by Mark Grevelding
What is popular on land eventually moves to the pool. In the last couple of years, AEA instructors have been “testing the waters” with their own versions of boot camp in the pool. AEA recently launched Boot Camp Shallow, a new CEC program, to a sold-out group in Bellevue, Washington. This program is also featured in a nearly sold-out event in Urbandale, Iowa, later this month. The more aggressive boot camp programming seems to be a welcome addition to the pool, but it can come with its own set of challenges.
Boot camp programming is really just a sub category of circuit and interval formatting. Everyone teaches it differently. The one common objective is to offer programming that is more athletic and challenging.
Recently, I added a boot camp style program to my own CEC roster. Aqua Sphere Circuit Challenge was designed in collaboration with Aqua Sphere® to showcase some of their equipment to instructors. The goal was to offer an athletic equipment-based program that is affordable for clubs to implement. The program features four equipment stations with four groups of students performing different exercises simultaneously. Dividing the students up with four pieces of equipment means less overall equipment expenditures.
Well, for those who have taken my classes, you know that this style of instruction is a huge departure from my ultra choreographed shtick. Therefore, my poor, poor suffering students at the East Area YMCA in Syracuse, New York, ended up once again serving as my unwitting “lab rats.” The YMCA allowed me to test a six-week aqua boot camp class.
So yeah, having four equipment stations with the groups performing different exercises at the same time cuts down on equipment expenditures, but it also means four times as much chaos. I have always avoided teaching circuit training for this reason. Remembering an entire hour of choreography seems less painful to me than trying to teach four groups at the same time.
The first couple of boot camp classes I taught did nothing to dispel my concerns. They were basically a nightmare. I exhausted myself with all the demonstration required. I also pitched a temper tantrum when my students wouldn’t stop talking, which meant I had to keep repeating myself over and over. I felt like I had aged five years after the first class. Not good. The second class? Not much better. The third class? Amazingly better.
What changed? Simply put, you learn from experience. You have to be organized to teach a circuit class. My organizational skills got much better after seeing what was going wrong. Aside from getting the students to show up on time, zip their lips and pay attention, I made a sign that mapped out the flow of the stations. This cut down on a huge amount of the explaining and repeating I was doing. There were actually lots of little things that I adjusted that led to one big shift in how the class flowed. The students noticed it too. They commented on how much more organized it was getting.
And how did the students like the class? Some students loved it and some didn’t care for it. Sound like a familiar song? My older students who are used to me teaching a full hour of flowing choreography did not like it. They were not accustomed to using equipment and it was too much for them. The younger, fitter participants, as well as those who had never tried water before, loved it. They thought it was totally cool to work hard in the water. So in the end, does boot camp fulfill the objective of bringing new people to the water for a challenging and athletic workout? Based on my experience I would say – absolutely.
The Aqua Sphere Circuit Challenge was debuted at an AEA weekend event in Lake Forest, Illinois, in March and the evaluations made it clear that people really liked the program and the Aqua Sphere equipment.
Other AEA instructors around the country are adding their own boot camp programs and learning as they go.
Mel Sparks, an AEA instructor in Los Angeles, California, had an experience similar to mine. “In 2009, I taught an aqua boot camp class that started with about 8 regulars but it died off after awhile and I ended up teaching a long 1.5 hour regular aqua aerobic class,” says Mel. According to her, most of the clients at the club preferred her aqua aerobic class, which was more social and had slower music. “I used a boot camp structure that was similar to land camps and I think it was too different from my regular classes.” She anticipates starting up another aqua boot camp class this summer but this time plans on doing it differently. “I will build it slower, using the exact same class structure but add five more minutes of cardio at first, along with more strength and more abs.”
Kathy Fisher, the aquatic director at the Randolph YMCA in Randolph, New Jersey, invites you to come to the Randolph Y and witness firsthand a 45-minute interval training sweat fest! “Our class, the only one in the country like it, features three Hydroworx® X80 underwater treadmills, underwater spinning bikes, tethered swimming, upper and lower body strength, cardio and core exercises,” says Kathy. The class is called UH2O – Underwater Gym, and multiple instructors coach participants through a series of 12 three-minute segments. “Class size is limited to 12 participants and they transition from one piece of equipment to the next, performing different exercises at each station.” According to Kathy, the Hydroworx X80 treadmills that they purchased are currently being used by many top professional and collegiate teams such as the New York Giants, as well as top Olympic hopefuls at the Nike Oregon Project. Kathy sent me a YouTube clip of her UH2O class that was so incredibly awesome we are planning a feature article on her aqua boot camp class for an upcoming E-News that will include the video clip and photos.
Terri Mitchell, an AEA Trainer in Austin, Texas, also uses some tethered swimming and running in her classes. “I like to tether my students together in the deep water, and with the tethers attached to the back of the deep water buoyant belts they do intervals,” says Terri. She adds in movements such as, sprints, skis, side-lying flutter, reverse curls, cycling, vertical flutter kicks and strides. For recovery, she uses jogs, jack tucks, frog hops and other base moves. “My intervals are 1:1, one minute killer and one minute aerobic recovery.” Terri says the workout is fun and hard and she always finishes the class with 10 minutes of stretching.
Linda Stacy, an AEA instructor in Atlanta, Georgia, teaches an aqua boot camp class at Georgia State University and says that it has been successful. Her class format includes intervals (Tabatas), with a focus on RPE and circuits, both deep and shallow. In her aqua boot camp class, she uses Power System’s Aqua Versa Tube®, which she says she loves, as well as noodles and hand buoys. “I love teaching this class and seeing students ‘get it’ about exercising in the water,” says Linda. She is looking forward to taking away new ideas for her classes when she attends IAFC.
Lindsay Mondick, an AEA instructor in St. Paul, Minnesota, says that last year they introduced aqua boot camp formats in all 21 Twin City YMCA locations. This year the Twin City YMCAs are introducing Tabata specific formats. (Tabata training is a more specialized style of high intensity interval training that is currently all the rage in the fitness industry.) “Classes are going great! People love the different format options that are more athletic in nature than our typical choreographed class options,” says Lindsay.
Heidi Spidell, an AEA instructor in Madison, Wisconsin, teaches a fee based aqua boot camp. She says it is a very successful, high intensity class with a lot of interval work. “We use the shallow end of the pool for plyometrics and other drills, and the deep end for tons of core, water running and unilateral leg work,” says Heidi. She says she offers a morning and evening class for 8 weeks, once a week, and that the classes fill every time.
Ron Guidone, an AEA instructor in Rochester, New York, teaches an aqua boot camp class at the Eastside YMCA. “Most of the workout is in the shallow end and includes plyometrics, drills, running, and Tabatas,” says Ron. He says his class is held in the evening and normally has 25 to 35 members.
Dawnette Lowry, and AEA instructor in Huntington Beach, California, says her aqua boot camp features rigorous cross-training that involves swimming, water polo, modified plyometrics, and traditional aqua aerobic exercises. “This class challenges swimmers of all ages and physical shape,” says Dawn. In addition to lots of swim inspired drills, Dawn has also used a watermelon in the deep end for training activities. “It will float and it’s a fun gift to cut and give out at the end of class”
For those attending IAFC there will be lots of classes featuring athletic, high intensity programming that you can incorporate into your boot camp classes. Here’s just a sampling:
Elite Conditioning with Ian Levia, Tuesday, May 15 at 4:00pm
Aqua Sphere Circuit Challenge with Mark Grevelding, Wednesday, May 16 at 6:00pm
Boot Camp Splash with Marti Peters, Thursday, May 17 at 7:45am
Hidro Teens Interval Training with Fernando Villaverde, Thursday, May 17 at 11:45am
Band Camp with Stephanie Thielen, Friday, May 18 at 9:45am
The Navy Seal Explosion with Laura Ribbins, Friday May 18 at 2:30pm
The Making of an Athlete with Jayme Zylstra, Saturday, May 19 at 8:00am
PLYH2O with Jackie Lebeau Anderson, Saturday, May 19 at 2:00pm
And so the boot camp splash fest is on!
Contact AEA if you are interested in hosting the new workshop, Boot Camp Shallow, at your facility. You can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in hosting the Aqua Sphere Circuit Challenge, you can contact me directly. This workshop can be offered as part of an AEA hosted weekend event. email@example.com
Mark Grevelding teaches at the East Area YMCA in Syracuse, NY and is a trainer and consultant for AEA. He is an international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE. Mark is the founder of Fit Motivation, a business that provides education resources for fitness professionals. He has produced several DVDs, authored numerous articles and was the recipient of AEA’s 2011 Global Award for Aquatic Fitness Professional.