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Why Water Workouts?

With Rob Glick

Season 5, Episode 4 | May 10, 2022

The water provides advantages not available from forms of land exercise, making it a valuable addition to anyone’s fitness regimen — whether you use it as an environment for low-impact movement, recovery, cross-training, or everyday fitness. In this mini episode, Rob Glick shares the benefits that working out in the water can offer, plus different ways you can include it in your routine.

Rob Glick is the senior director of programming innovation and the regional leader for the Pacific at Life Time; he’s also the studio leader at Life Time Rancho San Clemente in California.

In this episode, Glick shares why water workouts can be beneficial for all of us:

  • There’s less compression on your skeleton. In-the-water fitness efforts can provide cardiovascular and muscular advantages in a safer manner for anyone dealing with joint or arthritic issues.
  • It allows for continuous training days. Because of the low-compressive environment, the water provides a place to continue to train with less stress and strain on your body.
  • You can rehearse movements. Trying to master a single-leg squat? Train the movement and its mechanics in the water to create muscle memory before taking it on land. The weight and pressure of the water will help slow you down as you practice the movement.
  • There’s built-in resistance. The movement of your body against the load of the water helps to increase caloric expenditure, while the water pressure against your body also helps to flush toxins from your system.
  • It reduces the chances for muscle soreness. Most delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) comes from the eccentric phase of exercise where muscles undergo the greatest “damage.” The water offers a place for concentric movements.
  • There are options for all. While many think of swimming or water aerobics classes as the primary means for water exercise (and these are great choices!), you can also practice traditional fitness movements in the pool, such as squats, lunges, or high-knee running.

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Transcript: Why Water Workouts?

Season 5, Episode 4  | May 10, 2022

[MUSIC PLAYING] Everyone, welcome back to another episode of Life Time Talks. I’m David Freeman.

And I’m Jamie Martin.

And we’re joined today with the one and only Rob Glick who’s a senior director of programming innovation at Life Time, regional leader at Life Time as well in our athletic resource in Pacific, as well as our studio leader in Rancho San Clemente in California. Welcome, Rob. How are you doing?

I’m doing great, David, Jamie. Thanks for having me today.

We’re so glad to have you on because we’re talking about water workouts. And we want to know more about this low-impact workout opportunity for people. Often it’s construed as a type of workout for people who are older, who have injuries, but why are water workouts for everybody?

That’s such a great question. I mean, honestly, working out in the water has so many positive benefits, and we’ll talk about those in just a moment. But the reason it’s for everybody is, everybody can receive an incredible benefit by jumping in the water. First, just being in the water is always fun. It always feels good. And right now especially, but all the time training outdoors is so wonderful.

But as you mentioned, we often think about a specific group of people, either swimming– so you have your swimmers. Beautiful, handsome, fit, swimmers. And then we have people who do aqua fitness. And we have these two different categories that we think in. But the truth is, the benefits that can be received from training in and out of the water can be for everybody.

I love that. I love that. So within the innovation of what it is that you do and what you’ve seen over the years with your experience, how have you seen water fitness evolve?

So the biggest thing is– and it’s interesting. In North America, we predominantly think of– and I’m going to speak specifically now of aqua fitness, not swimming vertically or being a swimmer but of aqua fitness. We now normally think of it because of the benefits.

One of the big benefits of working out in the water is the less compression on your skeleton. And because of the less compression on your skeleton, if you’re dealing with any arthritic issues or just joint compression issues, you don’t have the same level of compression, the same weight of your skeleton, and gravity on your skeleton in the water. So it’s a huge benefit. You can get all the benefits of that cardiovascular and neuromuscular muscular endurance strength training in the water without the compression.

However, here’s the other great piece. And this is what I think really changed in maybe the past eight or nine years is athletes are going, OK, I’m having high compressive days where I’m doing Olympic lifting and spinal compression with large loads on my spine. I need the day that I can go in the water and actually have a lower compressive environment to do different types of training and receive different benefits and, in a way, actually help facilitate recovery without losing a training day. And that’s been the biggest change.

So really, it’s become a tool for wherever you are in your fitness journey. It can be your workout. It can be your recovery mechanism. It can be whatever you need it to be given where you are in your own programming.

Yeah. Well said, Jamie. It can really meet you where you’re at. Do I need this to be my recovery training day? Because based on where I’m at in sport, am I in-season, out-of-season? And where am I at just in my periodization? Do I need a training day that’s less impactful on my skeleton? Aqua, water, great environment.

Then you fast forward it to– it’s like, hey, you know what, I want to train my heart and my muscular system, but I’ve got some stuff going on in my body that I just can’t deal with the impact. Again, great place to go and train. So for different reasons, it meets people where they’re at.

Love it.

Yeah, I learned from what you just said as far as– so it could be rehabilitation. It could be the maintenance if you want it to be maintenance as well as rehabilitation. So we’ve thought for so long, OK, now that I’m injured, now I’m going to go into the water. And you’re saying that you can actually do a lot of things to help you be more proactive in your day-to-day to prevent a lot of these injuries that we might be seeing from those heavy loads that you were speaking on on top of the spine and then joints, so on and so forth. So I love the benefits that I’m already hearing here.

Yeah. And think about it this way. Imagine that if you look at your workout week, a couple of things that I think are shifting that are wonderful is we’re saying, if you’re not planning for recovery, you’re planning for injury. And we never thought about that before. Now, then if you think about the volume of work that you have to do during the week, you’re like, OK, I want to have an active recovery day. I still want to be active today, but I need to figure that out based on what’s going on in my life for athletes particularly. So the water is a perfect environment.

And then you fast forward to, again, people who are just looking for general health and well-being, you jump in that water and all of the increased resistance that the water provides and just the movement of the human body against the load of the water, the increased caloric expenditure, it’s a great way to get high-calorie burn and low impact on the skeletal system.

I want to talk a little bit about the mental health benefits of being in the water too because there’s been a lot of research about being whether in a pool or in your natural body of water how good that is for you from a mental well-being. Even anecdotally, what has been your experience with that?

It’s really funny. And we often talk about how we’re mostly water and the Earth is mostly water and the environment. And you just get people in water, and there’s this playful attitude that comes forward. I think all of us as fitness professionals and people who are in the business, so to speak, of inspiring people to have a healthy, fun, active approach to life, you don’t have to force it in the water. Something about the sound of the water, the feeling of the water, the environment of the water, and our nature, you don’t have to force it out. People just get playful and have a great time and, oh, by the way, great workout.


Let’s talk about breathing. Breathing is life. Yeah, breathing is life. Once again, just knowing your background, it relates to so many different things across the spectrum. So when we think of yoga, when we think of exercise, when we think of now water and how it can now help increase lung capacity and understanding how to control our breathing, so take us a little bit down your experience when it comes to breathing, some of the benefits that you’ve seen over the years.

So it’s really fascinating again. It makes me laugh in a way that meditation’s vogue. Meditation’s trendy. I mean, how wonderful. I’m a trendy athlete now or a trendy, healthy person. I’m going to meditate. I’m going to be aware of my breath and my mindfulness. And it’s so wonderful. I’m so glad that something like meditation and awareness to breath is trendy.

And what’s really interesting, there’s an amazing human being out there by the name of Laird Hamilton. And he’s one of the original big-wave surfers. He’s just, again, somebody who’s very engaged and involved on how can you push the human mind and body to the limit and lots of ice plunge, Hof’s method, and just all of that kind of stuff integrated. And how do you get into a high-pressure situation and stay calm?

And so by going into the water and actually submerging yourself and getting into a position– and, again, this is not for everybody. But putting yourself into a position where you’re like, OK, I cannot breathe. Can I relax? Can I mindfully go, OK, this is really uncomfortable, for many people, scary, but can I slow down and going to go, I’m OK? And the surface is right there. And when I need to, I can come up for a breath. But until then, can I calm myself down?

And above land, we can’t do that because they’d be very aware of the importance of breathing by holding your breath. They’re doing some breath retention work. As soon as you get in the water and you do breathwork like that, you’re like, oh, my gosh. Just this life is breath and breath is life like you mentioned, David, you can’t miss it.

I feel like I want to take a breath right now even though we’re above. All right. Here we go. I want to just get into– when I think of water workouts, when I used to think of water workouts, I thought of swimming laps. But that’s really changed. And you’ve talked about this, some of the non-weight bearing. So what could this look like for people beyond lap swimming and the various strokes that we’re all familiar with?

Yeah. When you think of just your traditional fitness and you apply it into the water, as I mentioned, the water in it itself, there’s a few of the other benefits that we should speak to. But to your specific question, doing squats, doing lunges, doing high-knee running, holding on to the edge of the pool and just doing flutter kicks, and things like that, doing the karaoke step or lateral movements and moving forward and back, all of that kind of stuff, any typical fitness movement that you would do on land, you can do in the water.

And when you bring it into the water, a couple of the benefits that come out is, most of our delayed muscle soreness comes from what we call the eccentric phase where the muscle’s under load and lengthening. And that seems to have the greatest damage. And I hate to use that word “damage” because it’s actually a part of the process of adaptation for this beautiful machine that we are. So in that adaptation, it seems to be that most of the delayed onset of muscle soreness comes through this eccentric loading phase.

Well, there is no eccentric phase in the water. It’s all concentric because no matter what I’m doing, I’m pushing against the water and the water is my resistance. And because of that, you get very little to no muscle soreness. So you can train hard, and the next day, you could then do another workout because you don’t have the same level of muscle soreness inhibiting your movement quality.

The other wonderful benefit is just movement rehearsal. The weight and pressure of the water slows you down. And so since you’re slowed down, let’s just say hypothetically that you wanted to do a one-legged squat. And you can do it in the water, no problem. You can rehearse the movement in the water, the mechanics of the movement in the water, and then you can take that out of the water and have the muscle memory to play with it.

So those, again, the exercise limits are only our imagination and our tolerance to be submerged. Some of the things that you wanted to do, deep rear lunges, there would be submersion there. But you don’t have to submerge. So you could do a little bit shallower rear lunge and keep your head above the water.

I will tell you. I had never even thought about testing some of those movements in the water first. That one-legged lunge, it’s something– or one-legged squat–

Pistol squat, yeah.

Pistol squat. Struggle with it on land. Have tried it many times and failed many times. I’ve never even thought about trying it in the water first. That’s awesome.

Yeah, it’s really a really great place to do movement rehearsal.

Well, we always learn from our failures though, right?


Then that’s the beautiful part about it. Application is what you just shared with us, how you can now do certain things. For an individual who may fear getting in the water, whether because they’re afraid of– I cannot swim, or I’ve never done that before. So I don’t know necessarily what results will be yielded from that. I want you to go into coach mode now. How do you now get these individuals to get in the water? What would you say to them?

So all of the locations that we do aqua fitness, Aurora aqua fitness, a variety of these different classes are all in shallow pools where typically– and the person can choose depending, but lots of the classes are in pools that are so shallow they couldn’t submerge unless they intentionally dove under the water. So you’re talking like four feet of water.

Now, sometimes you have to kind of crouch down a little bit because you want that water resistance. You’re going after that water resistance. But because of that, you always can be rooted and grounded to the bottom of the pool without any fear of just having to hold your breath if you don’t want to hold your breath.

As well for anybody who has any fear around the water, stay by the side. You could do it right by the steps and right by the side of the pool until you gain comfort if you gain comfort. And then, of course, you’ve got your great coach on the side, your great instructor on the side. They’re always monitoring, always looking to make sure that everybody’s doing great and feeling comfortable.

Love that.

Well, Rob, this is a mini-episode. So in the name of time, anything else you want to add about water workouts before we sign off today?

I think a couple of things that we didn’t mention– and you kind of did, and I didn’t go into it, David. And that’s the benefit of using the water to help actually prehab or rehab you. And one of the other benefits is compression. So you know how we wear compression socks and compression tights now and compression clothes?

That’s another thing that the water does for us. When you get into the water, you actually have that water pressure against your body that helps flush the system, helps move all of those toxins out through your body. And so that’s another great benefit that I want to make sure that everybody knows.

And then the other thing is as we’ve been alluding to. Just keep in mind that the water is a great place to train for everybody. And I started to say this, and I didn’t finish the thought, but in North America, we do see it mostly as aqua fitness for older adults. But the rest of the world, you go down to Brazil, it’s gorgeous people in the pool working out together. And I just want everybody to change their mental image of what it means to work out in the water, that it is truly for everybody, and it can meet you where you are and take you anywhere you wanted to go.

I love that. Well, Rob, thank you so much. If people wanted to stay connected with you, are you on social media? Where can they find you?

Yeah. Is anybody not on social?


Absolutely. Find me on Instagram, robglick1, R-O-B-G-L-I-C-K-1. Facebook, still Rob Glick, R-O-B G-L-I-C-K. No “1” on that one. And please stay in touch with me. Send me messages if you have any questions. If you’re getting in the water and you want some suggested exercises with diagrams, let me know. I’d love to share with you. And stay fit, stay healthy.

Thanks so much, Rob.

Thanks for taking the dive with us.

Yeah. Thanks, Jamie. Thanks, David. It’s such a pleasure to be able to chat with you.


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The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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