Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness challenge: Aqua aerobics class

Each week intrepid reporter Rachel Grunwell will try out a new form of exercise to bring you the lowdown.

Performing the actions to the song YMCA is all part of an aqua aerobics class. Photo / Michael Craig
Performing the actions to the song YMCA is all part of an aqua aerobics class. Photo / Michael Craig

What is it? A group doing aerobic exercise in a pool, at the direction of a teacher.

What's needed? Swimsuit, buoyancy device (the facility has these), towel.

The experience: The thought of being weightless in water at the Mt Albert Aquatic Centre appeals, not so much donning a swimsuit. This aerobics fitness challenge in water is one thing, the fashion challenge another thing entirely.

But what I really ended up being bashful about was doing the actions of the Village People's song YMCA while bobbing about in water (thanks to a flotation device strapped to my middle). And if that wasn't "challenging" enough, imagine doing this as dozens of Mt Albert Grammar boys turn up poolside for a swimming lesson ...

Was this one of my most glamorous assignments of late? Not quite. However, once I finally got over myself, I laughed, more than once, and even out loud (at myself, of course).

And having a good chuckle is not to be sneered at: It was tremendous.

Plus, I discovered the mostly senior set who attend this aqua aerobics class are the sweetest bunch of wonderful women you could ever wish to tread water with. Not only is everyone super-friendly, but they all want to help out newbies master the right moves. One expert aqua wonder-woman showed yours truly the right way to "work it" in the water, but she also winked at me when she said, "I'm showing you so there's no slacking!"

Getting advice was particularly helpful when trying to master the skill of sitting on a flotation noodle while trying to mimic "skiing on snow-type actions" (while music belted out from speakers from 90s heavy-metal crooners). I possibly looked like I was wrestling with a snake as the noodle was that wriggly in the 2m-deep water.

The class teacher, Dianne Saecker-Battley, laughs that the noodles are quite hard to tame "and you have to try not to drown!"

Many of the class-goers tell me they have been fans of aqua aerobics for years, like Judi, whose been keeping fit this way for almost eight years. She recalls years back, while working at Westpac, some colleagues told her they were heading to an aqua aerobics class and that she should join them. Well, Judi says, "I ended up being the only one who turned up! But I've never looked back." It has kept her toned and she has met wonderful friends here.

After class, I'm invited for coffee at a nearby cafe where you can get a muffin free with your coffee "so you can put on all that weight you've just worked off!" giggles Dianne. Now in her 50s, Dianne started aqua aerobics almost 20 years ago when pregnant with her first child. This son is now in charge of compiling the music for her classes.

Dianne is adored by her loyal class-goers. She knows she delights everyone by wearing either pink or purple. The day I was in the pool she boasted both: pink in her hair and a purple exercise outfit. "They're my favourite colours. I love to wear them!" she says. One of the ladies from the class overhears our chat and adds "and we love you too, Dianne", which makes Dianne gush and give her a big bear hug.

I leave the pools and think to myself the next time I'm doing the actions to YMCA (probably after a few wines at a wedding!) I'll remember the lovely ladies I met poolside. And smile.

How much? Casual class: $11; 10-visit-card: $75; 20-visit card: $130.

Worth it? It can increase your flexibility and muscle tone, cardiovascular efficiency, and provides a gentle workout. According to the centre's website: "These classes are great for antenatal and over 50s", but also says the classes are great for "everyone". The website should add it's full of "great gals". There's also an aqua lite class for lower intensity exercise and an aqua power class for a more advanced workout.

Try it: The Mt Albert Aquatic Centre is at 38 Alberton Ave, Mt Albert, ph (09) 815 5511 or visit www.mtalbertaquatics.co.nz; Also check out www.clmnz.co.nz (this stands for community leisure management, which manages 35 sites nationwide) to find a nearby pool that offers aqua aerobics (prices may vary between sites).

Rating: 7/10

- Herald on Sunday

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