• Jenni Lynn Patterson LaCour

Deck Blocks @ IAFC19!

Learning how to convey what I teach in my aquatic fitness classes has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Being a freestyle instructor and gearing each class towards its specific population, I find myself without notes and going ‘off the cuff’ while teaching. But then trying to remember what I did was impossible.

So, I started to record myself. Game changer! I started to notice that I have a “block” system to my format, so this IAFC 2019 workshop is appropriately named Deck Blocks.

Using the principles and guidelines from AEA, the structuring and progression of a class seems pretty simple: short lever movements progressing to long lever, level I progressing to level III and propulsion, and being mindful of the equipment each participant is using and the duration of the use. Though these are just a few of the rules, we as instructors have the education to execute a safe and effective routine for our students to achieve a total body aquatic workout.

Two of my concerns while training my students are 1) warming up quickly and safely in cool water and 2) keeping them moving/active to avoid talking. After reviewing some videos, I filmed of myself teaching, I noticed a general blocking:

• Warm-Up – 10 minutes • Transition at Wall – 5 minutes • Without Equipment Main Section – 10 minutes • Transition at Wall – 5 minutes • With Equipment Main section – 10 minutes • Warm-Down using Wall – 5 minutes

This is just an example, as sometimes I may not use equipment during the class, or I will use two different types of equipment after the wall transitions. The wall is optional as well, since there are times when there are too many participants; in other classes I may break them into two groups and have some at the wall and some in the middle of the pool. The “blocks” can be built in any format you choose based on your population and available pool space. Besides the cool-down and stretch to end class, the warm-up is by far one of the most important blocks to a well-designed fitness class. This ensures that participants are properly warmed up, their muscles are ready for the workload, and they’re less likely to experience an injury. Being that I have to work with cool water geared towards swimmers, I try to travel my participants to warm up quickly. If traveling is not possible, I bring out my short lever and ROM (range of motion) block.

This is a block I like to think of as bringing my student’s attention to their body and how it’s moving – from reminders to drop their heels down to the floor, bring their ears over the shoulders, or slice their hands through the water. The point is to awaken their awareness of how each joint and muscle is being moved. In doing so, we can safely and effectively prepare each and every part of the body before transitioning to one of the main sections of class.

Transitions in class, both between exercises and between class segments, can be tricky. As most instructors know, you don’t want to have extended ‘down time’ for students, because that’s when the chatterboxes take over! So, I have found that using the wall as a place to transition into the main section and/or use of equipment can be very helpful.

Wall transitions can be fun and challenging for participants, plus it gives you an opportunity to walk around and verbally motivate everyone. Using wall circuits is just one way I like to keep my participants focused and warm.

One example of a Wall Circuit would be:

• 45-second Wall Taps • 45-second Kicks and/or High Knee Run in Place • 45-second Push Offs

Repeat 2 times (Interval length can increase or decrease depending on your population)

During the Deck Blocks workshop at IAFC 2019 we will discuss the many options available to building your own “blocks” of work for your classes. From the warm-up, transitions, main sections (both with and without equipment) and the finale of a cool-down, we will break into groups to brainstorm and explore the endless options to build your perfect aquatic class.

Together we will make sure that we not only properly warm our students up and keep them flexible but ensure a balanced workout that targets all muscle groups and challenges balance, power and cardio stamina.


Jenni Lynn Patterson-LaCour is an AEA ATS and CE Provider as well as NSCA, CPT and CE Provider for AFAA and NASM. Jenni Lynn is also the creator and founder of S'WET by Jenni Lynn Fitness™, a trademarked aquatic fitness program that incorporates her swimming background with kickboxing, HIIT, yoga, pilates, and strength training in the pool. She truly believes the perception of water fitness can be transformed and soon ALL ages and genders will be working out together in the pool!

Reprinted with permission from the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) www.aeawave.com

This article first appeared in the April/May 2019 Issue of AKWA Magazine.

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