BY KRISTI REED

Rosanne Hein’s students will be the first to tell you that water aerobics is definitely not a cushy workout.

“This is not a play class,” said Carolyn Butler of Buford.

Butler, who has been doing water aerobics for the past ten years, said you have to work hard in the class. Butler attends class three times a week and, despite the rigors of the workout, said she loves it. Fellow classmate Penny Hunter agrees.

“At my age, you start getting stiff and this keeps me mobile,” Hunter said. “It helps build strength and I love Rosanne. She’s tough, but we compare all the other instructors to her.”

Hein, a water aerobics instructor for the past 17 years, believes water aerobics is a great way to get fit.

“It just feels good,” she said. “Anybody can do it.”

Hein’s interest in water aerobics began when she was just 16 years old. Her mother, age 49 at the time, suffered a massive stroke which left her paralyzed on one side of the body and in a coma for three months. Hein was frustrated with the lack of available therapy and rehabilitation, so she took it upon herself to help her mother recover from her debilitating condition.

Hein said she took her mother into the pool to loosen up her mother’s muscles and keep them from atrophying. The therapy worked and led Hein to pursue a career helping others reap the benefits of water therapy and exercise.

THE WATER’S FINE

Hein, a trim 50-year-old with fiery red hair, leads the class from the deck of the pool. During the workout, Hein takes her students through a series of large, fluid movements designed to combine cardiovascular exercise with the natural weight resistance training offered by moving through the water.

Hein motivates the class with her big smile and energetic instructions. While it is evident that the students are getting a good workout, the class members hardly seem to notice the hard work because they are having fun.

Halfway through the 50-minute workout, Hein gives the class a chance to catch their breath for a few moments before leading the class through a targeted resistance training workout using foam noodles.

The water provides three dimensional resistance as the body pushes through, Hein explained. That resistance causes the water to serve as an instantly adjustable weight training machine. Hein said the harder an individual pushes, pulls and kicks in the water, the more resistance the water provides.

Hein said the water also provides buoyancy which cushions weight bearing joints. This buoyancy prevents the injuries and strains common to other exercise porgams.

THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS

Alice Peterson drives all the way from Lawrenceville to attend Hein’s class. She said she likes the class because she can exercise without hurting her knees or back by pounding around on a hard surface.

“Yet you’re still getting really good aerobic exercise,” she said.

Nim Wilson also makes the drive from Lawrencevile to take the class. Wilson, a 57-year-old male, said his doctor recommended the class as therapy after a major heart surgery.

Wilson had his aortic valve replaced along with eight and a half inches of his aorta. As part of the operation, doctors installed a pacemaker. Due to later complications, Wilson had to have a second surgery to insert an automatic defibrillator. The surgeries were debilitating for Wilson.

“I used to run and walk and swim,” he said. “After I had this done, I couldn’t even walk.”

Now, a year later, he can finish the 50-minute long classes and even swim the length of the pool.

“It’s really hard to explain but it makes you feel such much better to do this than to exercise at home,” Wilson said. “There are things I do at home, like walking or jogging, but it’s not like being in the water. It’s a whole different kind of tired, but you feel better.”

Even Hein has reaped the therapeutic benefits of water aerobics. Hein, a semi-professional dancer for 17 years, turned to water aerobics for therapy after developing bone spurs in her toes. Water aerobics and yoga are now her preferred forms of exercise.

“I don’t believe in gyms. I believe they’re a people watching facility,” she said. Hein said gyms and fitness facilities are intimidating for those who are just beginning an exercise program.

“They are also intimidating for the person who is shy, or not as pretty or doesn’t have implants,” she said. Hein said water aerobics holds an advantage over gyms because it is a great equalizer.

“You’re going to be wet and you’re all going to look the same,” she explained.

LOCAL CLASSES

Several pools offer water aerobics classes. Bogan Park Pool in Buford offers water aerobics five days a week. Call 770-614-2060 for more information.

The Georgia Piedmont YMCA also offers water aerobics classes at the Winder-Barrow and Riverwalk locations. Class information is available online at www.winderymca.org or by calling 770-868-2917.

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