Ellen Kempler had recent knee surgery but is scissor kicking, doing jumping jacks, working her core with elastic bands and doing leg lifts like a Pilates pro.
The 68-year-old exercise enthusiast credits Ann Anthony’s Hydro-Pilates class at the Biltmore Fitness Center’s pool for her post-surgery spring and pep.
“I have so much more range of motion and recovered so much faster,” she says.
Marilyn Davison, 80, a former Eastern Airlines stewardess from the days when flying was celebrated in song by the likes of Frank Sinatra, knows about the importance of staying in shape, too. She’s a Hydro-Pilates regular and loves how the class keeps her lungs and limbs limber.
Hydro-Pilates is an adaption of Pilates in the pool and provides a core workout, says Anthony, a veteran water class instructor at the Biltmore pool. She created Hydro-Pilates a decade ago and certifies other trainers in the practice. “Toning and flexibility are the main goals,” she says.
As in land-based Pilates, the water version is non-impact, utilizing strengthening and stretching movements with props that include water noodles, weights and fitness bands. The activities flow smoothly into one another and call on proper breathing and muscle control.
The moves borrow from yoga, such as end-of-class warrior poses for cooling down. The water allows for greater ease of movement and provides support so stretches seem to go beyond your norm on land.
Pilates initiates its movements from the abdominal area before extending outward to the extremities. If it sounds easy, it is, but also note that jumping jacks in the pool, while pressing plastic hand weights from the surface to hip-level under water, will burn the calf muscles and let you know you’re accomplishing something significant.
“What people like about it is they can do many hours without any compromising to the joints because of the natural buoyancy of the water,” Anthony says, estimating a Hydro-Pilates class can burn some 400 calories per hour, combat cellulite, and elevate heart rates at the same level as a spinning session.
Hydro-Pilates is such a hit at the unheated Biltmore pool that Kempler and other students attend even on chilly winter mornings. They simply wear wet suits and warm up for a longer period of time. Since the majority of the class is conducted in the shallow end, swimming skills are not necessary.
“I love the water and the pool is so beautiful and you don’t sweat and, besides that, you’re doing exercise and the water is massaging you so it’s a combination of all those sensory kind of things,” says Pat Collier, 64, who has been traveling from her South Miami home for three years to take Anthony’s class. “I need exercise, and I’d rather do this than be inside. This is Florida. I’m motivated to get here because of all the components — the exercise and ambience and camaraderie. It’s my happy place.”