Water Aerobics is for Everyone – Randy Paniagua – Medium

The class that everyone should take

I drove to the class that was pitched to me as something that only moms and grandmothers do. They were right. The price of $7 was cheap, but was I willing to be uncomfortable?

The aquatics facility played pop music and the lifeguards were tall and lean. The lifeguard behind the counter smiled when I told them I would be doing the water aerobics class. The others, behind him, turned and faced me. I learned that the class is the most popular that is offered by the Fort Myers Beach Pool.

The parking lot was beginning to have more cars and more women began walking towards the facility.

Anyone could easily be intimidated by the camaraderie the patrons had with each other. From the conversations they were having, this was not their first experience with water aerobics.

There wasn’t a dress code for the class, but swimming attire was encouraged. I wore a white shirt and a red polo swimming trunks. Since the class was at 9 a.m., my hair and facial expressions demonstrated that.

At this point, the 20 person class began to seem like something I was going to regret doing. However, when the music began. There was newfound hope.

The weather did not match my dread. The hot, humid Florida weather was inviting to getting in the pool.

Spots at the front of the pool were taken. The pool’s large space created a sense of intimidation and so did what the people inside of it were saying.

“Who is he? Do you know him? What is he doing here?”

I decided to go to the back of the pool and tried to avoid eye contact with everyone. The class was filled with women and two men, including me.

The instructor, Mackenzie Balink, began the class a few minutes after the set time. She said that some people are always late and need more time.

Balink teaches the class with music that resounds throughout the pool. The small speaker she uses plays high-pace electronic music. The type of music that makes you wake up.

The class starts with stretching. The first of these is to bend forward and reach across the opposite leg to the opposite arm. The people at the front of the class did this without hesitation. However, the deep side of the pool allowed me to stretch with my face underwater.

The class progressively became harder. Balance was the next thing to conquer. Balink instructed to balance with the right leg and pull the left leg towards the chest. I was amazed at how many people could actually hold the position. This was short lived when everyone started losing balance.

This was followed by splashing and laughter. The short lady with curly gray hesitated to do the same exercise but with closed eyes.

“You wish!” she said. “I’m here for a reason. I learned my lesson.”

The laughter continued as the class moved into using water weights. These are shaped like a dumbbell, but are larger in size. They are foam dumbbells that look like caricatures of real ones.

Initially, the water weights seem easy to handle. However, this changes when you add the speed and the resistance when they are placed under the surface of the water. The splashing caused the water to appear to have a white foamy texture. My arms and shoulders felt like noodles and I decreased the intensity.

I never thought water noodles could be used in a class, but water aerobics does. There was a sense of relief when the class transitioned from the weights to noodles. I rushed across the pool with a mixture of a hop and run.

The music changed and so did the ambiance in the pool. The noodles were placed in between our legs. The instruction was to relax and float. I tried, but there was a concern of colliding with others while I did so. I didn’t run into someone, but I did hit my head with the pool deck.

I tried and finally relaxed. The speaker had a remix of Dua Lipa’s New Rules, which is my favorite song and I got lost in the moment. The instructor blew her whistle and the class turned around to see me look dumbfounded and embarassed.

Somewhere in the class, I began to accept that I was going to not be good and I started enjoying it more. As I moved from side to side with a noodle in between my legs, I smiled because everyone seemed to be having fun.

The last exercise called for there to be partners. I didn’t know anyone in the class and felt like the kid who gets chosen last to play. However, Grace Workman chose me.

It was awkward touching another person within minutes of meeting them. The groups moved into the shallow end of the pool and were instructed to squat and hold hands with the partner. Workman grabbed my arm and said this was her first class and didn’t know what was happening. I sighed with relief and told her it was my first time too.

We laughed and squatted. The next step was to put both of our right legs up and hold the position for a minute. We started tipping over within seconds.

Workman said that she was hesistant to come to the class because she didn’t know what to expect.

Balink said that most of the people in her class started by being the loner and then they eventually become friendly with the class.

Although the experience did cause nervous sweating and pain, the water aerobics made me more dynamic. As I left the facility, the annual membership I had just purchased kept me in a joyful mood. The $7 became a great investment.

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