Many pools serve aesthetic purposes. This doesn’t mean buyers don’t enjoy being in the water. It just means ‘water sports’ weren’t a top reason for having the pool installed. It was more for entertainment reasons and property value-add. They like sitting by the pool sipping beer, or having friends over for a BBQ pool party. They might occasionally throw on swimsuits and sunscreen, lounge on an inflatable, and paddle in the water (while staying dry). Or on a really hot day, they might dip their feet in and splash around, just for fun.
Another segment put the pool in largely for the kids, in which case it’s likely to be relatively shallow. But there’s a third category that genuinely love water – our very own Aussie mermaids. They feel out of whack if they skip their daily swim for any reason. These guys are more likely to install a heated pool, or to position it indoors so they can swim all year round. A lot of the time, this type of owner will go for the lap pool. But stop-watched laps aren’t the only kind of exercise you can do. In reality, you can do any exercise underwater that you can do outside of it. This includes sprints, because there are such things as pool shoes.
The two main advantages of doing ‘gym exercises’ in the water might seem contradictory. The buoyancy of your body makes your movements seem gentler, so you won’t feel the muscle strain or fatigue (until later), and you can indulge in longer sessions of exercise. At the same time, the weight of the water adds a level of resistance which makes your muscle work more effective. A third benefit is related – because water resistance applies to your whole body, pool exercises offer a full body workout. You could start by getting basic equipment for exercising in the pool. We’ve mentioned customised pool shoes … what else?
Jogger-belts and ankle weights allow you to ‘run’ in the water. They weigh you down, limiting buoyancy and stopping it from interfering with your fitness routine. This helps because underwater running requires your feet to be off the pool floor, and when that happens, those feet (and your torso too) tend to float to the top, forcing you into a horizontal position. The waterproof weight help you stay upright so you can maintain running posture and technique. They help you burn additional calories when you’re – say – trading water. Kickboards and pool noodles can be incorporated into your workout as well. Now, let’s get a bit more specific.
Heard of frog jumps? They can be done underwater as well, except you should do it in the shallower end of the pool, and without weight. Don’t squat all the way to the pool floor, because that may leave your head submerged. You just need to dip down to your shoulders and arms, then jump. The density of the water helps, because it lowers the chance of injury. When you frog jump on ‘dry land’ it’s easy to hurt your knees as you land, so you have to be careful to keep them soft and avoid locking. In the pool, the water cushions your landing. You could do pool-side press-ups with your palms on your pool steps and head above water.
Of course you can do more ‘basic’ routines as well. Add some kick to your laps with stationary swimming. You can install a belt-and-pole system securely attached to the side of your pool. You clip yourself in and do all your swimming movements without actually … moving. It’s a common exercise aid for professional swimmers, because it intensifies resistance levels and allows them to focus on form and technique rather than speed. Our Olympic swimmers are also said – anecdotally – to practice swimming in muddy puddles for this same reason – added resistance and enhanced muscle usage.
Pool exercise doesn’t have to be formalised. A lot of the tricks you used when you were first learning to swim are great exercise tools. Think of muscle group isolation, for example. Your teacher used them to teach you the right positioning and tactics for your legs and arms. Now you can use them to keep fit.
On leg day, you can hold onto the side of the pool or hold a kickboard to immobilise your arms, then kick your feet as fast as you can, for as long as you can. And on arm day, you can put that same kickboard between your knees, cross you ankles to keep your legs immobile, than practise your swim strokes using just your arms – exercising biceps and triceps. Treading water (with our without weights) works your arms, legs, and core, and is great for lung-work and cardio.