Participants in the Chatfield water aerobics class hold their pool noodles high as they keep fit by getting in the pool to work out.
Participants in the Chatfield water aerobics class hold their pool noodles high as they keep fit by getting in the pool to work out. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP

Shari Hamann began teaching because of the pregnant pause, and since then, she’s seen noodle-powered buoyancy increase.

“I’ve been teaching this class for 18 years – the instructor before me was going to have a baby,” recalled Hamann, holding her pool noodle high as she recently led Chatfield’s water aerobics class. The class includes several senior citizens who happily put on their swimsuits and hop into the Chatfield municipal swimming pool to get their weekly exercise.

Hamann explained that her class isn’t just swimming lessons for the middle-aged and elderly. “The class is for young adults and up, and this year, we have women – they’re 40 to 82. Last year, we had a gentleman join us, and a few years ago, we had a few college boys who were home for Western Days,” she said. “They admitted it wasn’t just women bobbing around in the water…it wasn’t as easy as they thought it would be. We do warm-up stretches, noodle buoyance exercises, power walking, country fun exercise, Zumba, endurance exercise, balancing and toning.”

She stated she has come to appreciate the art of water aerobics for the benefits it provides those who participate. “It allows you to do exercises that are normally difficult for some people to do out of the water. You don’t have the impact on your joints and you stay cooler so you can exercise longer,” Hamman added. “It is lower-impact exercises. I can’t say that people exercise harder, but I do have people who come that have had a knee replacement or other procedures that need rehab. They can enjoy the water and participate in all or as much as they can.”

The most senior senior in the class is 82 years old, and Hamann maintains that the time spent in the pool is beneficial in more ways than just them moving their muscles.

“They are able to move easily with the buoyance of the water and still work their muscles with the resistance of the water. The seniors get out and socialize, which helps their mental health – they get to stretch, move and laugh,” she said. “They have such a good time. It is amazing to see the progress they make and how much more strength and endurance they gain in the season. They are more relaxed and less afraid of the water. You never have to be in water that is over your shoulders, and the socialization is also wonderful.”

While Hamann has encountered some challenges as Chatfield’s water aerobics instructor. She has to make sure the aging pool’s lift chair is in working order so ladies who can’t climb the ladder can get into the pool. She’s also worked to convince the city to keep the outdoor pool open longer as “the pool closes in mid-August and there is still good weather into September.”

Hamann said she’s uplifted by the dedication she sees each week. Class is held unless the sky is falling and Hamann noted that her students – even the senior citizens – are die-hard pool noodlers.

“Absolutely. Cold or light rain, they are there. The exception is when there’s lightning or it’s colder than 67 degrees. They are die-hard,” she reiterated. “They are very disappointed that we have to take two weeks off in July to accommodate swimming lessons, but there just isn’t enough room in the pool for all of us.”

Over the years, Hamann has changed just a little, along with her aerobics students and the activities they do. “We have all gotten a little older,” she admitted. “The classes are getting bigger, and I have incorporated different exercises to make exercising more fun. I change up the music every year, too.”

She also related, “It keeps me exercising and I like seeing the excitement and enjoyment these ladies have. When you are having fun, you forget that you are working out. I have formed many friendships, and the group expects me to be there. It is very satisfying seeing the pleasure this brings to all the participants.”

Hamann concluded that the water aerobics class is for everyone, even those who are grandmas and grandpas. She shared that her students are excited to return to the pool each summer.

“No matter what age or size you are, you can exercise in the water while having fun. If you don’t like to sweat while exercising, water aerobics is the class for you,” she noted. “One of them, Mary, says it’s the ‘best-kept secret in town.’ She can’t believe that more people aren’t coming to enjoy. Others comment that they feel refreshed and great after the class.”