• Graphic by Tim Bobk

    Credit: TIM BOBKO

 

They say, “Be careful what you wish for.” You would think that after more than 30 years in this business, I'd have learned that lesson by now. It’s always been a dream of mine that one day everyone will incorporate aquatics into their regular workout regimens. Just as someone today might routinely walk into the cardio room and perform 30 minutes on the treadmill, my hope is that one day everyone will perform their cardio workouts in our pools.

I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 years attempting to make that dream a reality. Our pools include all types of aquatic fitness equipment, including underwater bikes and treadmills. As a facility, I think we've done a pretty good job. We’ve educated our members on the benefits of adding aquatic exercise into their land-based workout routines, but here’s where it got us into some trouble.

Land athletes are just that. They have no basic understanding of aquatic safety, rules or etiquette. “Please shower first? Why?” “Lap etiquette? What’s that?”

One afternoon, two female members arrived in a state we now refer to as “fully loaded.” Here’s the description: totally dry (nonshowered), tiny bikinis, fully flowing hair, makeup, perfume, jewelry, Gatorade bottles and gum. (Was it Snookie? No, but this is Jersey after all.) Oh, they looked great! And did I mention one was a nonswimmer? They came to use the treadmills, expecting it to be the same as going to the cardio room. It’s not.

Fortunately, they stuck out like sore thumbs and our experienced staff was right on it. It started with us offering them hair ties. “Oh, no thank you. I just did my hair before I came in,” was the reply. We made it clear that this was not just a courtesy. Next, we explained the proper way to enter the pool. “Oh, I can’t swim. How do I get down to the deep end?” From there, they were introduced to a flotation belt. One of our staff members entered the pool and handheld them to the 5-foot section where our treadmills are located via the pool’s edge. It took a lot of time to educate them on safety, pool hygiene, and the effects of makeup and hair products on the efficiency and longevity of our pool systems. We explained how showering prior to entering the pool helps us maintain a healthy environment for all patrons.

Let’s face it: Aquatic people are different from everyone else. The thought that we might ruin our hair doesn’t even enter our minds before workouts. We know the pool will ruin our hair. We make adjustments and come prepared. These two new “land” members now are fully converted and well-informed aquatic participants! They love coming to the pool. They shower before stepping onto the deck, their hair is up and out of the water, and no more makeup or gum.

We’ve achieved exactly what we tried to do for years — change a mind-set. More members are using our pools than ever before! But it came with a price, an actual budgetary price, because we had to add staffers to address these new concerns. Then there's the issue you can never hang a price tag on, namely, maintaining a safe environment at any cost.