Beginning Aqua Aerobics for Cowards: Hotel Pool Edition

By Crabby McSlacker

Yes, we did indeed just have a post about aqua-aerobics! But that was a real one, a guest post written by someone who actually knows something about it.

This is the lame-ass, totally illegitimate guide directed at people like me who:
  • Hate getting into water because it is cold and wet;
  • Don't swim well;
  • Don't like water up their nose;
  • Are too lazy and/or intimidated to sign up for a class and actually learn how to do stuff properly;
  • Have a multitude of other complaints about pool-based activities (like racoon goggle eyes, ill fitting swimsuits, inconvenient location/hours, toxic chlorine, and the probability that kids have peed in the water); but, who
  • Have accumulated enough joint pain, injuries, boredom or burnout to make taking advantage of a totally different form of exercise that is suddenly conveniently available sort of intriguing.
So yeah, I'm sparing you more South Africa pictures today to share my hotel-pool aqua-aerobic workout experience, should you be planning to travel anywhere and want to toss in a bathing suit and give it a shot.

Step One: Find a deserted or mostly-deserted hotel pool:

This can be tricky. The best chance is at a hotel that still heats their pool off-season. There was never anyone at the Frisco Texas Homewood Suites even remotely interested in a late March/ early April swim and I had it all to myself.  But even if other annoying competitors for your pool may be theoretically interested, most will be too lazy to get up early and hit the pool first thing in the morning and you may still have it to yourself.

Step Two:  Prepare yourself for the horrible hideous first few seconds of immersion:

If it ain't a shower, bathtub or a spa, entering into a body of water can be a most unpleasant experience.

You KNOW it's better if you dive in rather than go inch by excruciating inch. Yet I almost never follow that advice.  For these couple of workouts though, I actually did dive in for once, and it's true, it is indeed the way to go. Plus it feels bad-ass and generates major smugness if you are normally too chicken to do it. However, it helped me to:

Jog a little on the treadmill ahead of time to get hot, to make water sound more appealing. But then stand out in the freezing-ass wind staring at the pool frozen in terror long enough that dipping a toe in yielded an almost-warm contrast.  Warm core temperature plus freezing skin seemed to be the optimal preparation for me.  (Had there been a shower near the pool, that probably would have been good prep too).

It still sucked when I dove in, but only for a second or two.

Step Three: Ask An Incredibly Patient Spouse or Friend to Join You, or Failing That, Have Them Stop By With a Camera

I'm pretty happy to go solo when making an ass of myself trying new things, but most people would probably feel less doofy with a co-conspirator to splash around with.

But having a photo record of your efforts might keep you from jumping right back out of the water again after 2 minutes, and it will remind you later that sometimes you are brave and challenge yourself. And bonus: it will enable you to write a blog post about your swim and bore your readers if you like to do that sort of thing.

Step Four:  Prepare Yourself for Major Lameness, But Don't Give Up.

If you had any previous experience swimming or frolicking in pools as a youth, but haven't done it in years, you may have unrealistic expectations of competence and comfort. You may think that being generally fitter than you were back then will make up for lost muscle memory and skills.

Nah. You may be amazed at how crappy you've gotten at moving around in the water.

If you are like me, anxiety may make it hard to catch your breath, strokes you half-remember will be nearly impossible to execute, and you can easily feel like an awkward floundering ape attempting to do things you used to do with ease. (Though I suspect apes would be way better at it than I was).

The breathing thing does get a little better as you settle in, but don't beat yourself up if your don't seem to have the same aerobic capacity in the pool as you do other places.

Step Five:  Don't Have a Big Agenda; Be Flexible And Mix it Up.

Fun and experimentation should be the guiding principles. It helps to have a few ideas of what you might want to do in there, but you get major credit for getting in and doing ANYTHING. You can read some suggestions in the aqua aerobics post, or just mix up swimming laps with other aerobic activities you invent yourself, letting improvisation and whim direct you to whatever seems most appealing.

Some things I did:

Run, shuffle sideways, and hop from side to side.

See if I could go the length of the pool doing underwater breast stroke. (Just barely, and it was a small pool).

Jump up and down--it's a great way to get explosive movements without joint pain on landing.

Practice forward somersaults without getting water in nasal passages.

Do a bunch of laps of breastroke because that's the easiest, most pleasant way to  get from one end of the pool to the other.

Try backwards somersaults and flail comically to one side each time.

Try to swim the crawl without drowning.

Grab a noodle to use as a kickboard and discover that kicking is HARD.

Realize the butterfly is the stupidest, hardest stroke ever invented.

More jumping up and down.

Wonder how the hell you're supposed to know when the pool ends when attempting backstroke. Curse when you hit the wall unexpectedly.

Cup palms and use water as resistance for newly-invented arm and core exercises.

Try breathing every other stroke doing the crawl and marvel how difficult that's become.

More running around, hopping, etc, forwards, sideways, and backwards.

Attempt a few flip turns.

I forget what else, but somehow each time I was able to find enough to do to get a couple reasonably fun 25-30 minute workouts out of it!

Step Six:  Feel Hella Smug for Doing Something Different and then Eat an Enormous Buffet Breakfast To Celebrate!

What is it about getting in a cold pool that makes food taste so freakin' good?

Do you guys do water exercise regularly? Would you consider it if you found yourself at a hotel with a deserted pool?

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