In America, this is usually referred to as water aerobics. But in a movie line that Paul loves to quote, “it’s the little differences” that make Europe so great. Now, for what makes aquagym so great.
First of all, it’s me and about 20 old Italian ladies plus, depending on the time of day, approximately 10 thin, lovely young ladies. Neither group ever talks to me.
The most fascinating part of the class though, is the gym/pool culture. Italians seem to have a very strict policy regarding gear. Each and every person must have the following: one-piece bathing suit, swim cap, flip flops and a robe, preferably a special short one made of waffle fabric. Now the robe is separate from the towel and worn only to and from the pool. The towel is for showering afterward, also a complex process involving several loofahs, oils and lotions. And the hair drying station seems to double as a nudist colony. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So, once you make your way to the pool, fully kitted out, here’s how it goes. Take a shower wearing flip flops but not the robe. Get in the pool with the cap, not the flip flops. About five minutes after class is supposed to start, the instructor arrives and fires up the music. Meanwhile students have assembled in one half of the lap pool facing the side. There are two instructors: a man and a woman. She’s a tough chick, taller than me with a mop of brown curls. She’s also the bossiest person I’ve ever met. At least fifty percent of her job seems to be yelling at me: make smaller movements, keep one foot on the floor, stop trying to balance on the crazy floating tube. Once she asked my name but it turned out to be too long so I said she could call me Ann, my middle name. She’s never used either one. Usually she just whistles to catch my attention. Really.
The man is a different story. Picture Jon Bon Jovi. Same size (small), stature (muscular) and hair (shaggy) but less sexy. He’s wearing a muscle shirt, slightly loose biking shorts (with padding), black socks and white running shoes made of fabric. Every time. His music is a mix of classic rock with a few unexpected twists; we enjoyed “Mrs. Robinson” and tunes from the Rocky Horror Picture Show last week. He, however, does not remember that I am pregnant. In the last class, he actually called me out because I wasn’t doing the moves fast enough. I drifted up for a pool-side consultation where he re-discovered that I don’t really speak Italian and “sono incinta”. Ah, bene.
“Veloce! Veloce!” Both instructors do their best to convince the class to move to the beat. The problem is…the water. Of course it’s easy for them to stand on the side of the pool, shouting out commands and kicking to the rhythm, but considerably more difficult to do while fully submerged. We end up performing a slow-motion version in the waves below.
But my very favorite pool-side move is from the guy. He really rocks out. He does high kicks, throwing his head back and forth. Runs in place with his knees up and hair flopping all over. But the best is this. Sometimes he stands with one hand on his hip, the other hand stretched high doing a thumbs up move (think John Travolta + “Summer Lovin” in Grease) and tapping his foot to the beat. Between his moves, his outfits and his adoring pool fans, it’s fantastic.
The bottom line is that I love aquagym, not only for the antics but because I actually feel light on my feet there which is a special treat for a gal in my condition (about 33-34 weeks pregnant). I can kick and jump with the best of them, two things that would be totally impossible on land. Sadly, I’m banned this week. My doctor wants me to have more rest for a while.
Sigh. But in the meantime…