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The Fat Woman In Your Fitness Class: Let’s Aqua Jog!

Hello, September and welcome to my very first column for Fatventure Mag!

J. Palsa Photography

By the time you read this, I will have just recently gotten married, which, you know, is a big enough deal on its own—but it also was important to me that in between everything that goes into organizing a wedding, there was one thing I didn’t do: diet. There was no “sweating for the wedding” or “slimming down for the gown” or any of that nonsense. I worked out during the course of our 18-month engagement because I wanted to, not because it was needed.

I was a fat girlfriend and then a fat fiancée and now, I am a fat wife. My husband knew what I looked like when he proposed; why on earth would I change that just for one day?

This is one reason why I’m so happy a publication like Fatventure Mag exists, and why I’m so happy to be part of it. It supports and promotes the idea that fitness and exercise can exist in a world free of toxic diet culture. For me, that often comes in the form of fitness classes, which is what I’ll be writing about every month. Specifically, my goal is to seek out body-positive fitness classes that follow my personal philosophy that exercise should be play and not punishment.

In my experience, fitness classes in particular are great because they don’t require a huge commitment of either time or money. Most classes I’ve tried over the years have been an hour at most—plus, while many gyms lock you into a few months or a year via their membership fees, boutique classes usually have drop-in fees that allow you to just try a class out. Some ways to find these types of classes include apps like MINDBODY and websites like ClassPass (while ClassPass does operate as a subscription service, you can browse the website without a membership to find fitness studios near you. Visiting the studio’s website directly will give you individual class pricing). Discounted passes to boutique studios often show up on Groupon, too.

(Also, for this introvert, fitness classes are fantastic because they let me pretend to be social by hanging out with a group of people without actually having to talk to any of them.)

Today’s column is all about a class I’ve recently discovered at my local YMCA: aqua jog!

Jill Grunenwald / Instagram

I love the water and aquatics. When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a mermaid. Instead, I grew up to be a runner. While I had heard of other aquatic classes like aqua aerobics, I was intrigued by the concept of aqua jogging. How, exactly, does one jog in the pool? In my mind I was anticipating being in the shallow end, where our feet could still touch, and kind of jogging in place but I was so totally wrong.

My YMCA has several aqua jog classes throughout the week, all at varying times including evenings, mornings, and weekends. There are also different instructors and the two I’ve worked with so far were both fellow fat women. There’s just something reassuring about attending a fitness class led by a fat instructor. It adds an element of safety. This is especially true with aquatic classes because there’s a part of me that already feels a little vulnerable, what with the whole bathing suit thing (make no mistake: I love my body, I own a two piece for pool parties, but I still sometimes struggle with wearing a bathing suit in public). But when I walked into the pool area and saw the instructor I knew this was a safe space for me to be in.

I also think fat instructors are important for thin people in the class because fat instructors challenge the status quo. They tear down the assumptions and presumptions that only thin people are active and only thin people can teach fitness classes.

Aqua jog at my YMCA works like this: straddling pool noodles for buoyancy, we all lined up against one side of the deep end. While jogging in place is a common water aerobics activity, the class I took had us move our legs in ways beyond just stationary running. After we had all lined up, our instructor Amy would shout out a maneuver and we would use that to swim across to the other side of the deep end. Maneuvers included: skateboard (keeping one leg stationary, use the other to propel you forward to the other side of the pool. Switch feet on your way back) or bicycles (like you’re pedaling a bike) or egg beaters (move your legs in opposite directions).

One of my favorite parts of aqua jog is that nobody has any idea what I’m doing under the water. I really hate fitness classes with those big mirrors across the entire front of the room because everyone can see me make an idiot of myself. In most water-based classes, like aqua jog, my entire lower half is beneath warm blue waves. Therefore if, for instance, I’m struggling during egg beaters because when I heard “move your legs around in opposite directions,” I attempted to do some bizarre pat your head while rubbing your stomach maneuver where my right leg pedals forward and my right leg pedals backwards… nobody has to know.

(It took me a full 24 hours to realize that she meant move my legs out, away from the body in opposite directions. Like the paddles on a hand mixer. Needless to say, it was a lot easier doing that particular move at the next class.)

Despite certain moves confounding me, I had so much fun! It was one of those workouts that didn’t feel like a workout and, instead, made me feel like I was a kid again playing and splashing in the pool.

Near the end of the class, we abandoned our pool noodles and got some water weights. These are styrofoam hand held weights that float in the pool. I’ll admit it: when I first picked my pair up, I was skeptical. I mean, they weighed maybe 1 pound each. They float. They are made of styrofoam. How effective could these things be?

TURNS OUT, PRETTY DAMN EFFECTIVE.

This is where that whole water resistance thing comes in, because while those weights didn’t look like much outside of the pool, once they are in the pool they provided some serious resistance as we basically made snow angels under water. The impact of this resistance was proven when I got out of the pool and realized my arms hurt. Who knew some water and some foam could do that much?

If, like me, you love being in the water but want something beyond just swimming laps, I highly recommend trying to find an aqua jog class or really any kind of aqua aerobics. Even if you don’t have a YMCA available, I know my local city pool also offers classes. After that initial introduction, I’ve continued to attend classes because it’s just so much fun and definitely fits my “play not punishment” philosophy!

Bonus: check out this video of an aqua zumba class, which looks like a ton of fun:

Further reading: