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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Knee Redux -- Arthritis Exercise at Asphalt Green and Aqua Yoga Poetry Slam

I feel very middle aged this week -- my knee has been achy and stiff since New Year's (maybe because of the frigid weather or maybe because of a little holiday overindulgence).  It's not terrible, but it is definitely making its presence known (especially when I am going down steps), and I started refering to myself as Snap, Crackle, Pop.  

I mentioned in my first blog post that I did not embrace the fact that I have arthritic knees.  It's hard to accept that your body is working against you.  When I had my tumor a few years ago, I coped by imagining that the tumor was a separate entity (an unwanted squatter) inhabiting my head.  I even gave it a nickname (a really awful nickname known to only a few friends) so I could visualize evicting it.  It was very useful to imagine that it was not a part of my body, and it helped tremendously as I went through the surgery and recovery process.  I think that I have been seeing my creaky knee in the same way -- as this tetchy little tenant in my leg that I don't want to deal with.  This month, I decided that my knee and I need to find a way to co-exist more amicably.  I am not ready to replace it, as cool as it would be to be the bionic woman.

The Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Alliance has a lot of useful resources on their website, including a searchable directory of aqua fitness classes geared to folks with arthritis.  I finally bit the bullet and tried the Arthritis Exercise class at Asphalt Green (they offer one evening class and several daytime classes each week in the fantastic heated training pool).  I was worried that the class would not be challenging and pleasantly surprised to discover that it is an excellent workout.

The teacher who normally teaches the evening class was out for a couple of weeks, but I was thrilled to see Joni, who also teaches Aqua Yoga at Asphalt Green.  I was the only person in the class the first week (and there was a larger and very friendly group the second week). Joni is a great teacher -- she hops in the pool and exercises with her students and also jumps out occasionally to demonstrate certain exercises.  She explains the exercises clearly and makes sure you are doing them properly.  Teri, the teacher who normally does the evening class, has a very loyal following among my fellow students.

Aquatics for arthritis aims to increase strength, flexibility, range of motion and balance.  There is a little bit of aerobic exercise, but the class consists of various movements (utilizing buoyancy and resistance) to work out all the joints in the body.  The class started with walking (or jogging) around the pool forwards and backwards doing various arm exercises -- scooping up water, churning our arms, etc.  Once we had warmed up, we moved on to some arm and leg exercises -- chopping motions, figure eights with our arms, playing the piano, sweeping through the water with both arms, frog jumps, moving our arms and legs like hinges, various leg exercises, and some stretches.  There were some yoga moves (the flamingo, the plank, pushups against the wall and squatting as if we were sitting in a chair).  We also did a great leg exercise where you stand on one leg and move the other as if you are propelling yourself along on a skateboard.  When I had my private class, we did side planks standing against the side of the pool.  I feel like I've made some progress in the past year -- my core is much stronger.  

We were definitely moving for the entire hour.  After the first class, I felt good when I got out of the pool.  I woke up at 5 a.m. the next morning because every muscle in my body was sore (not bad pain - I obviously worked some muscles I hadn't used in awhile).  I had the same experience early this morning after yesterday's class.  My knee feels a little better.  Oddly enough, my neck and shoulders feel better than they've felt in ages (all the stretching and moving helped work out some of the tension from sitting at a desk all day).  

I still like my more active classes -- Aqua Boot Camp, Deep Water Running and S'Wet, but this is a good complement for some stretching and toning.  I will try to do this every couple of weeks.  You can pay by the class (or buy a series of classes).  The classes are free to members.  I just wish Asphalt Green was closer to my apartment -- it really is a bit of a schlep to get home from there (the bus is right there but it takes ages to get back across town).

On a related note, I tried another Aqua Yoga class at Asphalt Green -- this one was taught by Malissa (on Monday evening).  Malissa is a good teacher and it covered much of the same ground as Joni's class, but included one additional feature -- chanting.  I haven't totally embraced the spiritual side of yoga, and it felt a little odd to be standing in a pool in Asphalt Green chanting (attempting to chant) in Sanskrit.  When I got home I posted the following on Facebook:

Tonight I chanted in a pool.  Oy vey.

I have very creative (and zany friends), so I leave you with a mini aqua yoga poetry slam, with collaborative credit to my friends Todd and Stacy:

Tonight I chanted in a pool.  Oy vey.
My lane mate took me for a fool.  Oy vey.
She tried to stop my chant.  Not cool.  Oy vey.
I responded with: "Namaste."  Oy vey.

Until next time (oy vey).


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