Water is a heat robber. If you’re not moving at a high enough rate to generate your own heat, water will bring your body temperature down to its level. So instead of a cool-down at the end of a water fitness workout, do a “warm-down.” The idea is to continue moving in order to generate heat, maintain comfort and avoid the “big chill.”
One of my favorite end sequences for class is a combination of dynamic, active and static stretches. Dynamic movement prepares the body for active and/or static stretches while maintaining a comfortable body temperature. I love to play “The Prayer” by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli (4:30 minutes). I use simple movements and try not to use any verbal cues. I first saw this silent section in a class taught by Joy Prouty and Josie Gardiner at an IDEA World Fitness Convention™. It was so moving that I incorporated it into my workouts. Use any piece of music and combination of stretch patterns that works for you. Be sure to cover the major muscle groups. The following examples are general stretches and will probably work for most formats.
- Stand in staggered position, one foot in front of the other. Shift weight from front to back. Move arms and hands loosely through range of motion—horizontal abduction and adduction—in easy figure-eight movement. Move synergistically with lower body. Place weight on front foot while back heel lifts and lowers from pool floor. Arms continue in smaller sculling motion.
- Place weight on back heel and do a calf stretch. Use arms and hands to scull water up to surface. This helps push body weight down to facilitate stretch.
- Bring arms forward in large, flat circles just under or on surface, palms up, as body moves forward onto front leg. Back leg extends from hip and flexes at knee.
- Hold active hip flexor and quadriceps stretch.
- Reach same-side hand back to hold foot for greater quad stretch. Opposite arm performs large, flat circles on water’s surface to maintain warmth and balance.
- Release foot and add large sculling motion with both arms to hold upright balance. Bring same leg forward, hip flexed, knee extended. Using water’s buoyancy, hold up leg with as much hip flexion as possible while maintaining neutral spine and knee extension. Point and flex foot. Continue sculling motion to maintain warmth and upright position. Use opposite hand to support leg while other arm continues sculling motion.
- Step stretching leg forward, and return to staggered stance with opposite foot forward. Repeat sequence.
- Stretch legs into wide stance. Shift weight side to side, moving arms synergistically to build warmth.
- Hold position with one knee bent and other knee straight to stretch adductors (hips, knees and toes face forward). Scull water toward surface to create more “weight” in stretching leg.
- Step out of position, keeping extended leg out to side but elevated toward surface. Lean body out over standing leg and make a “T” with body and floating leg (over standing leg in frontal plane). Sweep other arm toward toes of floating leg 3–5 times. At final sweep, bring floating leg across chest and hug knee with opposite arm. With free arm, scull to maintain balance and warmth. Return to wide-leg stance and repeat on opposite side.
When finished, come to comfortable standing position and sweep arms around body—front to back, side to side—to complete stretches for chest, back and shoulders. This movement also rebuilds body temperature. As song concludes, cue deep breathing, with arms extending overhead on inhalations and returning to the water on exhalations.