A for Aqua Joggers

Retirement gives people an opportunity to become fitter and healthier.  Teaching is quite an active occupation but hours of sitting marking books, writing reports and eating unhealthy food on the run can take their toll.

We are fortunate to live ten minute’s walk from the University of Wollongong.  They have a gymnasium and 50 metre heated outdoor swimming pool.  I can’t remember who first told me about Aqua Jogging but my husband and I decided to try it as a relatively painless way of improving our fitness.  We were very impressed with the t-shirts worn by some members.  Designed by Judy Horacek, an Australian cartoonist, artist, writer and children’s book creator, the image depicts the Fast Lane, the Slow Lane and our group of Aqua Joggers, the General Bewilderment Lane.

Designed by Judy Horacek

We found the group to be friendly and supportive. Far from being bewildered they came from a range of backgrounds and were happy to talk about any topic.  Whenever a new instructor arrived, it took time for them to realise that the group had the ability to listen to instructions and talk at the same time. In the background could be heard cassettes and thumb drives of personally chosen music, CDs playing Hits of the 60’s and 70’s, local radio and more recently Spotify Playlists.

To begin with, Aqua Jogging was just that.  We would travel up and down the pool using arms and legs in various ways; jogging, cycling, skiing, ladder climbing.  We would also perform various movements in the deep water; windscreen wipers, pendulums, star jumps, around the world, first with the aid of a flotation device and later with polystyrene dumbells. There were push ups on the side of the pool or push and pulls.  For forty-five minutes we would keep moving and talking, starting at 7.15, with a rush for the hot showers at 8 o’clock.  This was all very well in the summer but getting up in the dark on a cold winter’s morning, walking in wind or rain to the pool, I often wondered if we were all crazy. The steam would be rising from the water which would usually be a balmy 26-28 degrees Celsius. Some of us wore Radiator vests made of a wetsuit material to keep our upper bodies warm as the cold wind hit our shoulders and faces.  On our heads we wore beanies for warmth while in the summer we wore hats and sunglasses to keep off the sun.

Wearing winter woollies Photo taken by Sue Martin

The coffee shop in the gym was a place to carry on conversations started in the pool. At nine o’clock everyone would be gone to avoid the paid parking, while we walked home observing the rapid expansion of the university over the years.

Then Covid arrived.  All gym sessions and aqua jogging ceased.  We still kept in contact online, using our chairs and improvised weights to keep fit. The sessions were sometimes from the instructor’s homes and sometimes from the empty gym. Then one magical day we were back.  The pool was still cold as the boilers hadn’t had time to heat the immense body of water but we couldn’t wait.  How wonderful to be back in the water after months of abstinence.

The powers that be decided to change the name to Aqua Fit to more aptly describe the nature of the exercises.  More time was spent in the shallow end to build up bone density and muscle tone much to the annoyance of some. This feisty group of mainly senior people was a confronting cohort for a young would-be instructor.  Only the brave remained and earned the respect of the group through sheer determination and adaptability. Much loved are the instructors who devise unusual activities like this pre-Christmas obstacle course challenge.

An Aqua Jogger getting into the Christmas spirit. Photo taken by Linda Curry

After the Covid lock down ended the group time changed to 7.30 am.  Sessions reduced from five to three days a week. Apps appeared on phones to prebook and numbers in the summer rose to well over 30 people.  We know that come winter, only the true believers will face the dark and the cold before slipping into the relatively warm water.  That is of course when the heaters are working which is most of the time.  Then it’s a cold dash to the showers before warming up again in the steaming hot water.  When the showers run cold on rare occasions the screams from the horrified Aqua Joggers can be heard far and wide.

The congeniality of the Aqua Joggers is something to be treasured.  If members have suffered a personal crisis they find generous support and friendship from the rest of the group. Outings are organised, camping trips, overseas travel. A book club has just restarted after a long Covid hibernation. Not everyone is involved of course but the option is always open for all to participate.

Photo taken by unknown person

I was never into sport and team games but now have found an activity that works for me.  When I first retired I said I would never get up before 7 o’clock but now we are both up at 6.30 am Monday to Friday, three days in the pool and two days in the gym. The 21/90 rule states that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change (Dr Maxwell Maltz 1960). It is now unthinkable to stay in bed when the alarm goes off as there are sunrises to see, people to greet, stories to tell and when warm and dry, a steaming double shot flat white to drink surrounded by good company and stimulating conversation.


18 thoughts on “A for Aqua Joggers

  1. This sounds like a wonderful activity. We have a park with swimming pool within walking distance from our house but they don’t have any activities for seniors. It’s hard to keep going everyday with my exercise on my own, but maybe I’ll try for the 20/90 theory to keep me going!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good to see you in the challenge. Sounds like great fun but I’m not sure about the early mornings. As someone who left school in 2008 I’m keen to follow along and see how you amuse yourself.

    I’m joining this year from ballau,blogspot.com but, in deference to times overseas, have set my posts to appear at 12 noon our time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like a genuinely enjoyable activity. Water resistance is a great strength-builder, and the way you describe your group dynamic makes it sound like a lot of fun. (And you have a book club! OF COURSE that makes it doubly fabulous!)

    I’m with you on getting up early. It used to be something I dreadee, but I’m in such a routine with early rising times now that even on my days off, I only “sleep in” until about 6. My body’s on it’s own schedule, so I go along for the ride. And I find that my days are typically more productive if I get up early. The early bird may not always get the worm, but *this* bird gets groceries before the crowd hits and gets chores done before the best part of the day is gone — so I’ll call it a win! 😉

    Looking forward to reading more from you this month.

    Happy A-to-Z’ing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We are so fortunate the group has evolved the way it has. There is so much more than physical exercise, we support each other emotionally and challenge our mental agility. Not to mention all the travel hints. Long may we prosper.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Linda, great to see you posting for the A-Z!
    I used to go to what we called aquarobics and found it a great way to stay fit. However, in 2009 when I was being treated after my op for breast cancer, my immune system was compromised. I was advised to stay away from public areas, especially heated pools. I never really got back to it as I’m not naturally drawn to water activities, & I had my writing and my garden to keep me busy & active.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What fun, and how impressive that both of you have embraced this terrific form of exercise as part of your weekly routine! I wish I had an aquajogging (or water aerobics, as it is called here) group to join and encourage me to get up at 6:30 in the morning. I know just what you mean about the sedentary nature of the teaching profession, and now that I have retired I must do something about it.

    You not only convey the camaraderie and feistiness of the group (pity the poor young instructors!), but also how suddenly COVID-19 took it all away, and how your embraced it it when it returned, despite being less often, earlier in the morning, and more heavily enrolled.
    And now many of you are friends, and not just fellow aqua-joggers.

    Enjoy the month. I look forward to following your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so happy for you that you found this. I love water activities too. We have an on-grounds pool at the institution I reside in, but sadly I haven’t been in it yet.

    Liked by 1 person

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