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Aquatic Fitness Routine

In order to achieve and maintain the benefits of exercise, an aquatic exercise program must follow the main principles of a workout. It should begin with warm-up stretches on the pool deck, followed by an in-pool aerobic warm-up session. Then the actual conditioning activity begins, consisting of 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous "aerobic" activity. A cool-down period in the pool can end the session, although a toning period is recommended following the cool-down. The following section discusses the aquatic fitness routine in detail.

Warm-up Stretches

It is very important to include proper warm-up routines before each day's activity. Physiologically, the muscles need to be warmed slowly through increased circulation, and the heart rate needs to be raised gradually. Psychologically, each participant needs to begin to think about the workout and perhaps set some personal goals for the day. Warm-ups are also an important safety precaution. Cold, tight muscles are inefficient for a good workout and may tear with sudden movements.

A general idea to keep in mind while structuring a warm-up routine is to try to simulate the movements of the activity to be performed in the main body of the workout. The warm-up should simulate the workout movement but should be of a much lower intensity. Because of the nature of the exercises, they should be performed before entering the pool.

A good warm-up should move quickly but thoroughly from the top of the body to the bottom of the body. In lap swimming and aerobic workout, special attention should be given to these areas: shoulder complex, obliques, abdominal, groin, hamstrings, quadriceps, gastrocnemius.

Aerobic Warm-up Exercises

Once the participants have entered the pool, they need to slowly raise their heart rates and get their body temperatures acclimated to that of the pool. Some fun activities for a good aerobic warm-up are to walk, jog, skip, or hop back and forth the width of the pool. As further variation, participants can do front kicks or skips and hops across the pool width. Finally, long strides, called skiing, can be used across the pool width. There are several fun games, such as musical kick-board, water basketball, and tug of war, that may be appropriate for your group as an aerobic warm-up. These games should be played for approximately 5 minutes as a warm-up activity.

Conditioning Activities

Circuit Training: Circuit training is a conditioning activity using stations. Different activities are designated for each station to provide a relief from the monotony of lap swimming. The stations may provide an overall body workout, or they may be used to concentrate on one body area. Circuit training is a means for building strength and endurance as well as getting an aerobic effect. It is a good idea to begin with a small number of stations at first, three perhaps, gradually working up to four or six. A time period, must be designated for work at each station, such as 15 to 30 seconds, depending on the activity being performed. It may also be appropriate to require a certain number of movements to be performed before moving on to the next station. In between stations, the participants should move as quickly as possible swimming or running. Each station should be set up in the corners of the pool so the participants have to sprint some distance to the next station.

Interval Training: Interval training is another method of achieving an aerobic effect and breaking the monotony of lap swimming. Any stroke can be used for this method of training however, since it is typically used with the front crawl that is the stroke that the examples listed below will be referring to. With this training method the participant will swim at chosen intensity, preferably full speed, with a predetermined rest period between sprints. This rest period can be determined in several ways. A given amount of time such as 10 seconds between sprints may be used. The amount of time may be increased and decreased between sprints in a pyramid effect. The heart rate can be used as a time monitor by resting between sprints until the heart rate drops to a predetermined level, such as 20 beats for a 10-second count.

Interval training may progress by increasing the number of lengths or laps performed each workout. Another way of progressing would be to decrease the amount of time spent resting between sprints. Rest periods and the number of lengths or laps should always be determined before the workout begins.

Fartlek Training: The Fartlek training method is yet another variation of lap swimming to break the monotony. This method

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