The water is hot this summer, and more and more people are turning to aquatic fitness to achieve their health and fitness goals. With over 6.6 million people training in swimming pools across the United States, the increasing demand for qualified personal trainers with specific water fitness experience is on the rise.
Club owners and managers cannot find enough qualified instructors and trainers to meet the demands of the clientele. Facility pools have often been viewed as a high-expense, low-income item on the budget. However, through aquatic personal training, the pool can become a profit center rather than a high-cost lounge area.
Potential new clients are individuals with home pools who prefer to train in the comfort of their own environment. They find it difficult to locate a personal trainer with aquatic fitness skills and an internationally recognized personal training certification. The fact that there are approximately nine million privately owned home pools in the United States should open one's eyes to this opportunity for aquatic personal training and small- group aquatic training.
      Some fitness professionals have been getting their feet wet with the concept of dividing aquatic group exercise classes into personalized formats based on individual client needs and goals. The problem? Not enough certified personal trainers are taking advantage of the incredible opportunities found in aquatic-based programming.
Now more than ever, an individual's commitment to fitness is strong. More and more people are realizing that regular exercise is a key factor to better health and quality of life. The perception of exercise has significantly changed. Over the past 25 years, fitness has exploded. Personal training was once only available to the elite or to the "in crowd" living within the higher income brackets. Now, many middle-class Americans have added fitness expenses to the monthly budget, and for many, it is considered a regular household expense.
 
What's Hot in the Water
The water provides a comfortable environment for many types of individuals — most importantly, potential new clients. It is an appealing medium for children, the obese, post-rehab clients, baby boomers, seniors (both active and sedentary) and pre- and post-natal women. Aquatic exercise is a top pick for women over the age of 45, with women up into the 90-year age bracket continuing to fill aquatic fitness classes each day. Men, including professional athletes and sports teams, also train in the water.
The variety of aquatic training modalities is why the pool is appealing to a wide range of exercisers. Specific formats range from children to baby boomers, pre- and post-natal to post-therapy and alternative relaxation sessions to specialized senior training. The options are endless. Although all groups mentioned are active in aquatic fitness one way or another, the potential for growth and expansion in personal training is greatest with children and women.
 
·         Children: current demand and future prospects — Scientific research has shown that childhood obesity is a major concern, not only with regards to social implications but also health. Childhood obesity can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. It can cause sleep apnea, high cholesterol and other health-related problems. USA Today reported that government data indicates approximately 25 million children are overweight or on the brink of becoming a statistic within this category. It is imperative that we assist our children in becoming healthy adults to keep the United Statesdemographically vigorous. Children of all ages, with motivation from parents and adult mentors, can initiate physical activity to lose weight and gain self-esteem. Most kids love the water, helping to make exercise fun. Creative props, cool aquatic equipment options and simple things commonly seen in the pool are great fitness tools to keep kids moving on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
·         Pre and post-natal: continued trend and getting stronger — In 2007, the US birth rate hit a milestone after 35 years and has brought our demographics in the United States back to a healthy level. Over six million women are giving birth annually in the US. The comfort and stability the water provides for both mom and baby puts aquatic fitness high on the list for these special ladies. Exercise helps reduce pre-natal stress and anxiety. As long as complications don't prohibit exercise, pregnant women can maintain optimal health for themselves and their unborn child through various aquatic modalities. After delivery, the water is a great environment to get the body back into shape and relieve the "baby blues" associated with being a new mom. The water's natural resistance, combined with appropriate training techniques, will increase both mental and physical health.
·         La femme fatale: powerful in numbers and determination — With a current population of over 300 million people in the United States, women are approximately 153 million strong with an average age of 38 years. This is an excellent target group for new clients. This group focuses on fitness to manage weight, enhance muscle tone, boost energy levels and find that post-exercise lift to self-esteem. Aquatic fitness is a perfect match for this target population, as the pool provides enticing training modalities.
 
Creative, Motivating and Affordable
Small- group personal training, with up to four clients per session, is very appealing and affordable to these target groups. Combine our current economics with financial projections, and realize that household budgets will not be getting rid of fitness expenses but will see adjustments. Now is the time to zero in on small-group training services to reach a stronger client base. There will always be clients that can afford the true definition of personal training, but this is a fairly new service to expand your marketability.
For example, think about two to four young friends working out with their own personal trainer. Small-group personal training provides more motivation, increased disciplined socialization, health education and team work to achieve fitness goals that they can sustain for life. Design your marketing to appeal to these unique benefits.
Or consider a group of three pregnant women who share the anxiety and excitement with regards to giving birth. The comfort of the water and the fact that they are guided and monitored by a qualified personal trainer — all while sharing a common experience — will sell this group on small group personal training.
Now really think about that large target group, la femme fatale, and how driven they are to be the best they can be. These women are social, they want to exercise and, yes, they want to look good in a bathing suit! Although determined, they probably lack self-discipline with regards to exercise and motivation; what better way to achieve fitness than with a qualified trainer and their closest friends.
 
Tools of the Trade
The pool is essentially a gym in itself. With the right equipment and the right trainer, nearly anyone can achieve optimal health and fitness. There are literally hundreds of variations of aquatic equipment available. Popular options include webbed gloves, rubberized equipment, drag resistance for arms and legs, buoyancy options for either assistance or resistance, flotation belts and the ever-popular noodle. Higher-end equipment is on the rise in popularity, including underwater treadmills, stationary water bikes and custom workout stations.
 
Current Trends
As with land fitness, aquatic fitness follows industry trends of what's hot and what's not. The greatest thing about the water is that the format options are endless. The following four will surely add sizzle to any session:
 
·         Aquatic kick-boxing appeals to kids and la femme fatale. Strong and powerful movements provide a fun and effective water workout. This high-energy format blends cardio training, muscular endurance and body-shaping results.
·         Alternative formats encourage both mental and physical wellness. Programs such as YOQUA, Pilates, Tai Chi, Ai Chi and blended formats, such as Aqua Pi-Yo-Chi, are gaining in popularity thanks to the lessened impact fused with stress release, enhanced breathing, flexibility gain and a better mental outlook. These formats are an excellent addition for any group but work especially well for pre- and post-natal women.
·         Aquatic interval training is on the rise, offering the children and la femme fatale markets a great way to leap through exercise plateaus, stay motivated, improve major and minor components of fitness and boost energy levels. Short bouts of high-intensity training are both fun and functional.
·         Water circuit training is an excellent way to keep all of these groups focused on the road to better health and greater fitness levels. The water provides a unique environment to successfully train clients with a combination of both resistance and cardio training.
 
Aquatic personal training and small group aquatic training offers a continual tide of opportunity limited only by the lack of exploration of the trainer. Dive in, and prosper from the profits of the pool!
Angie Proctor is the President of Personal Body Trainers/Innovative Aquatics and the Executive Director of the Aquatic Exercise Association. She has been involved in the fitness industry for over 20 years and has presented training programs in 36 countries. Angie has produced over 75 DVDs in aquatic fitness targeting a wide range of markets and program formats applicable to aquatic personal training. Some of her certifications include AEA, ACE, AFAA and ISCA.

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