Splash into your Summer Fitness!

WORDS: Karla Gilbert PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

SUMMER IS HERE… Scorching, humid conditions naturally bring us out of winter hibernation as we relish the opportunity to bask in and enjoy the great outdoors.

Personally, I don’t go many days without dipping my toes in the water or ocean. I am confident in saying, without a doubt, water is one of the most refreshing ways to incorporate fitness into your summer.

While it is easy to maintain a fitness regime indoors during winter, embracing outdoor exercise helps ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depression and anxiety. Sunshine naturally increases serotonin; a hormone which affects your mood. Exercise itself produces endorphins – feel-good hormones which boost your mood and reduce pain. Imagine the benefits both offer when put together and how great this can make you feel.

Water has amazing workout benefits that you simply cannot achieve on land.

Water provides great resistance from all vectors and angles, while working opposing muscle groups during activities such as swimming or water aerobics.  Another plus is its buoyancy.  The support of water assists in reducing your body weight load (bliss), which significantly lessens the amount of stress through your joints, bones and muscles. This should be music to your ears if you suffer from injuries or are pregnant.

Completing water workouts helps engage our core and postural muscles, which tend to become neglected as we age or with other forms of isolating, dry land exercises. Any time you’re submerged in water, whether it’s in the ocean or a pool, the force of the water on the body causes an increase in hydrostatic pressure to create an amazing movement of the lymphatic system. This is why swimming, deep water running or aqua aerobics are the absolute ideal forms of exercise for people with compromised lymphatic systems.

There are so many ‘cool’ ways to stay fit in the water.

  • Swim laps at your local pool or estuary.  Aim to build up the workout to be at least 30-40 mins, then alter your sessions to include something like 10 x 100m efforts in 2 minutes or 20 x 50m in 1 minute (or a time that leaves you breathless).
  • Kicking with the assistance of a kickboard is an incredible butt and thigh workout.  Once you feel you have mastered the technique of keeping your hips high and using your feet as flippers, again add in sets while working off the clock.  Even adding a set of fins adds another dimension, again, using different muscle groups. A snorkel is a great piece of equipment to use while swimming or kicking (gentler on your shoulders, neck and back) by allowing your body to retain correct postural alignment while reducing the amount of rotation through the stroke.
  • Deepwater running is not only something athletes do if injury rears, it’s also something you can easily do in your own backyard pool. Pop yourself in a buoyancy vest or stick a foam noodle under your armpits and mimic a running technique in the deeper section of the pool. Wear a watch and do intervals of one minute hard, 30 seconds easy for 20-30 mins. Jump in while the kids are mucking about and you can play lifeguard at the same time. Win, win!
  • Take your cross-training to the beach and include wading through the surf with high knees (which I’m confident will tap into muscles you have possibly forgotten exist) or walk in waist-high water.  Mix this with a set of soft sand dune runs or walks and reward yourself by cooling off in the ocean between sets. Keep in mind that although you may be kept cool in the water, you are still sweating considerably, so remember to stay hydrated.
  • Surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, windsurfing, or kayaking all require you to master a new set of skills and when presented with a challenging environment, the body and mind changes (the secret ingredient to youthfulness). Muscles strengthen, hearts and lungs get larger and brain connections become faster and more focused. This reorganisation of the brain is the basis of all skill acquisition and development and reiterates the importance of exercise and trying new experiences.

Working out in the water is relatively simple but for obvious reasons, should never be done alone.

Once the end of summer rolls around, it doesn’t mean you have to stop including water fitness in your routine.  Find an indoor pool or wear a wetsuit to keep those endorphin hits going!

The important thing is to have fun and enjoy the ‘spiritual bath’ that water provides and its abilities to inspire or wash your stresses away.

Karla Gilbert OAM is a former professional athlete and now helps individuals and corporates as a Nutrition and Health Coach. For more information on her Health Coaching, eBook Naked Habits and healthy recipes visit