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Seven Seas Separate Us All, But It's Water That Brings Us Together

Episode 6: Katrien Lemahieu

As one of the most in-demand international presenters, Katrien Lemahieu has had the opportunity to teach in over twenty-two different countries across the globe...and if the entire world wasn't "Back in 5" right now, that number would be growing monthly.

But thankfully for her followers, Katrien has pivoted perfectly to the virtual fitness realm. Edited out of the episode for time, the Netherlands-based instructor gave a very special thanks to her husband for designing an incredible home studio for her, fully equipped with a working Green Room and interactive virtual backgrounds.

Though the pandemic has literally locked the entire world down, Katrien's approach, as always, is to point out the positives, not the problems.

"Actually, the virtual stuff has brought the whole world together so much more," Katrien told our Aquaholic Bootcamp podcast listeners. "I have so many friends who are always presenting," she shared and because Katrien spends most of her time traveling, she's never been able to attend their classes. "Now I can take courses by people I love in Japan, in the US, all over the world...And it's not just fun to teach with them, but to participate too."

As you'll hear in the below episode, Katrien is also co-developer of not just one but TWO amazing programs: BioExercisewith Laurie Denomme and HydroRevolution Power Training with Jenni Lynn Patterson LaCour. More about both these programs below the fold, and to find out why Katrien believes today's #aquaticfitness professionals need to be more than just instructors, take a listen to the full episode!

Name Drops: AEA, Angie Proctor, BioExerise™, Dr. Bruce Becker, Ekaterina Polozkova, IAFC, Ian Levia, HydroRevolution, Laurie Denomme, Strong Nation, S'WET™

Katrien Lemahieu helped design these popular aqua fitness programs:

HydroRevolution Power Training by Aqualogix™ & Aquastrength™ - Developed by Jenni Lynn Patterson LaCour & Katrien Lemahieu, this course is designed to help trainers around the world further their fitness education and grow their client base through the use of effective drag resistance training. Powered by Aqualogix and Aquastrength, this training course will introduce the comprehensive range of drag resistance equipment on the market that can be used for just about all levels and goals: sports/athletic performance, rehabilitation, general fitness for group exercise, small group or one-on-one training.

BioExercise™ - Experience an innovative new water exercise program that combines activities for the body and mind to improve total body functionality. Using evidence-based research and developed by international fitness experts Laurie Denomme & Katrien Lemahieu, this award-winning duo is passionately committed to educating, motivating and supporting coaches to deliver life-enhancing programs in their communities.


Full Episode Transcript:

Jenni Lynn: Joining us today is Katrien Lemahieu. She's the founder of Kataqua, an aquatic educational institute in the Netherlands. She's an educator in both the fitness and hydrotherapy fields with a Bachelor Degree in physical education, a post degree in special movement education, child psychology, and hydrotherapy. She travels worldwide as an international trainer for AEA and is a known speaker for big organizations such as ATRI. She co developed aquatic programs like BioExercise and HydroRevolution, and is a winner of two Aqua Emma's and a Tsunami award. Katrien, welcome to the program!

Katrien: Hey, hello.

AJ: Hello, Katrien, welcome.

Katrien: Woohoo, yay. It's so nice to hear from you guys.

Jenni Lynn: I know. I'm so happy you're here.

Katrien: I'm so happy. And thank you so much for doing this with me. I feel very proud and very honored to be on this podcast.

Jenni Lynn: Ditto. I feel very honored that you're here.

AJ: Is this your first podcast?

Katrien: This is my first ever podcast.

AJ: Oh, wow. Really?

Jenni Lynn: Yes!

Katrien: Yeah. I've been doing interviews but I was always on Zoom with video. This is my ever first podcast. So I hope that people enjoy listening to me.

AJ: I think they will. So Katrien, where are you calling in from right now?

Katrien: I am in the Netherlands and that is like a really beautiful place in Europe. I wasn't born here. I come from Belgium originally, but in 1998 I came here to do my studies, a master study that we didn't had in Belgium. So I ended up here in the Netherlands to do that. And well, you know, sometimes something pops up, and love comes around the corner and I've been here for more than 20 years now and enjoying it and loving it.

Jenni Lynn: We know a lot about your background but how did you become involved with aquatic fitness? Was it swimming first or aquatic fitness first or I guess a blend of both?

Katrien: Actually, I'm a really poor swimmer. I learned how to swim when I was still in Belgium. So I was never really in the water. But I think it was around the 1990s that aqua aerobics started to evolve. And I really enjoyed doing aerobics and fitness a lot, and I think a lot of people will recognize this themselves. "Oh, you can do aerobics? Here you go..." and boom -- you are pushed to the aquatic environment without any knowledge or whatever. But hey, you can teach, you can support groups, you're interactive, you can work with music...well here you go.

So I ended up in the pool and then when I moved to the Netherlands, here in the Netherlands, they are a little bit more advanced in the aquatic fields. And after a while, I was like, "Okay, now I need to learn a little bit more about this." And we had a trainer in Belgium at that time, an AEA trainer. So I contacted them and then I was just so lucky. She had a conference with Ian Levia and Ekaterina Polozkova from Russia. And at the very last moment, one of the presenters didn't come. And she told me like, do you want to teach? I'm like, "Serious? On an international AEA accredited CEC conference?" I was like okay!

But there was Angie Proctor, who was also there. And she was like, if you want to teach at an AEA event, you should be AEA certified. So I studied that evening. I did my exam the next day. And I did the conference. And I remember Angie coming up to me after that class, and she was like, "Oh my God, you have talent. Congratulations. If you want to pursue this dream, you can come quite far." And that's how it all started.

I went to the US, I think a year later, just to see everything there. And then from that point it just started to grow. And I loved it. I loved it so, so, so much. I was like, "Whoa, that water world...that is my world!"

Jenni Lynn: You studied in one night for that AEA test?

Katrien: I had to.

Jenni Lynn: That's just blowing my mind right now.

AJ: I took a couple of months, and even that I thought was not long enough.

Katrien: Well, I have to say I am lucky. I was always really easy at studying, even in school as well.

AJ: Yeah, sounds it. You know, if you've been following along with the show, most people will hear that a lot of our guests were just thrown into the pool. Jenni, that was your experience. Someone didn't show up. And then they asked, you know, "Hey, you want to sub this class?" And every person who was kind of just thrown in has really taken to it and loved it and then pursued this career. And I think that's just fascinating--

Jenni Lynn: There's a trend and a theme through all of our guests, which I'm really starting to like.

Katrien: Yeah!

AJ: That's true. So how did you and Jenni Lynn meet?

Katrien: I think we we've met like before some of the IAFCs. I do remember and I don't know if Jenni still remembers...I remember seeing her on deck for the first time. She had no clue who I was, probably. But I went to her right after the class, and I told her my opinion on that class, and she was shocked. She was like, "Who is this girl? Who is this woman coming up to me?" And I was very nice because she earned all my credits. And I remember going to her and say like, "My, you were amazing. You have so much to offer" and --

Jenni Lynn: Oh, I remember that.

Katrien: You do? You do? Yeah.

Jenni Lynn: Yeah. Because I knew of you...because we all have people that we look up to, or are inspired by, or aspire to be like, and I had heard so much about you, and everything that you were doing overseas and just like the leader that you were. You're a very take charge, get it done. Don't doubt, don't second guess, just go. And it's one of those things when you came up to me first, I was already shaking like a leaf and you gave positive feedback and I was like, "Catch your breath, catch your breath, you're doing fine." And then over time, you know, Angie started to say things like, "Oh, you're getting compliments from these people. And these people are saying things," so you just want to do better and strive harder because you're like, "Okay, this is the pack I want to run with. I want to be in this pack." And so you just work harder.

Katrien: Yeah. And it pushes you, right? Yeah. And I remember that and then I think it was years later that we were connected through the program of HydroRevolution. They told me that we're gonna do like a one week shooting with you. And I was like, "Oh my god is this really happening? Are we going to work together?" You know, and I think that week, I think it was even more than a week that we spent together working so hard -- getting all the scripts done, waking up at seven, have a meeting at 7:30, eat breakfast, have the scripts ready, rewriting, go in the pool...Then after all the shots in the pool were made, we had to go and do stuff on a desk, like live video. Oh man. That was probably one of the highlights of my whole aquatic career.

Jenni Lynn: Oh my god.

Katrien: It's true. It's true, because the professionalism that you guys had there. I didn't know you that well at that time. But you could like click the switch and be like, "Okay, cam on," you know, and it was...Yeah, it was so much, I don't was special.

Jenni Lynn: It was so much fun.

Katrien: Yeah, it was so much fun and I really enjoyed it so much, and the value, the knowledge that came out from -- come on, look at the program? That was huge. It's beautiful. It's wonderful.

Jenni Lynn: It's a great program.

Katrien: Absolutely. It works in so many ways. And yeah, I just totally love that, that time with you guys.

Jenni Lynn: Me too. I miss it.

Katrien: Aww. I think we have to come up with a new program.

Jenni Lynn: I was just gonna say now HydroRevolution has to come up with a second part so we can do another one.

Katrien: I think so. Yeah, with the new blades.

AJ: Oh yeah. So besides HydroRevolution, Katrien, you also co-developed an aquatic program called BioExercise, right?

Katrien: Absolutely. Yes.

AJ: Why don't you tell us about that?

Katrien: Well that, that's an amazing program as well. It was me with Laurie Denomme. We developed the program together. She was doing a lot of things. She is one of the people that I look up to, from the very beginning that I saw her teaching. I was like "Wow, I want to be like her, I want to have her words, I want to be her when I teach on deck." So she had done a lot of things on her side, and I had a program that has a lot of repetition through variation. And at one point, we were sitting down talking about our work and then it was like a puzzle coming together. We were like, "Hey, do we actually realize how strong it will be if we bring all of this together?" And it took us two years to develop and to have a really research-based, good program, but the first moment that we brought it out, it was like, boom, and it works.

That BioExercise program like was like a huge boost. And we did one in the US that got really, really well accepted. And it was also introduced in China two years ago. And it worked and people are trying it out. They're doing it. The biggest issue that we feel is that it's not easy in the beginning, but once you get to know it, like in your veins, in your fingers, it just runs so smoothly. And on the other hand, it's less preparation for an aquatic instructor. I know a lot of people that teach probably like 15 to 20 classes a week. If you have to prepare those classes weekly, and you have to come up with new things all the time, it's really hard and you get demotivated by that as well. It's really hard to come up with new stuff, find new music. And this program gives you everything that is already out there. You know, like here you go.

Jenni Lynn: Everyone that has taken the program that I know absolutely loves it. And it's actually on my list of several things that I want to take over the next couple months. It's an amazing program from what I keep hearing about and obviously the videos from Fitmotivation.

Katrien: Yeah, and it's going to evolve even better because even if the world would be the same again, like a year ago, I think I will continue to do more Zoom sessions, probably monthly.

Jenni Lynn: Oh, wow.

Katrien: Just like a gathering with people to get together to talk about how was your last month in aquatics? A lot of people love it because they enjoyed doing all my classes that I had now during the pandemic. And they say, "You have to do it because it's less traveling, it saves a lot of money. It's easy access, and you learn so much for in a very short period."

Jenni Lynn: That's amazing. I mean, that's just something that will really help solidify knowledge and keep it ingrained. So that's an amazing step. On that note, you know, now that you are doing more Zoom stuff, you are our first of many international instructors that we've had on the podcast, so we're very excited for you to be the first...But I'm very curious about how you feel aquatic fitness differs in other countries versus in America?

Katrien: Well, this is probably why I like traveling so much as well, because I totally agree that. It is different. And I remember the first time going to America, the first thing that I would say is it's so much slower. Everything in the water is slower, the tempo is slower. The movements are much slower, which is weird for us in the beginning. But on the other hand, you guys are more into working full muscles in a full range of motion. You know, like we would work much more in a shortening way or a strengthening way and more faster speed. While in the US, you are looking more at that, which gave me the idea this is different. But for us as a presenter, we know that if we go to the US, we have to slow down everything that we design compared to what we do here.

AJ: That's really interesting.

Jenni Lynn: Right?

Katrien: Yeah, we really have to slow it down, slower music, because the first thing that we get as feedback in our classes is, "What you do on deck is too fast!" And I say you should come see Europe! In Europe, people work much faster in the water. And I guess it's more like the strength and the acceleration. We use a lot more speed. Here in Europe it's much more like high intervals stuff, and it's much more embraced than in the US, I guess.

Jenni Lynn: Yeah, I like that style. Honestly, I watch a lot of videos. There are some big movements and there's definitely a lot of suspended or level three type movements, but I also noticed a lot more hand manipulation and the way that the hand slices or cuts in the water to get that speed through each lever...So it's interesting because I really like, you know, a lot of variations, as you can tell from the way I put S'WET together. I like high intensity, you know, speed.

Katrien: Yeah, but that Jenni Lynn, is exactly why S'WET is so well accepted in the US because the only thing that they've known before was the way they were working. Right?

Jenni Lynn: Yeah.

Katrien: And as we look at Americans, Americans look at Europeans as well. So they would give us the feedback, "it's too fast"...but they still loved it. And they still felt like, "Oh my God, my heart is pumping, my muscles are aching. I'm burning here," you know, so they still embraced it in a way. It was just too different. It was like, "Whoa, you guys are different," but they still embraced it. And I think Americans are more hesitant to start to do new stuff.

They're often like, "Okay, but I've been doing this for 20 years, and it works and I got my groups and I got my peeps..." and I always tell them, "Okay, you got your peeps now, but what about the young people?" If they come in to your pool to try a class out for the first time and the only thing they see is 50+ gray haired people wearing flower bathing suits...It's not going to work. So you have to think about your future. You have to think about what are you going to do in 10 years? You have to bring in those young people and those young people do not embrace the aquatics from 20 years ago.

AJ: No. Well, you know, I myself, I know this as Jenni and I have have worked together for so many years, I've seen Jenni and she was always on that high intensity level. She teaches other classes, like arthritis and whatnot, but there's always been an intensity to her teaching in her classes. And the only other place I would see that was in Europe and abroad. It always seemed to me that aquatics, at least in America, was just never the same as it was everywhere else in the world. And that didn't become crystal clear to me until my first IAFC when I saw everyone from around the world gathering and I was like, "Wow." Every single international instructor brings it to the table. And it is incredible.

So, my question to you as someone who's traveled all over the world and seen it in different places, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions? And what can we do to change people's minds?

Katrien: : I think the biggest thing we have to remember is it all started in hydrotherapy, and that the fitness part only came a lot later. So there was already a lot of developments in the therapy world. Everything needed to be evidence based. And then I think there was a big turning point when in the therapy world, one of the famous people there -- it was Dr. Bruce Becker -- he said that the aquatic fitness world is going to be much faster in the progressions than the therapy world ever was. And that's not because the development was not there. It is just because it's going so fast that they don't have the time to measure it, and to put evidence on it.

That is a misconception that is still out there that we need to fight against too. But it is practical based. Don't wait for the evidence to come. We already see the results. It's already out there. But it's not evidence based. It's practical. And I think we can change it by just keep on doing the things that we do. Keep on putting it out there on social media, and people will follow.

Jenni Lynn: Oh, yeah.

Katrien: But it's different. So everything that is different is going to bring resistance to it...but hey, you know what, the water is resistant, we can handle that!

Jenni Lynn: We can definitely handle that being in this industry. And I know you've kind of touched on it throughout the interview, but what does the future of aquatic fitness look like for you? Where are you taking it next for yourself?

Katrien: I see a lot of new things coming up especially here in Europe. We have a lot of new development on equipment. And what I see is that the development, especially in the equipment, is that it is water equipment. It's not a copy paste from the land fitness or the aerobic world which was there in the past years. We all know the copies that we made, like the first trampolines that we added to the water were regular trampolines until they noticed they might change it a little bit because of the aquatic environment. And now we have these wonderful, great trampolines that do not work on land but they do work in the water. So that's a good thing. That's a good development.

Another thing that I strongly believe in is the programs. The common instructor of now is not the typical monkey-see-monkey-do instructor anymore. Now she has a more coaching job. "This is the exercise. This is how you can change it. This is your progression. Oh, it's too hard? Okay, here's a variation for you. Oh, you have a shoulder issue? Here you go. Then you can do this and this." And you can change it on the spot. That coaching part, it's huge.

Jenni Lynn: Huge. Absolutely.

Katrien: I guess the development, the development is right there, it's in the instructor. It is in the education of the instructor. It is in the knowledge. It is in the self-regulation of the people, and it's in the water itself.

AJ: Jenni, you actually made a presentation as part of one of your presentations at IAFC, that you're more than just an instructor when you're up there. You're a coach, you're a motivator, you're an educator, right?

Katrien: Psychologist, therapist, yeah...

AJ: Sometimes a babysitter...

Jenni Lynn: Yes. Coach and Command. I think once I realized teaching in classes in gyms, doing one on ones, going to in-home, and then getting to a presenting level, just nationally, not even internationally yet. But just realizing the different roles that we play and the fact that we have to also deliver information to different people in different ways, because everyone learns differently. You are wearing so many hats when you're up there. And I think, the well rounded instructors who take all of that on, and take that challenge and say, "How can I be the best of the best to help others become the best of the best?" -- and not just other instructors, but your students. And that's where all of the versatility in our teaching skills comes in.

Katrien: Exactly, Jenni. Like that multitasking, that coach and command technique is something that people need to develop. The only part that is really, really hard...There is a talent part in it. Knowledge you can learn, but like interaction with the people, teaching from the heart, having a passion, is something that you cannot really learn a lot. And, yeah, that's where the biggest, best coaches come up.

Every time they push their own limits, they're right there. They see something and at the spot they can change it totally. When you teach a class and you are so well structured and organized, you can change it on the spot, you know, and still have a better outcome than the thing that you even scripted, right? I always find it very hard when people ask me, "Can you send in the practical handout?" I always ask them like, "Can I do that after it?" Because I know that when I put it down, it's never going to be exactly like I developed it because I see something and I interact on it. If I see that somebody is not moving correctly, or I know that I can improve the move...That is something that I think you need a talent to do.

Jenni Lynn: It is a talent and I appreciate you saying that too. Because I have always struggled with the fact that, you know, when you go to these workshops, I will have a general outline of content. There is a system when you go into teach of what you're going to teach but I am so in-tune with watching my students. And sometimes certain things don't work or sometimes other outside circumstances affect what you can actually deliver or how you give it. And so you have to be willing and able to adapt, and know that these students are not going to be able to do this, so I have to modify with this. And that's something that just has to be come almost like intrinsic in your body, like just a part of who you are.

Katrien: Yep.

AJ: Yeah. It's what separates a good instructor from a great instructor, I think.

Katrien: I would not even use the word "instructor" because an instructor, for me, is always somebody that instructs others. And here it's the people instructing you.

AJ: Hmm.

Katrien: You can learn the exercises, you can learn to structure a class, but to learn how to play with people, how to be inside their heads, that's a talent.

AJ: Yeah, no, it absolutely is. And this has been such an amazing conversation. I feel like you have given us so much. One of my last questions for you is what advice you would offer other instructors, students, or anyone that's interested in getting involved in the type of work that you do, either with aquatics or building a certification program...What advice would you give them?

Katrien: I would say embrace everything that you can see around you, and learn from everything that you see. And build that awareness on what you want, and then stay in that field. You know, like, do something that is attractive for you. If you like dance classes, go to dance classes, develop dance. If you like more high intensity trainings or even like STRONG Nation, do that, you know?

Start from where your heart is. And then you can develop to -- even from a high intensity class, you can still go to an aquatic dance class and develop there...but find your true heart first. What do you like? What is your motivation? What is pumping your heart rate up? And that's what I hope that people will follow more, not trying to copy others. Find your true hearts, start from that, and then your world is going to open anyway. So please find your true spirit first.

AJ: Mm hmm.

Katrien: And then develop from that.

Jenni Lynn: That's good advice.

AJ: That's a beautiful note to end on. I love that.

Jenni Lynn: Thank you so much for your time.

AJ: Yes. Thank you, Katrien.

Katrien: Thank you both so much for doing this. It was really nice to talk to you guys again, and we'll talk soon. Bye bye.

Jenni Lynn: Bye bye!

Katrien: Mwah!

Jenni Lynn: Mwah! Mwah!




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