for everyone. If you want to go fast, it's up to you to push yourself. If you need to take it down a notch or two, you can.
This also aids in another part of his approach, which is that everything should be done in the best form possible--great posture, appropriate direction, coordinated. You should only work at the speed at which you can maintain form. Otherwise, why do the exercise at all? You will lose its benefit. You can tell that he was trained and certified by one of my favorite H2O gurus, Pauline Ivens: www.aquaaerobics.com/ She's famous for her insistence that you should have a specific purpose for every exercise, and not just flap about wildly in the water, hoping you have used all your muscles by the time you're done.
Bob's workout is unique, geometric, and precise. The verdict: I loved it, and I'd go back to his class in a hot minute. I didn't even miss the music because my mind was totally preoccupied with getting the moves right. Could I duplicate what he does in my classes? No way. I can't explain it, but my mind just works differently when I'm in front of a class and I get better results when I have music that leads me and allows me to go off on riffs around my basic plan. That's why it's great to have different class teachers--cross training is better for you!
Thursday, September 22, 2011
My pool's finally fixed up and open again. Hurray! The water was 75 degrees the first day, and I had no takers for a polar bear class, but we were at 82 this morning and back to normal.
But I still need to update you on the rest of my local water aerobics tour. I experienced 4 different classes at a nonprofit organization's pool, and they were quite a mixed bag. It was the type of pool with two shallow ends and a slightly deeper middle, which led to a curious arrangement that I had never seen before. The music was playing in the middle, while at one end the cardio fans were going at it hot and heavy. At the other end were the slower folks, some in a rehab mode, and some who seem to have come mainly for a chat with their pals. Sometimes there were two instructors, one for each end; a single instructor would stick to the cardio end and leave the others to get on by themselves.
There was a lot not to like--one instructor with an unbelievably loud (unamplified) voice, a lot of buoy barbells either down in the water for the full hour or waved around in the air half the time. There was one instructor at this facility that I really liked, that gave a balanced workout with none of the injury-risking positions and activities that are so common. To my surprise, she is not certified, but has trained herself with input from other instructors, physical therapists and orthopedists. Just goes to show that even without certification you can still do well if you pay attention to the wealth of information that's available.
There's one more instructor on the Tour. Next post I'll tell you about Countin' Bob.
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
I made two visits to another private health club venue, and experienced two more instructors whom we will call C and D. Both of these were closer to on time (hurray!); both taught the entire class from the water; both were adequate. Though music was playing in both instances, neither made much use of it. Neither displayed much enthusiasm or energy or, come to that, a sense of humor. It was a bit like being led by Eyore.
Both of these ladies are certified instructors, which says that although your chances of injury are less than with the uncertified, it doesn't necessarily guarantee a great workout or a good time. I also should add that both C and D were substituting, so perhaps they are livelier with their regular classes than with strangers.
Still--an exercise class should be better than this, shouldn't it?
Thursday, September 01, 2011
BOTH of my health club's pools are closed for two weeks of repair and renovation. Apparently the contractor's desire to get it all done at once in both locations trumped the members' desire for the water, so we are left high and dry for about two weeks.
After a bit of a grumble and some teeth-gnashing, I decided that this time would free me to check out other water exercise venues and instructors around town. So I have become a water aerobics tourist here in my own back yard, and will report to you what I've found. I'll leave the names anonymous; they won't mean much to most of you anyway. If you live here in Anchorage and can use names and locations, SparkMail me and I'll share.
My first venture was to a private health club downtown. It was Posh with a capital P. Big fluffy towels, fancy soap and shampoo, carpeted locker rooms, beautiful clear water in the pool, immaculate and varied equipment. Lovely. But. (You knew there was going to be a But, didn't you.) Lacking a great deal where the rubber meets the road, i.e. instructors. Instructor A was 10 minutes late to class. As the only newbie, I was the only one who showed up on time. A's workout scheme was rather strange. 15 minutes of warmup and low level activity, including a lot of arms in the air, which I have been taught is OK only in small doses. It tends to raise the blood pressure, and anyway, why not push that resist-y water around? But I digress. There followed about 15 minutes of stretching and slow movement, then sped up a little, and on to core work, mostly crunches. I have nothing against a good crunch, but many people, including A, mistake flexing at the hips for working abdominal muscles. There were other positions and movements that were ineffective at best, and injury potential at worst. The class ran 10 minutes late to make up for the late start.
Instructor B was very energetic, and gave a good cardio workout. But we were encouraged to use buoyant barbells for almost all of the class. If you're truly using them to intensify your effort, you're constantly pushing them down to keep them under the water, which can be harmful to shoulder joints in constant lengthy bouts, as we were coached to do. And did I mention? B was 20, that's TWENTY minutes late to class. But quit on time.
This experience emphasized to me the difference that certified water aerobics instructors make. They have learned exercise science; they have learned how to best use water movement; they have learned what to avoid to prevent injury in the general population, and a lot more besides. A and B both had many many years of experience in recreation, swimming, and exercise. But that's not all it takes to effectively teach water aerobics. And a professional attitude helps--like showing up on time!
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