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Times editor splashes into water aerobics
Woman tries to keep pace while moving fluidly through the pool
Jan Nance shouts out instructions while she leads a water aerobics class Friday morning in the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center instructional pool.

When: 10-11 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Where: Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, 1545 Community Way, NE, Gainesville
How much: $10 drop-in fee
Contact: 770-533-5850

Scissors! Frog legs! Cannonball!

Separately the above items are a common household tool, a gourmet food and a water-splashing dive in a pool. Strung together and shouted from the mouth of fitness instructor Jan Nance, they are the choreographed movements members of the “Get Wet and Sweat” water aerobics class performed Friday at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center. And I was one of the fortunate — and unfortunate a little later — new members of the class trying to move my body to her instructions, all in the buoyancy and resistant water of a pool.

I was attending the class as part of a deal I struck with fellow Times features writer, Savannah King. She was willing try out the newest fitness craze, Zumba. If she was willing to give the high-energy aerobic dance class a chance, all in the name of offering our readers a first-hand account of the activity, then I had to follow suit, literally.

Therefore, I donned my most comfortable bathing suit — which I had not worn since last year or maybe years ago despite living in Florida — and eased into the four-lane instructional warm-water pool for the Friday morning fitness class.

Despite the apprehension of putting on a swimsuit — I have body image issues similar to most women — and working out, I felt comfortable in the water as the class started for two reasons.

First, I love being in a pool. It’s the only time I feel perfectly weightless and can move my body into positions I can’t on land. And I wasn’t the only one with the same thought.

“You feel like a ballerina” in the water, said Gainesville resident Janice Waits, who took the class.

Second, if I made a mistake on one of the exercise moves, no one noticed. Almost all of the moves are made underneath the water. Therefore, no one can see you slip when you are walking side to side or notice you are not on the same step as others.

The class started out slowly, which was great for me since I had not worked out since ... well I don’t know the last time I exercised. We walked back and forth from wall to wall as a warm-up exercise. We then started jogging in place to the beat of the music. Sometimes I stayed with the beat.

Then Nance, who started teaching the class in February and is a certified water instructor, picked up the pace. Facing her, she moved the class to the left for several steps and then to the right. Then came jumping jacks in place.

Later, the jumping jacks transformed into quick “baby jacks.” They were smaller, quick paced jumping jacks. And after completing that task, I started to feel as if I was really working out. I actually started to pant and desired a brief water break.

But then Nance told us to breathe and jog in place. After a few counts, I felt ready to do the next task.

The maneuvers continued, including forming a cannonball in the water by putting your knees and feet together, followed by pulling your knees to your chest.

Next was the frog-leg position. It entailed having balls of the feet facing each other and with your knees apart, pulling your feet to your body. They were fun at first, but they came back to haunt me later.

After getting up a good workout in the middle of the pool, Nance moved the class to the deep end. Participants grabbed floating noodles, sat on them and bicycled down. Nance explained if people did not feel comfortable in the deep end, they may stay in the shallow end.

Betty Ganoe of Gainesville admitted she can’t swim, but she still ventures into the deep end.

“I’ll go out on the noodle,” she said.

Once in the deep water. Nance instructed us to cross our legs back and forth in the water. I eagerly started. Then she told us to do the frog-leg motion. I started then all of a sudden a pain gripped my right calf and seared up and down my leg. The pain was so intense I almost felt I was going to be sick.

I immediately stopped doing the exercise and gingerly paddled my way to the side of the pool. Nance quickly noticed.

“Are you OK?” she asked. “Leg cramps?”

I breathed and nodded.

“You need someone to help you out of the water?” Nance asked.

I told her no and said I would be OK in a minute. The class continued and I held onto the wall and breathed deeply.

Luckily, in a few minutes the pain subsided and I rejoined the class for the final stretching exercise. However, there was no cure for my embarrassment.

But no one in class commented on it. And some of the women in the class actually encouraged me to come back.

Francine Rognoni of Gainesville pointed out I was not the only one to be under the watchful eye of the instructor.

“She watches every person and notices if you have some kind of problem,” she said. “She saw that my face was getting red and told me to stop and slow down. She’s very observant.”

Nance’s observant nature and energetic attitude apparently keeps people returning to her classes. But she noted some people have a misconception about the class.

“The misconception is that water aerobics is for older people and women,” she said.

While the 20-plus members of Friday morning class were older, Nance said her Tuesday night class has younger people. The Friday morning class also had a couple of men.

Ganoe, a regular to Nance’s water aerobics class, said she has noticed lots of men take the class.

“Doctors tell them to because it’s the best exercise and there’s no impact,” she said.

Nance added other class members include those who have undergone knee and hip replacement surgery as well as people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and muscular dystrophy.

“Water is truly magical,” she said.

And despite my leg cramp from the workout, I agree the water aerobic workout magically made me feel better and laugh at my embarrassment the rest of the day.

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