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Get On Board!

Earlier this year, Jenni Lynn's SURF & S’WET™ class was featured on New York City's PIX11 Morning News!


Are You On Board?

by Jenni Lynn Patterson LaCour

One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered over a decade of teaching aquatic fitness is getting devoted land exercise participants to consider jumping into one of my water-based classes. Most "land goers" are very loyal, just like our aquatic fitness enthusiasts. However, they will make numerous excuses as to why the water just isn’t for them, or isn’t as effective as “weight bearing”, or they don’t want to carry around a wet swimsuit, or in my opinion, they just don’t want to get their hair wet! Whatever their reason, convincing them otherwise has proven difficult.

Until…I created Surf & S’WET™.

Thankfully, I was presented with the opportunity to teach on floating mats at one of the facilities where I work. This was beyond exciting because I had patiently waited for about a year for a slot to open. I had taught small group training with the boards for additional member fees, but this opportunity was a permanent class that members could register for on a weekly basis and make continuous progress. Finally, the chance to promote an aquatic fitness class that would incorporate weight bearing exercises, balance and core stability work, all on top of and in the water.

Most aquatic instructors can attest that there are many misconceptions about the benefits of aquatic fitness demonstrated by the demographics we have filling up most of our classes. Though the industry has been making waves and starting to create awareness, through growing interest within gyms and online content, there’s still a big factor keeping all types of participants from showing up to our pools. I believe this is because they cannot see what we’re doing!

To an untrained eye looking through the pool windows at an aquatic fitness class, you see some waves and bobbing heads at the surface of the water. Visually this cannot be that appealing to those who have absolutely no idea what is actually taking place below the surface. Now, using the floating boards, onlookers will be able to visually take in what a water class looks like.

Most previous participants had done yoga and Pilates-based classes on the boards, but everything stayed on the board (unless they lost balance and fell in).

The participants were so adamant about not getting wet, they were willing to risk their safety to jump from the pool deck onto the board. Of course, I did not allow this to happen, but several would attempt just to prevent getting wet.

I have to be honest, I am sneaky with my class.

I start in the water – not on top of the board – with high knee jogs and pumping arms. Just like a traditional aquatic fitness class, we warm up, short levers and all, while going through base moves (jumping jacks, cross-country skis, tucks, kicks and hops) while in the water between the boards. Once I can tell their muscles are prepared and breathing rates increased, we use the board itself as a piece of equipment. (I know some pools perform the floating board classes in deep water, so this could all be done with a flotation belt incorporating deep-water based moves).

Similar to when pulling out of the pool, plant the hands on the floating mat and use the legs and arms to push up and onto the board. I like to call these pull ups. From here, participants lie prone on the board with legs in the water for a 30-second flutter kick sprint. After the legs are burning, it is time to stand up. Oh yeah, the best part ... balance!

Now it becomes mind over matter. We know we are in water, which is softer than land, but the idea of “falling” is still intimidating. When trying to stand up, or even just kneel, on the board, our sense of balance is thrown completely off, and our legs begin to shake uncontrollably. This is where your teaching skills have to kick in; cue participants to breathe, focus their eyes on a non-moving object, and relax. Yes, easier said than done.

Once we’re all up, it is time to move again. So, we rock the boards side-to side, creating some serious waves in the pool. After 30 seconds of waves, we continue with burpees, one-minute planks (forearms or extended), bridges, push ups and core teasers. This series of moves takes about 15 minutes and then it is back in the water for more plyometric work using floatation and drag equipment. Plus, we still incorporate the board for kicking and pull ups.

Ultimately my goal is to get every participant to experience an intense workout both on top of the water and in the water. These boards provide that opportunity for the "land goers" I was attracting to Surf & S’WET™.

Soon I had several men and women asking me what other classes I taught at the gym, and of course my response was always, “Please come join the aquatic fitness classes I offer several times a week here!” So, they did.

In a matter of a month of teaching Surf & S’WET™, my aquatic fitness classes doubled, and Monday night’s class tripled. I was thrilled! An added bonus: since I had started the floating board classes in the water covering base moves and getting the newcomers familiar with the exercises, they were experienced in most of the moves we were doing in our more traditional aquatic classes. This increased their confidence and kept them coming back for more!



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)

This article first appeared in the Oct/Nov 2020 Issue of AKWA Magazine.





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