My first job growing up was a lifeguard. I absolutely loved the water and was on the swim team so naturally it was the perfect fit.
Fast forward a few years and I still have that same love of water. That being said, I have taught my fair share of lifeguard classes over the years. Now generally speaking when you think of lifeguards you probably don’t have fitness in the same sentence. Most of the participants that take the class don’t realize the amount of training that it takes to be in shape. You’re just sitting in a chair right?!? In general lifeguards are strong swimmers, trained and certified in water rescue, using a variety of aids and equipment depending on requirements of their particular venue, and first aid. With that being said, there are prerequisites and continued training that lifeguards need to be able to do, in order to be certified. Here are a few training ideas you can try in the pool.
Step #1 Building Your Endurance
Building cardiovascular endurance is a gradual process, though it can take a lot less time than people often imagine. Lifeguards not only have to be mentally fit but also have the physical endurance required for making rescues. Cardiovascular endurance is all about your heart. As you know, when your heart beats, it circulates oxygen through your bloodstream throughout your body. So to break it down even more, the healthier your heart, the more efficient it works. The more efficient your heart works makes life that much more enjoyable. When you exercise, your body needs more oxygen. It is easy to notice when you are out of shape because of how heavy you are breathing when you push yourself more than you are used to. As you continue to exercise on a daily and weekly basis, the better your heart will be conditioned. Over time your body will use less oxygen in the activities you participate in, because your body has built up a higher endurance. Swimming a few laps in the pool or even walking laps in the water is a great way cardio workout.
Step #2 Swim with a Brick
Before we go any further with this, please note, if you cannot swim very well then I would not suggest this as part of your workout routine. Now your first question may be, why would anyone want to swim with a brick in a pool? The answer is quite simple, it’s the same reason people do lunges with dumbbells on land. To build muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is an important component for athletes and the general population. If you are wondering, yes there is a difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance. Muscular strength describes your ability to exert maximum force against resistance at one time. Muscular endurance is your ability to perform repetitive movements over a period of time at sub-maximum force. Muscular endurance is usually overlooked when people are strength training. I am a fan of training for muscular endurance because it allows you to carry objects or hold a certain position for a long period of time and enables you to perform repetitive movements without becoming fatigued. This comes in very handy if you have to tow someone in the pool or move a piece of furniture out of a house.
Being a lifeguard is much more than sitting on a chair and looking good. While it may look easy, the moment an emergency arises is when a lifeguards training comes into play. The same can be said about your own fitness plan. For the most part it is done on your own time and most people may not realize how good of shape you are really in. The important thing is that you know exactly where you stand when it comes to your overall health.
On September 28th the Y will be offering a lifeguard certification class. This is a great opportunity for people of all ages. Even though the minimum age is 15, there is no max age. Even if you don’t want to participate, feel free to pop your head in and watch how future lifeguards are trained.
Aaron Fabel, B.A in Exercise Science and Wellness, is the CEO at the Oahe Family YMCA. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org