Tuesday, July 02 2019

Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate.
Lee Haney, Body Building Champion

H2O Functional Flow represents a more mature and seasoned instructor grappling with the task of creating more meaningful movement for aging bodies.  The end result is a low impact workout that blends functionally designed choreography with focused strength segments that utilize drag resistance.

This workout is the latest routine I have been teaching in my aqua mind & body/senior class that I teach at the YMCA. This is now the second video to emerge from this particular class.  Aqua Flex & Flow was the first.   The purpose of this routine is threefold:  1) Design functional choreography that helps people move and live better 2) Create a balance training scenario by varying base of support 3) Include focused strength segments that utilize nothing more than the water’s resistance so that participants become more mindful of focused movement.

My inspiration for designing more purposeful movement has been influenced by colleagues such as Laurie Denomme and Steph Toogood.  They both have been leading the industry in the development of more meaningful and functional movement.  The strength segments in this routine originated from material I was using from Stephanie Thielen’s awesome aqua group strength video, Ready S.E.T. Go!

Good instructors never stop learning.  Some view me as the consummate choreography expert, but truth be told many of my new ideas are sparked by the creativity and talents showcased by my Fitness Friends on   My style, my personality and my philosophy have evolved over 20+ years of teaching group fitness and I have reinvented myself more times than Madonna.  The ability to evolve and to continue to grow is essential. 

Anyone who has attended one of my workshops over the last few years knows that I talk incessantly about reinventing base moves by changing arms, tempo, travel, direction and impact levels.  Remember the Aqua Free series?  And now…(drumroll please)…lets add functionality to my list of ways to reinvent base moves.  Yes, my new passion is the art of creating more purposeful movement for aging bodies.

Interval training (HIIT) and Tabata have taken the industry by storm.   Baby Boomers are filling up classes and making it very clear that they want challenging and intense workouts.  Instructors are being intimidated and sometimes practically booed off the deck if they don’t deliver on intensity.  For years I have been all about rising above the stigma of “barely moving, jaw flapping, dumbbell plunging” aqua social hour.  However, I think we may need to take a collective step back and look more closely at the intensity-driven workouts we are serving up.  

Are these intense drills good for people’s bodies if they are in a constant state of spinal and hip flexion with speed and power?   Does a joint have an opportunity to move in all directions if limited by speed and power?  Given the number of participants who have joint issues in our classes, should we be doing so much high impact, power movement?    And yes, I am guilty of all above and much more.    But the key here is that I am learning, evolving and reinventing myself once again.   

As much as we all want to dispel the myth that aqua is granny exercise; we must address the reality that most of our classes are filled with…you guessed it…OLDER ADULTS.   And that means we need to serve our most important customers by addressing the needs of the aging body.  Along with this video, I have posted a separate blog – 10 Tips For Age-Proofing Your Choreography.   When creating new routines, I utilize these tips to analyze functionality, muscle balance, joint ROM and more.    Whether you build the routine around the science or tweak it afterwards to support the science, the end goal is exercise that supports the needs of the aging body.


Warm-up:  This is a longer segment (10 minutes) that features warming, limbering, functional and fluid choreography, as well as dynamic flexibility.
Segment #1 – Wide Stance/Chest:  The functional choreography in this routine emanates from a wide stance and the focused strength portion targets the chest. 
Segment #2 – Stride Stance/Back:  This segment enhances the balance challenge with choreography performed in stride and tandem base of support, while the strength segment now targets the posterior muscles of the back. 
Segment #3 – Neutral Stance/Arms:  As the stance changes so does the balance required.   This segment features some serious leg choreography.  The arms are the focus of the strength segment. 
Core Cool Down:  The workout wraps up with some focused core training and rhythmic movement.

Call to arms!   I invite my fellow instructors to join me on this journey in creating more meaningful movement.  Intensity need not be sacrificed.  The same discerning eye toward functionality can be applied to our HIIT and Tabata programming as well as our choreography.   Check out Aqua Total Body Tabata.  Let’s all commit to making an effort towards putting more science and education in our programming so that our students move better and live

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.