Why, indeed, at sixty-mumble years of age do I do this? It's a question I'm sure plenty of polite people wonder but don't ask. It's a question some nervy family members actually ask. It's a question I sometimes even ask myself. Here are some of my answers.
The class members. First and foremost. They are great people who are doing a great thing for themselves, and I love supporting that and making it the best possible experience.
The challenge of the class members. People come to water classes with all kinds of backgrounds and needs. I love trying to help them all get what they need in that hour, wildly variable though those needs may be. I once had an ultramarathoner in training for a 100-mile race and a prison guard pre-habbing for a double hip replacement in the same class. They both were regulars, so they both must have felt they were benefiting.
The challenge of the environment. I can come to the pool with some basic ideas of what I want to do in the class, but they can be drastically re-arranged depending on air and/or water temperature. One time when the water temperature was 90 degrees (that's like therapy pool heat) cardio work would have collapsed everyone with heat exhaustion. Instead, we had to have an hour of slow strength work and Ai Chi movement. Good thing I didn't have my heart set on killer intervals!
To demonstrate that you don't have to be young, skinny, cute, or athletic to be fit. Yes, the young, skinny, cute, and athletic teachers are fun to watch at the front of the class. But they can represent an unrealistic standard for the average person that just wants to lower their health risks or fit into smaller jeans. I feel like I can at least be living proof that exercise is for every body. And having been a lot fatter, having a touch of arthritis, having had the life experiences that come with a lot of years, I can better empathize with my class members and better guide their workouts.
The learning. I confess I have always been a nerd. And now I'm an exercise nerd. I love the continuing education classes we have to take to keep up certification. I adore attending international water aerobics conventions to see what's new, what's old-and-now-new-again, and to be a part of the collective energy of a group of people who are passionate about a shared interest. I love to keep variety in my classes.
First and last, it's the class members. It's such a boost to see people who manage to make exercise a habit grow in strength and endurance, to see them enjoy the social benefits of class, and to maintain their ability to do activities they love, whether as professional musicians, caregivers, teachers, or pet rescuers.
Another question that I sometimes ask myself is "How long can I keep doing this?" I see colleagues fall to injury, joint problems, life changes, and I wonder if 70 will be the end of the road. 75? Will I be leading the chair exercise class in the nursing home when I'm 95? The only answer I can come up with is "as long as I can. As long as people will let me. I love this.