Getting out the kinks in Aquanastics

A personal account

By Sue Cody


Water Aerobics EquipmentDAY 1


I should have known better.


The name alone would give it away to anyone with half a brain: Aquanastics.


OK, I had joined other seniors for the arthritis class in the warm pool at Seaside and braved the I-Chi class with lots of stretching. So it was only with a naïve sense of fun that I decided to finally take Kathleen Hudson’s advice and join her Aquanastics class at the Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside KOA in Hammond.


Kathleen is one of those energetic optimistic people, who older than me, can really make me feel like a slouch even on my most vigorous day. Not her attitude, mind you. She wants to bring you up to her level. But being a slug compared to a hare, you know that’s not going to happen.


Kathleen tells us that KOA welcomes seniors to swim for free during the winter. The pool is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and even provides free showers with body wash, shampoo and conditioner.


We get in the water and begin “warming up,” which consists of pushing our arms up in the air, to the side, then down. One arm, then the other. Up, side, down, up, side, down. We jog in place, flailing our arms and putting our hearts into overdrive as if passing a semi on switchbacks.


“Brutal” was the first word that came to mind.


After 10 minutes of Aquanastics, I wondered if I could even survive the 50-minute first class. At minute 25 my right arthritic shoulder had had enough and couldn’t be coaxed to raise above my head. But being a good sport, I did the best I could and didn’t push the shoulder beyond my pain threshold. Luckily the exercises turned more to the legs. Do the bunny hop across the pool, hands like ears on top of your head. Leap like a frog, hands between the legs. Back and forth across the pool.


All this is very precisely explained by Kathleen as she does the exercises with us. Out of breath, I wonder how she manages. She has already been through this once this morning, with the 9 a.m. class.


“Take the kick board and push it to the bottom of the pool,” Kathleen says. “Now take one foot and stand on it. Then put the other foot on it.” Suddenly, kick boards come flying out of the water like torpedoes. No one was hurt.


Standing on the boards underwater, I slowly lift my knees and paddle around, still keeping the small floatation device under my feet. Balance is tricky, but most of us manage some success.


We rest on water noodles and kick our feet sideways, in and out, up and down.


Have you ever tried to do crunches (sit-ups) in the water? We do this with a noodle supporting our backs. No doubt about it, this class is going to attack all my muscles.


After class, some of us slip into the hot tub. Conversation with a friend leads to a discovery that she has multiple sclerosis. She says she tries to take this class year-round.


“It helps with mobility,” she says. Even taking the holidays off, she can feel the difference and will have to work her way up to more flexibility.


I come home with a couple of sore shoulders, but a lightness in my walk, feeing as if oxygen were getting to places it hadn’t been allowed in quite some time.


Aquanastics 1DAY 2


Kathleen Hudson could have been a drill sergeant if she weren’t so nice.


Thursday begins in the pool with my shoulders and lower back still aching a little from Tuesday’s Aquanastics class.


“OK, reach up, then down,” calls out the drill sergeant. “Push it down, way down.” She is reaching and leaning skyward and thrusting the fist, full-force underwater.


“Run in place. Run faster. Faster. As fast as you can!” This is only maybe three minutes into the class and we are all huffing and puffing, trying to keep up with Kathleen.


We grab our noodles – mine is pink – others took the preferred turquoise noodles. We step on the noodle with one foot, then attempt to lift that foot out of the water. Then the other foot. All kinds of leg exercises against the wall. Wiggle this way, stretch that.


Thirty minutes into class, I am thinking, well at least we only have 20 more minutes. It is more than half over.


“Do the cossack dance across the pool, arms crossed in front. Now with your hands behind your back.” I find it difficult to move forward when all the weight is behind me. I eventually make it to the other side of the pool. Then it’s the “can-can,” kick your leg and clap under the knee. I hum to myself, but it doesn’t make it any easier.


On some of the later arm exercises, I defer to the pain in my right shoulder. I don’t want to harm it any further.


We throw the three beach balls into the pool and attempt to keep them in the air. We fail. When we improve, we get two hits before the ball crashes to the surface of the pool.


I shower and go home.


Surprisingly, I have less pain the rest of the day. Now that is amazing!




I notice my legs are stronger. When I twist on my side with the noodle behind me my back and am told to “ride the bicycle,” I see I am moving faster than the others. Progress! “Ride the bicycle backwards.” I have to laugh at this concept as if one could ride a bicycle backwards. But it works in the water.


Holding onto the edge of the pool, we stretch our legs flat-footed on the bottom of the pool, then do the spider walk up the wall with legs spread apart. Next comes the “tin man,” climbing the wall with legs straight, followed by the “monkey bars,” crossing one hand and the same leg over the other toward the shallow end of the pool.


During the “can-can,” across the pool, kicking up one leg and clapping both hands under that knee, I notice my left, arthritic knee is not lifting as high as the right knee. Next time I will work on that.


Aquanastics 2DAY 4


I remember to stretch my left knee. Kathleen says to stretch that heel to your butt while doing the “peg-leg” across the pool. I grab my left heel with my left hand and hop across the pool with my right arm raised high overhead. Switching legs, the right leg is more cooperative, move flexible.


I notice during the “can-can” that my left knee is going a little higher than last class.


We are getting better at keeping the beach balls in the air. I think we got up to five hits on one ball before it crashed. Never mind the two balls that got slammed out of the pool. I am sure if we made the circle smaller and used only one or two balls we would have better success, but I don’t think that is the point. The point is to use our hands, necks, eyes and heck, our whole bodies in movement that is challenging and fun. Exercise without realizing it. That is my opinion.




Something weird happened. As I turned around to grab a kick board, a strange light hit me. OMG! It was the sun! Here we’d been in the pool on four rainy February days and I had no idea the sun would come through that window and light up the pool. As we kicked our legs, I saw the light play on the water.


With my back against the edge of the pool, my arms supporting me, I bent my left knee and put my foot on my right knee. “Open those hips,” says Kathleen. “Now move it back and forth like a windshield wiper.” As I look down at my moving leg with the sun out, it appears as if I have extra pounds of flesh on my leg that swishes back and forth behind the movement of the leg. Fascinating. Something about the motion of the water creates an optical illusion that intrigues me.




I missed a class and now I am paying for it. My arthritic knee is a little stiff again. But the bicycle and scissors kick while supported by the noodle feel good. Every day Kathleen throws in something a little different.


This time, after we do the “monkey bars” to the shallow end, she tells us to jump up with our hands on the top edge of the pool and hold ourselves up. She can actually do this! I can get up, but my right shoulder is not strong enough to support my weight. Few others can do this. I figure out that I can jump up and rest on my elbows and bended arms. Close enough.


After each session we pat ourselves on the back and give ourselves a hug.


Kathleen asks three questions. The first one is always our name. The second and third one vary each time. My favorite is hearing other people’s first job and their favorite job. As others say something about camp, I remember when I was 14 and was invited to spend the summer at a Camp Fire Girls camp. I could stay for free just for playing the bugle.


Aquanastics 3DAY 7


I look forward to getting into the pool. I finally remember everyone’s name and sense a little camaraderie. We all are in the pool for various reasons. But the health benefits are becoming more obvious. It feels good to work out the kinks in my wonky knee. Muscles are becoming toned. Someone says it looks like I’ve lost weight. I feel better, more energetic.


In the pool, we float with our backs resting on the noodles, and lift one leg into the air, then the other. It’s not easy, but the muscles feel good. Hanging onto the edge of the pool with one hand, we thrust one hip in and out. “Now cross your legs, and do the same thing.” What? How can crossing your legs be that much different, I wonder – until I try it. Sheesh! That pulls totally different muscles. What genius.


I notice volleyball skills are getting better in all the participants as we pat the beach balls back and forth in the air. Everyone seems more flexible than when we began a few weeks ago.


Along the Riverwalk in Astoria, I can walk farther with less pain. This class has loosened me up. What joy to get in shape.


I think I’ll sign up for the next Aquanastics class.


The next Aquanastics class at KOA is offered March 29 to May 5 at 9-9:50 a.m. or 10-10:50 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1100 Ridge Road in Hammond. Cost is $29. Register through Clatsop Community College. Call 503-338-2402 of search for Aquanastics under Course Title at