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Are pool workouts the next big thing? Swimwear giant Speedo is working on it

Lateral lunges -- underwater.
Lateral lunges -- underwater.
(Speedo USA)

When you think about a pool workout, you probably think “swimming.” 

Think again. 

Industry giant Speedo USA is trying to reposition its brand as the source of fitness inspiration and workouts, not just swimwear and swim-related accessories.

The newly launched Speedo Fit is making the case for “vertical” fitness training — in the pool — that includes cardio, resistance, stretching and even weightlifting. It’s a bit like CrossFit, but with less pounding on the body thanks to gravity’s reduced effects underwater. 

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“We wanted to launch a whole movement around fitness in the water,” says Pierre Martin, vice president of marketing at Speedo USA, the giant in swimwear and swim-related accessories. (And it’s no coincidence that if Speedo Fit takes off, Speedo will be selling a lot more accessories -- like water shoes. Yes. Water shoes.) “Swimming is the ultimate fitness regimen and we saw an opportunity to get a lot more people to enjoy the benefits of being in the water.”

On a glorious day in Los Angeles recently, Speedo gathered its beautiful-bodied brand ambassadors and partners including Olympic gold medalists Natalie Coughlin and Nathan Adrian as well as surfing legend Laird Hamilton to help demonstrate many of the 60-plus exercises that are mixed and matched as part of the Speedo Fit workouts.

Among them: Squats, pull-ups, jogging, kettlebell lunges, supine cycling, ab-shredding torso rotations, pretty much anything you can do on land can be translated to the pool. Most of the time you’re in the shallow end, so you can stand up when you need a break. And you will need plenty because the water may reduce impact, but it adds resistance.

It was a compelling reminder of how a wide range of people, whether they’re beset by back and other injuries, age-related immobility or are simply bored with their land-based gym workout, can breathe new life into their fitness routine via innovative in-the-water exercises. (Still skeptical? Go online at www.speedousa.com/speedofit-training  for a look at the high-quality videos demonstrating workout moves.)

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“We’re seeing the pool differently these days,” said Mark Verstegen, founder and president of EXOS, an elite fitness training program that partnered with Speedo to create the workout program. “It’s looking more and more like an all-in-one fitness center.” 

The bonus, said Hamilton, is that these workouts do not punish the body, something he says has become an unfortunate badge of honor.

“We think that when we go to the gym and come back feeling like somebody beat us up, that means we really worked out hard. … If you work out to be healthy but your workout hurts you, for me that’s bad math. If you look healthy but your body is broken, your body fat is too low, your system is strained and taxed, that’s not sustainable. I’ve been an athlete for a long time and I’m always trying to figure out how to survive.… I want to know how can I be the most well-rounded and keep doing what I want to do for as long as I can.” 

Both Verstegen and Hamilton said pool training also brings something else, something less definable to a workout.

“There’s a sense of wellness people have when they train in the water,” says Verstegen adding that working out in a pool is unique because it’s both strength-building and relaxing.

Hamilton, who also trains elite athletes, says that throughout history athlete training and injury recovery has included a water element. “I can take an MMA fighter, basketball or tennis player, anyone, and when they’re put in the water, that environment has a profound effect on them … it becomes something more spiritual.” 

►►BENEFITS OF POOL TRAINING

--Less impact on joints and muscles

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--Resistance is a key factor 

--Less pain during workouts, so you can work out harder and longer

--Improved lymphatic circulation due to the natural compression in the water

--Faster recovery

“In the water you’ll find the best environment for flexibility and freedom,” said Verstegen, founder and president of EXOS, an elite fitness training program that partnered with Speedo to create the workout program. “Its properties deliver strength and endurance you simply can’t find on land.” 

Infobox source: EXOS

health@latimes.com


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