Tuesday, July 02 2019

The Holy Grail for many aquatic fitness professionals is a maxed-out pool of fitness seekers jamming to the magical mix of music and movement.    A packed pool signifies happy customers, exercise adherence and a hard working instructor.   AEA Training Specialist, Ashley Bishop, shares her ‘secret sauce’ for creating excitement, engagement, entertainment and energy in her classes in the recently posted video, Cardio Combos.

The Cardio Combos routine involves linking base moves together with three different styles of instruction and then strategically placing “bursts” of high intensity movement to give the brain a rest and push the body to its limits.  Linking base moves together is clever camouflage for that scary concept called choreography.  Dreaded and loathed by some fitness instructors, the word ‘choreography’ is truly a misnomer because it simply refers to different ways of teaching base moves.     

Choreo-phobic instructors can teach HIIT drills until they are blue in the face, but at some point their students will adapt to the plethora of high intensity interval training and then cease to experience progressive results.  The best solution is to mix up HIIT/anaerobic training with aerobic exercise.  Remember that thing we have done for the past 40 years in fitness studios and pools?  That thing where you exercise aerobically in a steady state of oxygen consumption, rhythmically moving the limbs and burning calories?  It seemed to work pretty well for a lot of people over the last few decades.  Over the years, aerobic instructors learned how to link moves together to make exercise fun and effective.  Bingo!


Creating Excitement
Matching aerobic moves to the phrasing of the music creates a euphoric exercise experience and cosmic synchronicity.  As the class flows with predictable patterning and reduced repetitions the excitement builds and participants forget they are exercising.  Think what you want about Zumba, but it got thousands of people off couches and into aerobic exercise.  Why?  People loved the music and the dance-like experience and that made them WANT to exercise.  If you are looking to increase exercise adherence, look no further than the magical pairing of music and movement.

Creating Engagement
Aquatic fitness instructors have the unenviable task of managing a pool filled with social and chatty students.   Many of these participants are lonely senior citizens shuttered in their houses alone all day.  Do you really want to be the instructor that admonishes them for talking?  A better solution to ‘chat control’ is choreography.  When moves are linked, added, reduced and patterned to the music the students become engaged with the routine leaving little time for chatter during the class.

Creating Entertainment
Think back to your school years and the teachers that stand out as your favorites.  These teachers taught the same curriculum as their peers but their unique teaching style, personality, optimism, humor and passion likely created a more favorable learning experience for you.  Ashley encourages instructors to always be larger than life with their cueing.  Not only will it add an element of entertainment to your teaching style, but it will also increase your participants potential to feel successful with the routines,” she says. 

Creating Energy 
As stated above, I believe the wisest approach to fitness teaching is to mix up HIIT and aerobic training.  Ashley obviously came to the same conclusion with her classes because she interlaces ‘bursts’ of high intensity drills with the choreographed cardio combos.  The HIIT bursts give the class an energy boost and the brain a rest from tasking through choreography - for both the participants and the instructor.  


This segment features a simple routine of add-on base moves. 

Two cardio combos are taught with the add-on style of instruction, along with a 60 second burst of high intensity movement.  Add-on instruction is the ‘building block’ method where one move is added at a time to create a predictable and recurring sequence of movement.

Next up, base moves are linked together with pyramid instruction.  In pyramid instruction, moves in a combination are often reduced to increase intensity and intricacy.   A 60 second HIIT burst follows two pyramid cardio combos. 

Pure Patterned
The next two cardio combos are taught with pure patterned instruction, in which moves are taught to the structure of the song – instrumental, verse and chorus.   Fitmotivation subscribers can email Ashley for more detailed notes on these two combos if they are unfamiliar with pure patterned instruction.    Another 60 second burst is included.

Cool Down
This segment includes a series of dynamic and static stretches. 

Ashley B. Tip #1
Get in the pool and practice your routines first, you will have instant feedback on whether your routines work, or if the transitions need some love

Ashley B. Tip #2
Have issues recalling choreography?  Teach with your notes!  I have my spreadsheet in a plastic sheet protector beside me on deck.  When in doubt, bounce it out and look at your notes. 

Ashley B. Final Word
Pick a choreography style, select 3-4 base moves, choose a motivational song and BAM - a cardio combo is born! 

According to Ashley, Cardio Combos was born from her love of music and movement.  “There is something very special about a group of people moving and grooving together to an awesome playlist, and my goal is to achieve that if even for only a song or two in my weekly classes."

Fitmotivation extends a big THANK YOU to Ashley for sharing her choreography and passion with Fitmotivation video viewers.  Stay tuned next month as Ashley shares her other passion – BALLET – in the November video, Aqua Allegro.   Originally from British Columbia, Ashley is a Royal Academy of Dance certified ballet teacher and a Zumba® Jammer.  Interested in booking aqua CEC workshops or Zumba Instructor Jam Sessions with Ashley?  You can visit her on her website or connect with her on Facebook. 

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.