Drop into the ABCs of Deep Water Exercise class at Oak Marr
RECenter, and you plunge into a session that may seem more like
playtime than exercise. Students say that's because instructor Phil
Russell makes this fitness class fun by combining his sense of humor
with creative aerobic, balance and core movements using water
exercise bars, balls and noodles for a challenging, total-body
"It's amazing," said Suzanne Flynn of Oak Hill. "This is
the first class I've ever come to and stuck with."
"Stand with both feet on the noodle, 10 inches apart,"
Russell says as he leads the class in a balance exercise. A few
seconds later, the students are laughing as they step up to the
challenge in the deepest end of the pool.
"I compare it to surfing, almost, when you balance on the noodle
sometimes with both feet, sometimes with one foot and sometimes
kneeling," Flynn said. "Everyone is always smiling and
giggling in this class; it's like you are a little kid again."
The class begins with 10 minutes of aerobic exercise. The rest of
the time is devoted to weight and resistance training. Russell keeps
the pace moving, so there's little chance students will lose interest
in any individual exercise.
"It's a fun class, and I like the music," said Tina
McElhatton of Vienna. "He puts a lot of thought into it and
explains what muscle groups you're working – things I've never heard
of before. He knows what he's doing."
Russell's ability to connect with his class may stem from his
personal experiences with mobility and exercise. "Years ago, I
suffered a back injury and the chiropractor said I'd never be
right," he recalled. "I was in my 40s at the time, and my
challenge was to get moving."
He admits land exercises didn't appeal to him, "I'm
flat-footed," and he had to find something that kept his
attention, "I get bored easily doing the same thing day in and
day out." So he plunged into water exercise classes, overcame his
injury and enjoyed the activity so much, his instructor encouraged
him to become certified to teach the class. Now, he's in his 60s,
moves with the agility of someone half his age, and prides himself on
keeping his students engaged as he has for the past seven years.
"People in this class are very attentive, and are willing to try
different things" he said. "They like the faster pace, and I
like to change the moves and mix it up."
It's a winning fitness strategy that has produced some amazing
results. "One student who used to have to use a motorized cart at
the grocery store lost more than 100 lbs. in two years, and now she
walks with a normal gait," he said. "Another student who has
Parkinson's disease showed significant mobility improvement with
consistent water exercise."
The success stories inspire Russell to keep researching new ways to
"mix it up" for interest. That alone seems to be the
motivation for his students to keep coming back. "We do something
a little different every time," McElhatton said. "It's