Always be like a water. Float in the times of pain or dance like waves along the wind which touches its surface.
― Santosh Kalwar
We all know that exercising regularly is good for us — but how many people actually get excited about making their daily trek to the gym, or jogging outside? Perhaps more than we might first think: I know a lot of fitness enthusiasts who crave their workout regime like they crave food, or water. I’m actually one of them! There are few things as freeing as going for a long run outside, surrounded by nature and fresh air.
But one thing I’ve (finally!) learned is that my body simply can’t take the impact of running outside. A recent serious ankle sprain was a warning call that I’m actually choosing to listen to: no more jogging on pavement for this woman. I’ve had so many running-related injuries in the past, and yet every time — like most runners I know — I simply pushed through the pain, giving myself just enough time to heal, and hitting the road again as soon as possible.
To people who don’t run, jogging can seem like an insane hobby — why would anyone purposely participate in something that causes joint problems, unpleasant foot issues like athlete’s foot, and is incredibly laborious? For example, my dear sister has never been able to understand what has propelled me over the years to go on long jogs. Whereas to me, jogging outdoors felt like one of my saving graces during challenging periods.
Other runners might be able to empathize with how life-changing my choice is. Deciding not to run outside is a massive shift for my personal lifestyle. Similarly, anyone who has had success in kicking a habit knows that we need to find a replacement activity that is equally satisfying. My solution? I just joined a gym — for the first time in five years! I’m already relishing my time on the elliptical, listening to music, and releasing all my excess energy.
Yet, I know that for many people, the gym feels like the last place they want to be on a regular basis. So, I’m here to propose a fantastic alternative to injurious outdoor jogging and admittedly unadventurous indoor gym time: getting fit with water.
Exercising in water is one of the best forms of fitness for people of all ages, body types, and physical challenges: water is therapeutic, incredibly gentle on our joints, and gives us an instant vacation from our usual status as heavy-footed land-dwellers. As such, I’ve pieced together a list of four forms of water fitness into which we can dive to feel better in our everyday lives on land.
1. Aqua fit
Think aqua fit is only for old ladies? Thank again! Essentially aerobics in water, aqua fit works our bodies from head to toe, without feeling like we’re even breaking a sweat. The water keeps us cool, in addition to providing its own resistance: instead of using weights, water naturally makes us work harder without even realizing it. Add some energizing music, an enthusiastic instructor, and a fun group of people, and aqua fit easily becomes a freeing hour of fitness that we can look forward to. This is a great activity for all ages, which is why so many older people do it — it has a gentle impact, yet is a full-body workout.
Back in my days as a lifeguard, I used to teach aqua fit to a wide range of people. I still have fond memories of looking down at my class in the water, with their bright faces smiling up at me. They seemed to become like kids again, just playing in the water.
2. Swimming laps
I look at swimming laps as the water equivalent to running on pavement. It gives me a similar sense of empowerment, as it builds shoulder muscle, strong legs, and measured breathing techniques. The benefits are numerous:
“As a form of regular aerobic exercise, swimming has lots of benefits. It uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously for long periods of time, and is easy on lower-body joints because it doesn’t involve bearing body weight.”
I love swimming laps: what others might find monotonous, I find liberating. A cursory understanding of a few basic strokes is necessary, in addition to increasing our enjoyment. Consider taking a few lessons to bring yourself up to speed and experience the joy of executing a stylish front crawl, or smooth breast-stroke.
3. Surfing and body surfing
If we have the privilege of living near a beach — or some vacation time coming up — surfing lets us enjoy nature while also strengthening both our minds and bodies. It’s not even necessary to rent or own a board! Body surfing has been popular for ages due to its high fun-factor and ease: no equipment required, the only pre-requisite is a positive attitude, a reasonably healthy body, and some good waves close to shore. As a whole, surfing combines spirituality, physical strength, balance, and technique. Becoming one with the sun, sand, and surf can transform exercise into a mindful way of life.
4. Kayaking and canoeing
Heading out in the early morning to create the first ripples of the day on a still lake is a peaceful way to connect with nature while nurturing our bodies and spirits. Kayaking can give our arms and torsos a fantastic workout, while setting aside some time for a weekend trip out to a lake is a great way to ensure time away from technology, and everyday hustle and bustle. Inexpensive to rent, using a canoe or kayak to get out on the water while exercising our bodies is invigorating.
Re-connecting with our water world
There’s also specialized areas like synchronized swimming, or life guarding. I’m really passionate about water activities because I think it’s one of our best chances to connect with our environment. Like scuba diving, participating in water sports allows us to access a part of our world that can easily be forgotten.
This is usually the time of year when people make resolutions about fitness that end up petering out. There’s really no need to dread exercise: it’s important to re-frame our perspective in order to see it as a positive, fun way to energize ourselves, as opposed to a tedious chore. Giving ourselves the gift of spending time with water is something that will pay us back in dividends. There is no substitute for re-connecting with our underwater universe — often, it will give us insight to take back with us into our lives on land.
In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.
― Kahlil Gibran