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"It Was Just the 9:30 Class"

by Ann Gilbert

Twenty-two years ago I got a message that the 9:30 aqua class needed a sub. I approached the club manager and asked, “So what is the format of the class I'll be subbing?”

She quickly remarked, “It’s just the 9:30 class.”

I then asked a regular attendee, “What’s the focus of the class you take”?

The member responded by saying, “It’s just the 9:30 class. It’s always been the 9:30 class."

Having completed a playlist for my Hi-low land-based class, I loaded the cassette into the player and hit go. The volume was too loud, and the chosen movements defied all the principles of aquatic exercise. Yet there was never a sneer, a boo, or a frown.

The students willingly accepted me and quietly repeated, “We just can’t go that fast in water.” They were so glad to have a coach that day and we all fumbled through the 45-minute window while singing aloud to each of the songs I had chosen. The members had come for the socialization. They had little or no awareness of how their body could experience a well-balanced, full body workout in water in the 9:30 class.

The members came for the camaraderie, as witnessed when I suggested that we just hang out and play volleyball after class. We filled that pool with laughter, and a few splashes, for almost two more hours!

For years as a trainer, I had tried to motivate the aquatic members to train on land. I realized that very day, that the pool was their workout studio, their own little boutique and it was my duty to bring all aspects of fitness to them. That same year our club was recognized in San Diego at IHRSA, accepting the IHSRA/ACE PT of the Year Award. The boutique style, women’s only, niche facility stood out for having initiated small group training options for fee, personal training programs for women in all of life’s stages and for becoming the area wide hub for aquatic fitness.

Over the next 22 years, formats such as Luscious Limbs, Aquatic Weight Loss, Water Walking, Aquatic HIIT, Trifecta and Aqua Tabata launched as quarterly class options. Formats were choreographed, timed, and even circuited, using all equipment the small growing facility could find. We had frisbees, gallon jogs, aqua bells, and ankle cuffs.

As class numbers grew to all-time highs, the need for educated pros to join the team became evident. It appears the aquatic pro was the most sought-after instructor the managers could interview.

Land based instructors and personal trainers struggled with the understanding of the properties of buoyancy, drag, viscosity and surface tension. Many tried to duplicate, as I did, the land experience in the pool and realized, with a few failures under their belts, that science was something that took time to learn. They were missing the certification and training. Our land based exercise education doesn't always equate to the pool. Once the leadership saw how crucial certification was to the success of their numbers, they brought the training to their instructors and the numbers did indeed grow.

Like in the popular land formats of the time, there was an increase in what we now know as "overtraining" symptoms. Doing the same 9:30 class over and over was leading to a lack of recovery, increase in painful movements and unfortunately lack of measurable fitness and wellness results. Addressing all five aspects of fitness was not, at the time, the focus. Very few knew methods of training strength, endurance, balance, and true cardiovascular improvement.

Growth came not only with education for the instructors but through the introduction of opportunities for the students to actually understand the benefits of exercising in the aquatic environment. Our focus has become teaching how the body works and how the training in a well formatted schedule, will translate to the ability to participate in advanced activities of daily life.

Twenty-two years ago I entered the aquatic world to help sub the 9:30 class. Through proper certification & training for the Aquatic Fitness professional, our team now pushes play to fight the loss of skeletal muscle mass, to increase one’s cardiovascular endurance and to introduce a focus on speed, power and balance. We maximize the properties of water to be the best aqua boutique available.


Ann Gilbert is ACE, CPT, AEA and SCW certified and is an owner Shapes Fitness for Women. She oversees the operations of as many as 8 certified Personal Trainers, 12 Group Fitness professionals, and coordinates fee-based group personal training programs.

Ann promotes the popular Aging Fit series and is the choreographer for S.E.A.T., an innovative chair fitness program. Ann was awarded ACE / IHRSA Personal Trainer of the Year in 2001 and has been a popular speaker at Club Industry, SCW MANIA, and IHRSA Conventions since 2002. Ann also writes for Fitness magazines and can be seen on local TV.

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As Ann recognized when she began her career in aquatic fitness, proper education and certifications remains crucial to the success of professionals in this and other training industries. Our S'WET™ SQUAD is committed to change the perception of aqua fitness, and our path to do so begins with continuing education.

Join us in NASHVILLE, TN for Music City FitCon - October 21-23rd for FIVE CEC workshops including S'WET™ Silver, S'WET™ Bootcamp and the Power of Om with Jenni Lynn Patterson LaCour, Dude Moves with Chris LaCour, and Build Your Own Brand with A.J. Meyers.




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