Health & Fitness

Water workouts good for the body — and the soul

Louis Gomez, 77, of Pinecrest, trains on a kiteboard after using paddleboards for many years. ‘I’m fairly fit for my age. As I’ve gotten older, [Paula Ambrosio] has made me stronger.’
Louis Gomez, 77, of Pinecrest, trains on a kiteboard after using paddleboards for many years. ‘I’m fairly fit for my age. As I’ve gotten older, [Paula Ambrosio] has made me stronger.’

Exercising in the water can work your whole body — including a broken heart.

Anca Carabus, a 30-year-old native of Romania, had just come out of a failed relationship when she took to the sea, learning to kiteboard at Matheson Hammock Park.

“I’m a girl who grew up hiking 2,000 to 4,000 meters up in the mountains [of Romania],” said Carabus, a nanny and part-time photographer. “With kiteboarding, you can connect with water, wind and nature. You get that feeling of freedom. I don’t kite to work out. I kite because I want to feel free.”

Carabus may not view it as a workout, but she’s getting one.

“You use every muscle,” Carabus said. “You are sailing, so you use your hands, but you also stretch your abs, your legs, your butt and your back.”

Water sports, such as rowing, kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding offer full-body workouts, incorporating the core, the upper body and the legs.

Stand-up paddleboarding “works your core, abs, thighs and shoulders,” said Dominic Coscia, Broward County parks and recreation coordinator.

Coscia said a lot of newcomers to paddleboarding are intimidated, afraid they will fall into the water. But, he noted, he rents touring boards that are more stable than older technology.

“They have a bow like a kayak,” he said. “They cut through the wave more efficiently.”

Paula Ambrosio, outreach coordinator for Adventure Sports Miami, whose instructors teach various water-based sports at Matheson Hammock Park, said getting out on the water brings a tranquility that landlocked sports can’t always offer.

“You have wind. You have current. It’s challenging but soothing at the same time,” she said. “It’s not like the gym where you have muscle guys sweating on you and everyone is looking at themselves in the mirror.

“With water sports, you can be in the middle of a class and see a manatee or a stingray.”

Coscia said his location in Broward has three marked trails and more than two dozen unmarked trails.

“We have 1,500 acres of wetlands,” he said. “You can spend 10 hours and not see everything. You can go off the grid and not see another person for hours.

“You’ll see lots of birds and fish. You might see iguanas and raccoons and, occasionally, manatees. It’s a protected area — no motorboats are allowed.”

Ambrosio said she teaches everyone, no matter their age.

Louis Gomez, 77, a Pinecrest resident, used to scuba dive and sail before switching to paddleboards.

“I’ve been doing stand-up paddleboard fitness for many years,” he said. “That gave me the strength, balance and confidence I needed to ask her to teach me kiteboarding, which for the past seven years has become my main sport.

“I’m fairly fit for my age. As I’ve gotten older, she has made me stronger.”

Ambrosio takes her 85-pound golden retriever on the board; she sits right in front of her.

“If you live in South Florida, you have to use the water,” Ambrosio said. “Fitness these days is no longer just going to the gym — a room where you go and use weights. Fitness and lifestyle have merged together.”

Carabus, a convert from her days as a mountain hiker, could not agree more.

“When I go on holiday, I’m not looking for a five-star hotel where I can go to the beach and tan,” she said. “I’m looking for the wind so I can go and kite. It’s amazing. If you try this sport, it will change your life.”

Bike riding in the pool

For those who want to exercise in the water rather than on it, there’s something new at the Memorial Hospital West Fitness Center in Pembroke Pines.

Sherry Rizzacasa teaches an aqua cycling class there. It is essentially a spinning class in a heated, indoor pool, with the water at just below chest level.

“We are the first facility in Florida to have this program,” said Rizzacasa, who started the program about six months ago. “It’s great for people who have back or knee issues and can’t take the pounding of spinning on land.”

“It’s catching on — they have it in New York, too.”

Rizzacasa, who offers one free lesson to any newcomer, said it’s a great cardiovascular workout.

“You use your upper body and your core in addition to your lower body,” she said. “It’s intense.”

If you go

Adventure Sports Miami

Info: 305-733-1519; 9610 Old Cutler Road, Miami, inside Matheson Hammock Park; hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends.

Cost: Paddleboard rental is $30 per hour; paddleboard yoga and cross-fit paddleboard classes are $40 including board; kite-boarding lesson is $100 an hour, everything included; discounted rates for University of Miami students.

Broward County Parks and Recreation

Info: 954 357-5122; West Lake Park, 1200 Sheridan St; Hollywood; hours: Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., last boat rental at 3:50 p.m.

Cost: Two-person kayak, one-person kayak, canoes and stand-up paddleboards: $14 per boat for one hour, $24 for two hours and $30 for four hours.

Miami-Dade Parks

Info: 305-361-6444; North Beach Concession, 6747 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne; hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Cost: Kiteboarding lessons $80 to $100 per hour; paddleboard and kayak rentals $20 per hour.

Memorial Healthcare System

Info: 954-844-7125; Memorial Hospital West Fitness Center, 701 N. Flamingo Rd., Pembroke Pines; hours: Mondays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.,Thursday at 9 a.m. and Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

Cost: For fitness center members, $120 for eight sessions of 45 minutes each; for nonmembers, $160. Any newcomer can enroll in one free introductory class.