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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Water Sports for Fitness and Fun: Wet, Wild and Cool!

May 30, 2013 06:08PM ● By Suzi Harkola

It’s summer in southwest Florida, and the refreshing waters of our area’s lakes, beaches and pools beckon. Try a new fitness routine while splashing with friends and family by choosing one of the many water sports and fitness opportunities in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte Counties.

Have a Pool Party with Aqua Zumba®

Enjoy our beautiful Florida weather by exercising outside this summer and still stay cool with Aqua Zumba. Experience the fun of Zumba® exercise and dance in water instead of a studio.
Aqua Zumba instructors teach classes on the pool deck, where participants can see their moves out of the water so they know what to do in the water. Participants gather in the pool’s shallow end and start with a warm-up song that energizes the class and slowly builds the body’s heart rate. The warm-Water Sports for Fitness and Fun Wet, Wild and Cool! by Suzi Harkola up dance makes little to no splashes or water movement. The songs played are all different, from modern pop to Latin music. As the class moves on, the water resistance helps the muscles work harder.
Beth Golden teaches Aqua Zumba at her studio at 5000 Fruitville Road in Sarasota, and new participants are always welcome. For this class the main accessory is a bathing suit! Beth recommends water or beach shoes if your feet are tender or sometimes get scraped by the bottom of the pool. You also need a water bottle and sunscreen; you can get dehydrated even though you are in water.
Sweat might not be pouring off, but Aqua Zumba is a workout. “We squat and jump, and do salsa moves like moving our hips in a circle pattern while spinning around,” says Beth. “The hand movements consist of swaying and pushing or pulling the water, all this to the beat of the music. The arm movements of pushing and swaying eventually leave you dancing in sprays of splashing water. When your hands push underwater, you will see ripples in the pool – good work!”
Carla Peralta is the fitness director at Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, where she teaches Aqua Zumba. She notes, “The Springs provide buoyancy, thus protecting the joints, and the absorption of 51 different minerals unique to the Springs. Why do a water class in a pool full of chemicals if you can do it at the Springs? The Spring water increases kinesthetic awareness and enhanced neuromuscular reactivity.”
She added, “I bring the party to the water, with great music, rhythms and dances modified and adapted to the aquatic environment. Participants feel confident to work in the water and the water offers a hydrodynamic resistance to obtain a training effect and a better state of mind. Group fitness also has the benefit of the social interaction between the students and with the teacher.”
Christie Fernandez teaches 16 Zumba classes a week, with her time spread between the North Port YMCA, the Imagine School in North Port (Farmers Market) and the Port Charlotte YMCA among other venues.
“I have clients of all ages but the most predominant ones in the Aqua Zumba Class are seniors 65 and over. It’s very gratifying to me to work with people and see their progress and results. One of my Aqua Zumba students lost 60 pounds over a relatively short time. The exercises help people with both physical and mental health, and they’re having fun!”
Jeanna Morrow has been teaching Zumba for three years and Aqua Zumba for one and a half years. She focuses on reaching the segment of our population that needs the water to cushion the joints, and most of her clients are over 60. Jeanna teaches at South County Park in Punta Gorda where an Olympic-regulation pool makes for a great swimming and dancing environment. She notes that a swimming Pool gives sure footing and the participant has the option of wearing aqua shoes.
“Aqua Zumba is perfect for people who need to exercise but who may be a little afraid of the water,” says Jeanna. “It’s a super safe environment, because the water just comes up to the person’s armpits. No need to get your face or head in the water. It’s very relaxing.”
Sandy Bellino adds Aqua Zumba to her repertoire at Beth Golden’s Golden Fitness in Sarasota and the Lakewood Ranch YMCA in Bradenton. “We always have parties going on like Zumba and Tai Chi on the Beach, as well as in pools,” she said.
She notes that by being in the water, “there is lower impact on joints and bones and higher resistance formuscle toning, which results in a higher workout intensity compared to land exercise. An added benefit is a full body massage from water around you. The beautiful thing about Zumba classes is that you can make the movements your own. It matters that you move, not how you move. It’s a great exercise choice because it feels good and is applicable to all ages, all abilities and all fitness levels. It’s one hour of happy therapy!”
Contact information and profiles of each of these instructors can be found at

Tackle an Open Swim for Endurance Training

Tommy Klauber, the owner of Polo Bar and Grill, and Amy Whittington, a personal trainer at Lakewood Ranch Country Club, have joined with other fitness fans to open Atlas Endurance, an all-inclusive multisport club based in Lakewood Ranch. The group is for anyone interested in multisport training, group training, swimming, cycling and running in Lakewood Ranch and surrounding areas. All skill levels are welcome and encouraged.
The club hopes to encourage fitness in a social setting that takes full advantage of the amenities in Lakewood Ranch for cycling, running and swimming. Klauber stated, “Atlas Endurance members also have a special swim only membership deal with the Lakewood Ranch YMCA and lots of other benefits. We keep a calendar of our events on our group and lots of info on our Facebook page,”
Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park and Lido Beach are both perfect for open water swimming, one of the more grueling elements of a triathlon. Club members have met at both venues for group swims, to test their endurance, get feedback on technique and to enjoy the sun and fun that is southwest Florida.

Stand Up Paddleboarding’s a Sport for Everyone

For water lovers looking for something that can be both relaxing yet challenging, stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is a unique option and is one of the fastest growing watersports in the world. Aaron Pollard and his wife Karla Gore have opened SURFit USA, which focuses on water fitness using stand up paddleboarding, surfing and open water swimming. Their programs include fitness classes for all ages and abilities, tours, events and more. They also have programs specific to children including kids’ summer camps, a racing program and are organizing a paddleboard race for kids only.
Aaron believes SUP is the future of surfing and watersports on the Gulf Coast because of the workout stand up paddling provides, the ability to use SUP for surfing and the simplicity of it. “Most people are able to get up and paddle around in one session—and with a few lessons people are able to get the technique down and move onto more challenging aspects, like racing or surfing.”
For more information on SURFit USA programs check out their website at

Let Aquatic Fitness Take Center Stage This Summer

The opportunities for fun and fitness on the water are as endless at the lakes, rivers, pools and, of course, beaches that dominate the tri-county landscape. A quick search of the internet will provide class schedules, venues and pricing, so check out the options, grab some sunscreen and take to the water this summer.
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