What I've Learned About Water Walking
An Adventure in Plus-sized Fitness
What I’ve learned about water walking. I had quite the adventure this morning! Last week I wrote about some fitness routines you could start working on if you are overweight, or (like me) in the obese category. These workouts are all low-impact, and give you a great starting point to build up from! If you want to read more about them you can find that post here, Starting a workout routine when you are overweight or obese.
From day one I promised you that I would be sharing my story with complete transparency. So of course if I was going to recommend any of these workouts then it seems only logical that I give them a try! In the former post, I talked about lap swimming so I hopped online and found the website for my local rec center to see if they were even open. Sure enough, they are! You just have to sign up and make a reservation for a time slot. If you’re interested in doing any pool or aquatic forms of exercise give your local rec center a call and see if they are allowing pool activities yet.
As I was scrolling through all the different activities I came across water walking. Instantly I perked up. While it wasn’t on my immediate list of workouts to try, I decided instantly that I was signing up. What is life without a little bit of spontaneity, am I right? Onward to Adventure!!
What Is Water Walking?
If you are not familiar with what water walking is, don’t worry, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Minus the whole Jesus thing. (seriously I did a youtube search for “water-walking” and Jesus videos popped up right away, it was pretty amusing). Water walking is a form of aquatic therapy that involves walking in a pool. Starting at about waist-high water levels, usually around 3 to 3.5 feet. You can do various types of exercises while walking in the water which I’ll get into in a little bit. Overall, while you won’t be walking across the water, you will be getting quite the low-impact cardio workout from it.
I will admit, as I was the youngest person there, I felt a little bit out of my element. This is an activity that you usually see senior citizens or those recovering from surgery do. That said, you will get out of it what you put into it. For me, or anyone like me, staring at the words “morbidly obese” on your medical paperwork is a very dark moment for a person. For me, it was THE wake-up call. I strapped on my bathing suit and hopped into the pool determined to make this something I wouldn’t fail at again.
Now if you are coming from a similar place, I will give you this encouraging piece of advice. No one will care more about your well being than you will. What I mean by that is, even if you feel awkward or out of place, go. GO DO THE THING! You are worth it! I know you might worry about what you look like in a bathing suit, or might be afraid of judgment for needing this type of workout. Push through it and get in the damn water. Trust me, just trust me!
What are the benefits of water walking?
There are many benefits to starting a water walking routine. It’s an all-over workout that strengthens your body while burning more calories than land walking. Some of the benefits include:
- Low-Impact cardio, which puts less strain and pressure on the joints. Allowing for more exercise and less risk for injury or pain.
- Great for those that are overweight/obese and are using it for weight loss. Studies show that you can burn up to 50% more calories when exercising in water. (from my 90-minute workout today, my fitness app calculated 996 calories burned for moderate activity, and 1660 burned for vigorous).
- According to a study in the National Library of Medicine, water walking can increase your heart rate more so than walking on land, making it an excellent workout for your heart and lungs.
- Increases balance, strength, and muscle function.
- Has shown signs of lowering blood pressure.
Water Walking 101
Let’s get more into what I’ve learned about water walking. Water walking is an activity that can be done in any form of water. From a pool to a lake or even a lazy river, seriously just get creative. The rec center I go to just happens to have a current/activity pool for these things. Ours here has 90-minute reservation slots. 45 minutes against the current and 45 minutes with it. Though I found that not everyone did the entire 90 minutes. Water walking is very much a “go at your own pace” kind of fitness adventure.
The best thing about an activity like this is that all you need is yourself, and probably a bathing suit. There are additional things you can use to increase the level of exercise you achieve. Such things like ankle weights, or resistance fins. Webbed gloves can also add more of an upper-body workout, and water shoes for a better grip on the pool floor. Now before you go out and order all the fun toys and gadgets on amazon I would recommend doing the workout a few times first. What I’ve learned about water walking is that it’s a deceptively efficient form of exercise!
Moving your body.
There are many ways to engage your muscles while water walking. Having never done this before, I kind of winged it. I started just walking at first. A few warm laps as I got comfortable in my surroundings. One thing I will mention here is that I found everyone to be friendly and accepting. Several people said hello, gave me a few compliments about my bright red hair, and some other chatty small talk. Having done water aerobics classes before, I find this to be a pretty standard behavior among those that participate in aquatic activities.
Once I warmed up I took my cue from some of the veterans of water walking. Some of them were power walking, others doing side lunges. Several people were using handheld water weights for resistance as they did the water march! I had some waterproof headphones and just kind of got lost in my own world as I walked, walked, and walked some more.
Deceptive Learning Curve: How to water walk.
What I’ve learned about water walking is there needs to be a buildup in the level of activity. If I had done a little more research before hopping into the pool, I would have known how deceptive the learning curve is!
If you are just starting, take it easy. Focus on walking with the proper form that will get you the best results. This is a full-body workout so making sure you have proper form will save you from injury.
- Be aware of each step, making sure that you land heel first before letting your weight roll through to the rest of your foot. Take long strides.
- Keep your body upright. This means keeping your back straight and lengthened, and your core muscles engaged. This will prevent you from leaning too far forward or backward as you walk.
- Take long strides, and swing your arms as you move. Doing so with your hands in the water will add more resistance to your workout.
Following these tips for proper form will not only save you from injury, they will deepen the toning and calorie burn of your work out. You will also find that the better your form is the more improvement you will see in your balance and core strength.
Changing it up
When you are comfortable with your form and ready to take it up a notch, adding more exercises is a sinch! You can start by adding knee raises as you walk. Bring your knee up as high as you can go, even touching your opposite hand to your knee to add some upper torso activity. Lunges, power walking, and side steps are all great forms you can use in your routine as you build up. Try walking backward, just be careful not to bump into anyone!
Other ways to change up your routine, would be to add some of the toys we talked about earlier. Ankle weights, resistance fins, or gloves. If it’s available to you, going into deeper water can also add more resistance to your workout. Have fun and change it up when you are ready.
Don’t overdo it.
Here’s my cautionary tale. This morning I walked every minute of that 90-minute session. When it was all over, the one thing I can tell you is that I KNOW I overdid it. If you’re like me and like to jump headfirst into things this can be dangerous.
It felt almost too easy if I’m being honest. Boy was I wrong! I did every variation of exercise I could think of as I walked. Lunges, side steps, trunk and hip twists, and even some lung squats. All the while, I had the thought go through my head “this is too easy, how am I going to lose weight doing this”. Well, let me tell you a little secret about what I’ve learned about water walking. THE EASY IS A LIE! There I was marching my relatively plus-sized booty around the little current pool. Not taking a break, pushing myself because I thought it was too easy. Then came time to step on out of the pool and my world of knowledge changed vastly!
As gravity (that witch!) came crashing back into me at the speed of freight train, I felt every single extra pound on my body that I carry around daily. It hit me hard, knowing that I’ve grown so accustomed to carrying that much weight around that until I was moving without it, I didn’t know how painful it was. Even now, sitting here typing this up for you guys, I can feel my body aching. If you haven’t exercised in a while, don’t try and do an entire 90-minute session on your first day. Or at least don’t try and add all the fun extra bits into it! Take your time and know you are getting one heck of a workout!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line my friends is that what I’ve learned about water walking would make it a 10 out of 10 would do again for me. If you are looking for a low-impact workout to help you start yourself on a fitness routine then please check this out. It had everything I needed to feel like I had a great workout. The best part was I didn’t even feel like I was exercising while I was doing it.
I know getting up and moving when you are injured, recovering, or in a big body can be hard. It feels demoralizing to not be able to walk, or move like other humans you see around you. Believe me when I say this is a great way to change all that. You have to know that you are capable to do anything you set your mind to. Especially this.
Take it one day at a time, one foot in front of another if you have to. Most importantly remember this, the only way you fail is if you quit. So don’t quit. Even if it’s just a little bit today, that little bit will become more tomorrow. This journey, mine and yours, is all about growth. I believe in myself, and I believe in you. Thank you for joining me on today’s fatness to fitness plus-sized adventure! I can’t wait to bring you more. Until next time, remember that you are NEVER alone.
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