Water Walking & Stretching

Friday, December 20 2019

Pool walking is a popular activity for many people who want to exercise but prefer to do so in the supportive environment of water.  Aqua Training Specialist, Jackie Lebeau proves that moving more slowly in the water can actually be more challenging than jogging.  Suitable for all populations, Stride and Stretch is a water fitness program that combines water walking and stretching for an ideal blend of low-impact cardio and flexibility.

Observe any recreational pool for a day and you will likely see an avid assortment of pool walkers, similar to mall walkers.  Walking alone or with a buddy, these water striders take their sport seriously.  Walking in a pool incorporates extra resistance while eliminating impact.  The viscosity of water also provides a supportive safety net for those who fear falling due to balance or musculoskeletal issues. 

Water walking is also an opportunity to socialize while exercising.  Striding activities require less attention to choreography and the moderate cardio output allows people to walk and talk.  Considering that many older adults live alone and often battle loneliness, the combination of fitness and socialization can be a powerful exercise adherent with an added bonus of helping people feel connected. 

Observing people walking the length of a pool, you will typically see them stride to one end and turn around and walk back.  Walking in this manner is perfectly fine, but it can be made so much better.   Attend a water walking class, such as one of Jackie’s, and you will see walking patterns performed in a variety of directions.   “We are given two 25-meter lanes to work with and so I incorporate long multidirectional traveling intervals interspersed with sets of higher intensity resistance work,” says Jackie.  Pairing water walking with another activity is an excellent way to achieve greater fitness results. At her facility, Jackie offers a an interval program that combines walking sequences with high intensity intervals training (HIIT).   Instead of pairing the walking intervals with HIIT drills, Stride & Stretch was designed to appeal to those looking for a gentler exercise experience.  The walking sequences are alternating with stretching segments for an outcome that is designed to promote enhanced flexibility and range of motion. 

Water walking is typically more effective in larger pools with more expansive space to move around.  Smaller pools will require more frequent turns or possibly even stationary movement. This water walking program features four walking sequences that feature different striding directions and progress in range of motion, speed and impact.  Each walking sequence is followed by a stretching segment.

Water Walking Sequence 1
The walking pattern in this sequence is forward travel (toe, ball, heel), with movements progressing in range of motion and impact. The stretches in this segment focus on back, chest and neck.

Water Walking Sequence 2
The movement is reversed as backward walking patterns (heel, ball ,toe) are featured in this sequence.  The stretches at the end of the walking target core, hips and quadriceps.

Water Walking Sequence 3
Sideways walking patterns that target inner and outer thigh are featured in this sequence.  The stretches include flexibility training for the arms and shoulders.

Water Walking Sequence 4
This walking sequence features a mixture of walking patterns designed to train balance and core strength.  The final flexibility segment includes stretches for calves, glutes and hamstrings. 

Adjusting the programming to suit varying pool temperatures
If you are lucky enough to enjoy your pool workouts in a warm water pool, then you likely will not need to make any changes in the Stride & Stretch program.  However, if you exercise in a chilly pool, you will want to modify the programming.  Consider performing the walking sequences at a faster speed and/or with more exaggerated range of motion.  During the stretching segments, you will want to keep the lower body moving during upper body static stretches and the upper body moving during lower body static stretches.   For the most part, stretching should be performed dynamically in chilly pools.  

PoolFit extends a big thank you to Jackie Lebeau for returning to Florida for a third time to film and for sharing her aqua passion.   If you are looking for another gentle workout from Jackie, you may want to consider Aqua Zen Flow






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.