Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Deep water Exercise, aka, Water Aerobics

I have struggled with osteoarthritis for the past 10 years--yup, I had a slight limp that began when I was 38 years old. My mom noticed it as I maneuvered my way down a flight ramp when I paid her a visit in Tennessee in 1999. Once I returned home to Wisconsin, I made the necessary appointments with the medical community; beginning with my primary care physician, through orthopedists and rheumatologists, to ultimately a scary bone test of some kind to rule out any kind of carcinoma.

When all was said and done...the verdict...early-onset, idiopathic (cause unknown) osteoarthritis. I was given prescription strength, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs like Advil/ibuprofen, but Rx) in the form of Arthrotec (like Celebrex--kind of). This drug has, and continues to be my saviour.

However my exercise regime of obsessive walking had to change. At one point in my life I had walked on 982 consecutive days! I'll address my struggles with arthritis and pain medication addiction at a later date, but the long story short is that after having both hips replaced, and putting on 25 pounds in the last two years..that's one pound a month, or about an extra 125 calories a day...I had to find some exercise that I could do--especially during the winter months in Wisconsin when an outdoors walk is not always welcome.

So I joined my local YMCA and discovered this:

At my Y, they call it deep water exercise, but it's also known as water aerobics. It is a 60 minute workout that includes 30 minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of strength training with foam dumbells, and 10 minutes of a very lovely and soothing stretch. The first class that I attended was three weeks ago--a spry, little 70-year old lady named Joyce, taught the class--showing us what to do from land as we tried to copy the moves in the water. There were five women in our group and we all wore life-belts as we were in the 'deep end'! Joyce warmed us up with jogging, wheelchair-ing, canoeing, and all kinds of other awkward moves--at least for me. As this was my first class, Joyce was very attentive to me, reminding me that I should "pace myself"--which I did. I really felt good about the whole experience and couldn't wait to come back the next morning.

However...and doesn't it seem that there's always a 'however'...I came down with the H1N1--oink-oink flu. As a side note--this flu didn't take me down and out so much as just kept me down for a looooonngggg time--like two weeks. Sore throat, desert-dry hacking cough (that I still have) and a general feeling of weakness and malaise. So I wasn't able to get back in the pool until this Monday--three days ago. And of course, the schedule had changed and there was no class on Monday, but I did my own thing for a half hour and swam breaststroke laps for 15 minutes.

But yesterday and today, classes were held and I can already feel an improvement in my energy level, my mood, and my muscle tone. On both days, I took the entire class and then swam breastroke/backstroke laps for an additional 15 minutes. I am obsessive about tracking calories consumed and calories burned and I discoved that 15 minutes of lap swimming burns--for me anyway--268 calories. That is more than what I could burn walking at 3mph for 40 minutes...and feels good.

I also have arthritis in my shoulders so I have to be careful in the pool, but I'm hoping that strengthening the muscles around my shoulder joints will help.

Another positive for water exercise--and we all had a good laugh about this--is that you can be as awkward and as 'bad' as you want when trying to figure out these moves...but no one can see you! No making a dork out of yourself in land-style aerobics!!!

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