Imagine pool workouts that involve throwing mid-lap high-fives to your lane mates (and don’t require uniforms—though a LBD bathing suit’s highly encouraged). Plus, every interval-training session ends with a “swimvasana”—AKA floating on your back thinking to yourself, Maybe the crab from the Little Mermaid was right: Everything is better down where it’s wetter.
This isn’t a Disney fairytale, though, it’s an actual class at Los Angeles’ SwimTeam, an aqua-based extension of the boutique fitness trend. According to founders Charlie Melvoin and Sheera Goren, each workout’s designed to combine helpful instruction with high-energy music—both of which students can hear underwater thanks to specially formulated headphones.
“Simply being in water creates a cardiac benefit equivalent to a moderately low level of land-based aerobic exercise.”
“Before, swimming felt like a chore,” says Goren. “But now, with being able to hear the live instruction that corrects your stroke and motivates you, you’re forgetting that you’re actually [doing laps].”
SwimTeam further breaks up the back-and-forth feeling by switching between intense strokes and low-impact circuit work. “It’s like the appeal of SoulCycle—a dance party-slash-workout,” says member Maggie Nolting. “They mix it up: You’re never doing one thing for a long time.”
From coast to coast, a growing number workouts are being offered for people willing to take the plunge. For example, in New York City, there’s TMPL Gym’s S’wet, a pool-based cardio and strength class meant to “revolutionize the way we think about underwater bootcamps,” according to Bryan Jarrett, TMPL’s head of group fitness. The studio also offers Holy Water and Aquabarre classes, which take place on top of floating mats and will give you a serious core workout.
While there’s definitely a new wave of pool-based workouts afloat, traditional adult swim teams are also trending. Among them is the squad at Asphalt Green in NYC, where swimmers meet for practices a few times a week—they also compete in age-based meets. (And yes, there are optional uniforms.) In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Cool Fit Club offers free, weekly, outdoor swims all summer as a means of building a mindful, intentional community. (Think of it as the aquatic version of meeting people at a meditation studio.)
“The social supportive aspect keeps people coming back,” Cool Fit Club founder and head coach Ryan McCann. “You have a circle of friends or family who are there for you, for real, who want to support you.”
Snapping on a swim cap isn’t just suddenly cool—aquatic exercise is also seriously good for you. “Simply being in water creates a cardiac benefit equivalent to a moderately low level of land-based aerobic exercise,” says Bruce Becker, MD, author of Comprehensive Aquatic Therapy. He’s seen water workouts improve the land performances of athletes from every sport, and has also witnessed some borderline-miraculous recoveries from injuries with the help of swimming. (Hydrotherapy offers countless benefits from improved circulation to increased respiratory function.) All the more reason to dive into one of these new water workouts.
If you’re looking for summer exercise options on dry land, check out these buzzy vibrational plate workouts or this 10-minute beach routine from Halle Berry’s trainer.