H2O Functional Fitness

Monday, September 13 2021

Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. 
Lee Haney, Body Building Champion

H2O Functional Flow is from the Fitmotivation instructor archives and blends together low-impact choreography, muscle conditioning and balance training.   Filmed in 2017 during the Tabata craze, this workout was intended to get instructors to think about more than just high intensity and to explore ways to add more purposeful, science-based movement to their classes.    

At the time this video was filmed, I was teaching an aquatic fitness class at the Sarasota YMCA, a class mostly comprised of students mostly aged 65+.  The design of this workout reflects a more seasoned instructor grappling with the task of creating more meaningful movement for aging bodies.  Yes, my older students loved doing Tabata and high intensity interval training (HIIT), but if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. Watching how they moved, I was becoming concerned that too much HIIT wasn’t doing their bodies any favors.  Fitness results plateau in the absence of variability and it was my job to break up their routine by adding in different formatting whether they liked it or not.    

The purpose of the H2O Functional Flow formatting was threefold: 
1) Design functional choreography that helps people move and live better.
2) Create a balance training scenario by varying base of support.
3) Include focused strength segments that utilize nothing more than the water’s resistance so that participants become more mindful of focused movement.  

The first challenge was convincing my students that it was okay to take a step back and spend 45 minutes doing a class that wasn’t high intensity cardio.  In the end, my class participants enjoyed doing a workout that was completely low-impact yet featured powerful strength movements.  For my part, I snuck in more functional, joint friendly movement, sort of like adding cherry flavor to medicine. 

Good instructors never stop learning.  Some view me as the consummate choreography expert, but truth be told many of my new ideas are sparked by the creativity and talents showcased by my colleagues on Fitmotivation.com.   My style, my personality and my philosophy have evolved over 25+ years of teaching group fitness and I have reinvented myself more times than Madonna.  The ability to evolve and to continue to grow is essential.  My latest passion is the art of creating more purposeful movement for aging bodies

Interval training (HIIT) and Tabata have taken the aquatic fitness industry by storm in the last few years.   Baby Boomers, the most athletic generation ever, are filling up classes and making it very clear that they want challenging and intense workouts.  Instructors are being intimidated and sometimes practically booed off the deck if they don’t deliver on intensity.  For years, I was at the forefront of putting a new face on water exercise by kicking up the intensity and dispelling the myth that aquatic fitness classes were just for old people.   However, by 2017 I was encouraging instructors to take a collective step back and look more closely at the intensity-driven workouts they were serving up.  

Are constant HIIT classes good if our class participant’s bodies are in a constant state of spinal and hip flexion executing exercises with speed and power?   Does a joint have an opportunity to move in all directions if limited by speed?  Given that many people choose to exercise in the water because they have joint impact issues, should we be doing so much high impact, high intensity movement?    And yes, I am guilty of all the above and much more.    But the key here is that I was learning, evolving and reinventing myself once again.   In 2017, I wrote a blog for instructors providing them with tips and ideas to make their programming more purposeful - 10 Tips for Age-Proofing your Choreography.  Subscribers might enjoy reading this and knowing that a lot of thought goes into the content creation of Poolfit videos.

Warm-up:  This is a longer segment (10 minutes) that features warming, limbering, functional and fluid choreography, as well as dynamic flexibility.
Segment #1 – Wide Stance/Chest:  This segment features functional choreography performed in a wide stance.  The strength portion targets the chest. 
Segment #2 – Stride Stance/Back:  The balance challenge is enhanced with choreography performed in a stride and tandem base of support.   The strength segment targets the muscles of the back.  
Segment #3 – Neutral Stance/Arms:  As the stance changes so does the balance required.   This segment features some serious leg choreography.  The arms are the focus of the strength segment. 
Core Cool Down:  The workout wraps up with some focused core training and rhythmic movement.

I hope you enjoy taking a HIIT break with this low-impact strength & balance training workout. 
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Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.