Author – Dom Gili, Published by FitRec
While most fitness clubs are struggling to attract members back to land-based group fitness classes, 2022 has seen aqua exercise classes overflowing with participants. AquaFitnessOnline.com founder, Dom Gili, explains why water workout classes continue to grow in popularity and shares four tips for Club Managers, Coordinators and Instructors to help grow their Aqua Exercise programs.
Aqua fitness continues to grow in popularity as people return to the water. Without access to a pool at home, these unique workouts were sorely missed by many during lockdowns; especially considering that water offers many benefits including increased range of movement and a reduced impact environment.
Beyond the physical benefits of aqua exercise, the mental, social, and emotional benefits are also significant. There is a vulnerability for this unique breed of water warriors who bravely join together and bare all in their swimwear. The bond is abstract, but it is strong, and for some it lasts a lifetime. Personally, it always feels a privilege to witness this union among participants and be central to their connection. I know that if club managers and group fitness coordinators spent time on the pool deck getting to know these amazing water warriors, then the aqua exercise program would be far more respected and celebrated.
Aqua participant Marcelle Johanson, from Ashfield Aquatic Centre in Sydney (NSW), says of her time during lockdowns, “Not only did I miss the cardio and strength benefits of these classes but I missed my aqua buddies; I missed our coffees after class, and I missed the feel-good factor. It’s so good to be back!” These sentiments were echoed across the country for several months as participants returned to aqua exercise classes and experienced the benefits of exercising in a multidirectional resistance workout environment, once again.
IDENTIFY NEW TALENT WITHIN YOUR TEAM
In November 2021, the Aqua Exercise Instructor (AEI) Certification training was streamlined to make it more affordable, more time efficient, and to include education that is directly relevant to the role. The blended delivery training can be completed live and/or online with virtual lectures, online mentoring and video assessment available.
As such, many club managers and group fitness coordinators are now developing innovative ways to attract new instructors to their clubs. Maryse Casey, Group Fitness Manager at Fitness First Chatswood (NSW) believes the new AEI training will appeal to people already working within the fitness and aquatic industry. “Aqua exercise classes are among our club’s top performers. Yet due to the shortage of instructors, we are now reaching out to our land-based group exercise, swim instructors and club members to identify those who may wish to train as aqua exercise instructors”.
INVEST IN YOUR INSTRUCTORS
With the current shortage of instructor availability, a wise move for fitness clubs and aquatic centres is to make themselves a preferred employer. This can be achieved by offering safe work conditions, competitive pay rates, and ongoing education opportunities.
In a recent online forum, feedback from aqua exercise instructors focused on access to safer working conditions, and industry guidelines that included the need for equipment, such as a:
- working stereo
- aqua frame
- pool deck mat
With the advent of online education, there are now more learning opportunities than ever before. Hosted by some of the world’s leading Aqua Exercise experts these options include:
- virtual conferences
- live workshops and masterclasses
- online subscription sites with workout video resources and printable class plans
- online mentoring groups
As Senior Learning and Development Officer and Acting Group Fitness Coordinator, Julie Manning from Hornsby Aquatic and Leisure Centre (NSW) understands the importance of ongoing education and instructor development. “We recently conducted an in-house training day with our ten AEIs, and not only was it a chance for all to review and share skills and knowledge, but it also gave us the opportunity to introduce new and existing staff and focus on team building. The interesting twist for us is that we can now rely on online training opportunities via organisations like AquaFitnessOnline.com that can tailor courses to our training needs. Our experience over the years is that happy and valued instructors create enjoyable workout experiences for our members, and this leads to high staff retention and low training and staff acquisition costs.”
DIVERSIFY YOUR AQUA PROGRAM
Some of the most successful aqua exercise programs are the ones that target specific members, to offer a more tailored workout experience. These sometimes reflect the level of intensity of the water workout, the target audience, the training outcomes of the class or even the use of specific equipment.
A club in the north-west of Sydney, Castle Hill Fitness and Aquatic Centre (NSW), offers a diversified aqua class schedule with an incredible 46 regular aqua exercise classes throughout the week. The quick guide on the weekly schedule explains the goals and benefits for class titles such as:
- Aqua Power: fitness, fat burn, toning, core training
- Aqua Fit: fat burn, toning, core training
- Aqua Relax: toning, flexibility, mobility.
Jane-Maree Evans, the club’s Fitness Coordinator says, “Our class retention rates are now higher due to the introduction of specific class types and intensifies. It ensures that members get the water workout that best suits their needs. Prior to this schedule update we had people of different fitness levels attending the same class format and beginner 85-year-old participants were getting washed away by the white-water waves created by a fit 40-year-old keen to work hard in the pool.”
INVEST IN NEW PROGRAMS
In the last ten years the introduction of innovative programs and equipment for aqua exercise classes has flooded the market. The list of new programs now available in Australia are as long as your noodle and include:
- Acquapole: Standard, Boxing, Step, Jump (mini tramps), Liquid Bike
- AquaBalance Mind Body program
- Aqua Logix Resistance hand weights and barbells
- Salti Float Boards
Donna Wilmott, Aqua Instructor/Coordinator at Parafield Gardens Swim Centre in Adelaide (SA), was one of the first centres in Australia to invest in Acquapole equipment. Donna states “our goal has always been to change the perception most people have of Aqua Fitness. Having Acquapole equipment programs such as Boxing, Circuit Fusion, Step and Jump in our facility has brought an entirely new audience to our aqua classes. And although the equipment are large ticket items, it only takes six months to get a return on our investment. It has been a complete game-changer for us.”
As land-based fitness struggle with class retention, and online innovations such as virtual, recorded and AI class options start to replace instructors, the future of aqua exercise – with its safe low-impact movement, great music, and social benefits – is secure for many years to come. Get ready to ride the next wave with us.
Dominic Gili is an Aqua Fitness Specialist from Sydney Australia with a reputation for innovative, engaging and challenging water workouts. He is the founder of AquaFitnessOnline.com, which offers workout videos and the latest training ideas to keep aqua fitness instructors and participants moving and inspired.