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Splash Start

A water warm-up is similar to a land warm-up in that the purpose is to raise the body’s temperature and to practice movements before working out. This is where the similarities end. A water warm-up requires additional consideration owing to the element’s viscosity, temperature and buoyancy.

This water warm-up is divided into two parts: buoyancy and cardio. The sections each last 3–5 minutes, but they can be extended if participants need additional time or if the workout is very intense. This example is specific to shallow water (navel to nipple depth) and is designed for an apparently healthy population. Keep these points in mind:

  • If the water is cold, increase the activity level.
  • To allow for water’s three-dimensional resistance, start with small movements and progressively increase them.
  • Let participants find their own speed of movement. Use music to set a mood or to elicit appropriate intensity, rather than to dictate speed.
  • Before entering the pool, point out entrances and exits, and demonstrate and practice sculling. This hand motion, similar to the motion of smoothing sand on a beach, helps clients to find balance and to assist and resist movements.
  • Demonstrate how to return to a standing position in case of falls. Teach this prior to entering the water, and practice the skill during the water warm-up.

Buoyancy Section

This section allows the class to adjust to buoyancy’s effects. Participants of the water warm-up use the time to find proper body alignment and balance. They also discover how to “work” depth. Most important, they become comfortable in the water environment.

  • Instruct your class to begin moving immediately upon entering the water. Encourage working at an intensity that increases body temperature and breathing rate.
  • Begin a stationary forward jog, with arms accompanying legs in a sculling motion. Continue jogging in different planes: Lift heels back as arms scull forward; raise knees high to side as arms push water down in front; return to forward jogging.
  • Perform easy kicks to front, arms moving in opposition to legs; enlarge movement.
  • Scull forward as though washing windows; lean forward slightly and kick back. Continue, but straighten legs for hip extensions (watch back alignment).
  • Do an easy bent-leg side kick, arms to opposite side. Enlarge movement with straight legs. Leading with shoulder, come through the center and repeat on other side.
  • “Release” the body to buoyancy, and move side to side like a pendulum.
  • Perform jumping jacks, shoulders submerged in neutral position, hands slicing the water. Switch to cross-country skiing in neutral position.
  • Return to jumping jacks, but attempt to suspend the body (feet no longer touching pool floor).
  • Return to cross-country skiing in neutral; attempt suspension.

Cardio Section

This section challenges postural alignment, balance and stabilization. Participants of the water warm-up should be encouraged to move at a pace that increases breathing rate and makes them feel somewhat challenged.

  • Walk and jog, using arms to assist forward movement; alternate intensity (watch body alignment).
  • Travel backward and forward, staying aware of backward movers’ positions.
  • Travel sideways in neutral (shoulders submerged). Move arms and legs out and in (big movements).
  • Transition to rebound. Jump to side; bring feet together. Move arms across the body, pulling water in to assist movement. Return to easier working position and jog sideways.
  • Change to rebound grapevine. Make moves larger, lifting knees higher. Use arms to facilitate movement.

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