Beating Austin’s Heat with the Perfect Pool Workout

I’m feeling a little guilty these days. You see, I’ve stepped out on my yoga class.

I confess—it’s hard to stay with one workout for an extended period of time. After three years of boxing, I needed a change. My true fitness love, running, has had to morph from road to trail to keep me faithful throughout our 20 years together.

Unable to Resist Temptation

Letter written to yoga class announcing a new love with a broken heart.

My YMCA, the East Communities branch on E. 51st St., offers a wide variety of classes. So many things are going on that it’s hard to sample everything, especially workouts scheduled simultaneously. There are, after all, only so many hours in a day.

A solid member of the Lizard Tribe, I bonk big time in Texas’ intense summer heat, so I’m always on the lookout for a cooler cardio opportunity. Being a sun sign on the Aquarius-Pisces cusp, I’m naturally a water baby, irresistibly drawn to a sparkling pool, and a complete sucker for any social workout group.

I’d missed a lot of yoga in June and Suzanne, the amazing instructor who’d helped me find my happy practice place, was leaving the class in July. My fickle, roving eye began to check out other exercise options.

Once I glimpsed the fun in the pool and class members provided friendly enticement, poor yoga didn’t stand a chance. So long, sweetheart, and hello, Aqua Interval!

What’s to Love at Aqua Interval

Water weights, YMCA cap, and water bottle at the pool.

I’ve eagerly embraced the Y’s Aqua Interval class, a solid workout for any cardio lover. A significant portion of each hour session is devoted to raising heart rate. Water provides 4 to 42 percent more resistance than air, so even simple moves become challenging and get the heart pumping.

Each class starts with 10 minutes of freestyle warm-up. The runner in me rejoices, because I can work running form without pounding and overheating. I run forward, backward, and sideways.

Once warm-up is done, the instructor leads specific exercises that target cardio, strength, and toning. If you think this means a gentle, easy workout, you’re mistaken…well, maybe not. Though taught as a group, each participant works to his or her own ability, intensity, and pace. If the goal is easy and gentle exercise, that’s possible (one gentleman attended while recovering from a broken collar bone). Wanna go hard? I do, and the class format allows me to be as gung-ho as I like without bothering anybody else.

Tabata training is hot now, and Aqua Interval incorporates this format. Tabata is a riff on HIIT (high intensity interval training); the difference being that Tabata consists of specific intervals sets. In other words, HITT can be any length at a variety of intensities while Tabata—so named for Dr. Izumi Tabata—is always 20 seconds of work/10 seconds of rest x 8 rounds=4 minutes of workout.

As a long time runner, I’m desperately in need of some variety in muscle usage, and this pool work is paying off big time. Aqua Interval has me jumping at only 10 percent of my body weight (thanks, buoyancy!). Plyometrics, or jump training and explosive movement work, help increase leg strength and stamina. In just a month, I’ve already seen improvements in shorter trail runs.

A variety of water weights at the YMCA.
Two large chests hold a variety of water weights. It’s the size, not their weight, that increases resistance. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Lauren Milius Seeman is the health and wellness director at the East Communities YMCA; she also teaches the Aqua Interval class, along with coaches Carrie and Jennifer. I’ve tried all the classes–morning and evening–and it’s clear each session adheres to Seeman’s philosophy: working out should be fun, too.

Seeman pointed out that water aerobics is “one of the best options for cross training, is easy on the joints” and agreed with me that it’s “a refreshing alternative to land workouts in these hot summer months.”

“We have a particularly supportive environment at East,” Seeman said. “There is plenty of time for participants to chat and get to know one another [during the freestyle warm-up], and we do roll call at the end of classes so participants can learn each other’s names… Each instructor has her own flavor, but most classes incorporate cardio, strength training, and stretching. We provide modifications for all fitness levels. If you’re new, be sure to arrive 5–10 minutes early so that the instructor can help you prepare for the class.”

Little equipment is required, and the Y provides what’s needed. I invested in my own pair of water resistance barbells, purchased at Austin’s Lane Four Swim Shop, simply because I wanted them for our family vacation to Port Aransas. Every member of my family had fun trying out push-ups with these styrofoam weights. This last week in class, Coach Carrie creatively incorporated pool noodles into suspension sets, releasing our inner children while we worked. All I bring to class is a full water bottle and towel (a cap and sunglasses are suggested).

I’m attending Aqua Interval three times a week. It’s hard to beat sunshine, a cool pool, friendly people, and a kick-ass workout.

When winter rolls in?

Well, we’ll just have to see how long this love affair lasts.

Learn More

Water weights floating in the YMCA pool.

Aquarius-Pisces Cusp

HIIT in the Pool


Resistance Training in the Pool




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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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