• 48°

By Susan Shinn
Salisbury Post
ooo hooo! Over here, in the water! How’s that New Year’s resolution of getting fit coming along? Really? We thought so. Come join us in the pool …
Meet the Water Girls, an enthusiastic group of water aerobics instructors who are revamping and revitalizing the aquatics program at the J.F. Hurley YMCA.
The impetus for the group is Louise Klaver. She’s worked for the Y for three years part-time in the maintenance department.
She took a couple of arthritis classes because of problems with her shoulder.
“I enjoyed it so much I decided I wanted to get certified to teach,” Louise says.
The other instructors’ stories are much the same.
Joanne French is proud to say that at 65, she’s the oldest instructor.
When she and her husband lived in Reidsville, she threw out her back. Her chiropractor suggested water aerobics.
“The instructor didn’t show half the time,” says Joanne, who eventually took over the class. She’s been teaching for the Y since 1998.
Tami Harless, 57, retired after 28 years as a Social Security claims representative. She lifeguarded years ago and has always loved the water.
She found that land-based exercise classes gave her trouble with her back.
“I’m not as young as I used to be,” Tami admits.
So she started swimming laps, and was eventually recruited to teach classes.
“I just love the water,” she says. “I love people and I love the socialization.”
Shelley DiDonato, 37, has multiple sclerosis. She teaches the MS classes. (Barbara Franklin teaches MS and arthritis classes.)
When she had to give up her job, she noticed a flyer advertising for water aerobics instructors.
She has served as a great role model for others with MS.
She’s happy in the water.
“I can jog in the water but I have to use a walker on land,” she says. “It’s the main thing that’s kept me out of a wheelchair.”
Gail Poulton, 56, started working at the front desk so she could get a job teaching water aerobics.
The water is soothing, Gail points out. “When you breathe, you are held up in the water. If you breathe in life, you’ll be held up. I feel this is a mission for me.”
Other instructors are Bridgette Arthur, Frances Weant, Mikell Reynolds, Sara Phillips, Sara Zander and Meghan Thompson.
About the only thing that holds people back is being seen in a swimsuit.
That’s OK, Shelley says. “We’re all shapes and sizes.”
“If we can get them in once,” Joanne says, “they come back.”
She estimates she keeps about half of her water aerobics participants.
“Once they get in and start moving in the water and find out how beneficial it is, they’re going to stay,” she says.
Did you know the water provides 12 times the resistance of land-based exercise?
“That’s an incentive,” Tami says.
Even if you can’t swim, most all of the classes are taught in shallow water.
(Hmm … no excuse there, either.)
As with land-based classes, participants are encouraged to go at their own pace.
“The only thing I ask them to do is breathe and move,” Gail says. “Then if they’ve got those going, I ask them to smile.”
Gail, who’s a freelance writer, says the social aspect of water aerobics is important to her.
“When I get in the water, I feel great,” she says. “It is just the happiest thing I do. It is so fun.”
The Water Girls have gotten together to exchange ideas and share what works for them in their classes.
“It has been the most uplifting experience,” Louise says. “We’re just all so excited.”
For more information about the Y’s water aerobics classes, call 704-636-0111.
Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.

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