Aquafit for the WIN! Now how to schedule it?

As spring turns the corner around to summer, and my work-from-home job is feeling more normal, I am turning my own thoughts away from my professional goals and back to my goals related to my health.

In the lead-up to starting my new job in March, I had spent an intensive year looking for a job I felt really good about. For quite some time now, my professional goals have taken priority for me. I’m thrilled about my return to a career in insurance claims, but I am also needing to find balance. Work is intense and I am sometimes finding it hard to turn off my brain. Much to my consternation, I am having some mild low back pain, a totally new thing to me.

So this week I snuck away from my desk for an 8:30am aquafit class offered by in a public City pool. I went because I was feeling achy and stressed and wasn’t really feeling focused.

Much to my surprise, I had a GREAT time even though I hadn’t been in the water in quite a few weeks. Even more joyous for me, my brain was completely cleared. What a cool thing that was. I had a productive, enjoyable work day. Wahoo!

I like aquafit and find deep-water classes the perfect amount of fun versus challenging. When I started attending aquafit intermittently, almost 20 years ago, I was usually the youngest person in the pool. Often, I still am. I’ve often written here about my struggles with exercise here – how fun to get to say something that feels purely positive.

Photo of an indoor swimming pool with lanes and a small climbing wall in the background
My “home” pool – an older and modest pool that I love!

I’m writing this at the end of the week and my back got achy again. Clearly I need to set myself a schedule for self care – that is not something I’m good at. In fact, I’m writing this as a way to keep myself accountable, and to also create some more positive brain waves.   

I’d love recommendations for exercise planning if you have any. I am thinking I need a balance of aquafit, weekly yoga and meditation. My gosh, when I write that, honestly, I’m a bit dazzled. Who even am I? Not the kid who used to literally quiver walking into the school gym for PE class.  


family · fitness · habits · motivation

I had a plan – where did it go?

Well this is not the post I expected to write this month! A few months back I wrote Sam that I had been exploring and really enjoying exercise and would like to regularly blog about aquafit. At that time, I’d been going to the pool two to three times per week for a few months. It was a habit and it felt good. I also had started really enjoying the feeling of getting a good cardio workout. That itself felt like a minor miracle.  

I wrote my introductory post and looked forward to seeing what was coming on my journey of digging into exercise. It turns out what was awaiting me the last month was a lot of frustration and not getting to exercise! This is not new – many people struggle to get to their gym or their exercise. Women especially are conditioned to put our needs after others. In my case, historically it’s been really easy to distract me from exercise because honestly, I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to do it.

This is different though. I want to get there. Apparently though, wanting isn’t always enough. I’ve only been to the pool a couple of times since mid-April. And it shows. It shows in my mindset, which is more easily frustrated. It shows in my aching hips that don’t want to sit for hours while I teach and grade. It shows in my own disappointment too.

Now I have good reasons for not getting to the gym. I’m on a job search that is going s.l.o.w.l.y. (I teach college on contract and I want a permanent, student-facing job!). My husband is on sabbatical in Italy for the month of May. He’s working hard too and I’m happy to support him, but oh boy, I didn’t anticipate how many things would go sideways at home with our kids while he was away, or how much of our lives relate to getting our kids to places. I am struggling between my kids’ needs and my own, and my own have been losing out.

Selfie of a woman with greying hair and brown sunglasses in front of a blooming pink magnolia tree. She has bright sunlight on her face and is wearing a navy coloured tshirt reading "halfway between"
On my dog walk, I had to stop in front of this beautifully blooming magnolia tree

In truth, all reasons for not exercising are “good” reasons. Our reasons can be legitimate even when they are frustrating or disappointing. Canadian society seems to have a fixation with connecting fitness with guilt and judgement (as anyone who knows this blog knows). The last thing I want to do in writing today is to contribute a sense of judgment of people’s choices. What I do want to acknowledge (mainly mainly to myself) is that for the first time I really miss exercising. That makes this post another in my posts celebrating my journey toward enjoying and, I would say, reclaiming my body as my own for my own use. THAT feels pretty good to say.

So since I’m missing activity, and my growing strength and confidence as (dare I say it?) an athlete, it seems that my next challenge is to actually get back in the pool, and doing some late spring hiking. I can see I need to re-establish my routines and make space for myself in my life. I’m working on that now. So far the best I can do is get out each day to walk my dog. It’s a start – I’ll let you know in a month how it went!


Sam branches out, tries Aquafit, and returns to indoor rowing

A few months ago–about six months ago actually–when I first hurt my knee, I didn’t have a lot of choice when it came to exercise. Mostly life was all about managing pain. Compression ice packs, ibuprofen, and knee physio was my world.

I could spin, in a small spinny gear, and that was about it. It was good physio but it didn’t feel much like exercise. A few months in I tried the elliptical. Nope. Too much pain. Then I tried the rowing machine. Same. Ouch! No running and no walking so mostly I did physio, a lot of it. I also got some weightlifting in.

Now I’m making my way back. First up, I could ride on the trainer in big gears and I could ride while standing. I started taking spin classes at the university gym. Bike yoga was my favorite. 30 minutes of spinning, followed by 30 of yoga for cyclists. That felt like serious progress.

The knee brace has really helped with walking. I can a walk a bit now. Here in Germany I’ve been logging some 15,000 step days. That would have been unthinkable without the knee brace. I’m also riding my bike outside. I’ve been commuting by bike and I’ve had several longer rides on my road bike.

Last week, I decided to branch out again and tried the rowing machine at the gym. Surprise. All good. I did an easy 2 km for warm up. No 2 km tests just yet! I think rowing will be my go to cardio at the gym. It’s great exercise and I like tracking times and trying different drills. If there were a rowing studio here I might even go.

Then the following day I really branched out and went to AquaFit. Not my usual cup of tea but it’s easy to go in the morning or at lunch. All it requires is keeping a bathing suit in my gym locker.

Stock photo of aquafit. A group of women of different ages and skin colours in the pool doing aquatfit. They’re wearing one piece bathing suits and holding bright blue dumbbells above their heads.

In the shallow end it wasn’t perfect. If I jumped too hard I could hurt my knee and I needed to pay attention. It wasn’t as knee friendly as I’d imagined. In the second half hour though we were in the deep water and that was great. It was more of a workout than I expected. I’ll definitely go back.

I hadn’t been to aquafit since my last pregnancy more than twenty years ago. It’s one of those things that I think is fine for other people but not me. That’s odd because I love being in the water. And I’m not a snob about dance-y fitness classes with high energy dance music and show tunes.

I did the pregnancy aquafit classes at the Y with a crowd of mostly senior citizens. Maybe my attitude is ready just ageism? I was amused then by the women who came with their hair done and wearing jewelry. They told me I splashed too much. We decreed one section of the pool to be the splash free section. There were also some flirtatious old guys. They kept going on about my youthful good looks. I was about 7 months pregnant and didn’t mind being the babe of aquafit.

I recognized that I was kind of embarrassed by aquafit when I was happy that the lifeguard thought I was there for the Masters swim practise! Truth be told that was mostly about my bathing suit choice. Next time I’ll try to own it more proudly. Aquafit here I come!

A photo of three women wearing 1950s glamorous bathing caps. I think part of my problem with aquafit is the whole idea of glamour in the water! From

Guest Post

Pregnancy, Postpartum and the (Somewhat) Fit Feminist (Guest Post)

Before I got pregnant, I was pretty active. In college I rowed and in grad school I boxed. More recently, I trained successfully for a marathon. I also swam regularly and loved playing soccer with friends and colleagues (being a vicious defender works out my aggression nicely). So when we started trying for a baby, I felt confident that I would keep moving.

There is a lot of information available about the benefits of an active pregnancy. Pregnant women are told that an active lifestyle will help keep their energy up, ease the aches and pains of a changing body, improve the experience of labour and make it easier to give birth – not to mention making it much easier to ‘bounce back’ to one’s pre-pregnancy body afterwards. Every pregnancy book and website includes a section on fitness and exercise. They do caution against starting new exercise programs, but you can definitely maintain your activity level. Many go so far as to suggest that not exercising is linked to a host of issues, from labour complications to fetal conditions like gestational diabetes.

For the most part, I think this is great. It’s a vast improvement on advice given to previous generations, when pregnant women were sequestered away and prevented from doing just about anything. The idea that pregnant women are weak is silly; making a human and carrying it around while eating, drinking, and breathing for it – not to mention pushing it out of your body – is a fairly impressive feat.

But it does create one more thing pregnant women have to monitor, besides alcohol, smoking, food, air quality, water temperature, etc. And it’s another way we can fail at being pregnant (as I would discover).

So, I was all set to have a fit pregnancy. The day we found out, I made a chart of nutrients to keep on the fridge, and bought The Runner’s World Guide to Running and Pregnancy. No problem, I thought; I’m already active, so this will be easy.

The problem was, my body had its own plans. I was hit almost immediately with searing hip, leg and lower back pain, eventually diagnosed as sciatica. By my sixth week, I had quit running. By my twelfth week, I could only walk a few blocks before I’d be in the kind of pain that left me gasping. By the fifth month, I was avoiding walking at all costs. I could still swim, but only a few lengths at a time – and walking to the pool on campus hurt too much! I’d plan my days to minimize movement and eventually stopped going out at all. I caught myself dreading stairs, long periods of standing, or any situation that made me bump into things or people.

Hoping to stretch out the tightness, I tried prenatal yoga at a downtown studio, but it didn’t work for me. The poses often made it worse, I felt restless and frustrated all at once, and after a fellow class member commented that, given my body type, no one could even tell I was pregnant, I quit.

It started to seem like I was going to have a very unfit pregnancy. This was demoralizing, and also made me feel vulnerable. I felt like I was failing at pregnancy, worried non-stop about how it might affect the fetus, and got frustrated at everyone’s warnings about what this would mean for my labour and their well-meaning advice about how such-and-such exercise would fix my sciatica – I just had to try harder.

All the advice I’d found so liberating, in theory (Be active! Keep running!) now felt like just another norm governing women’s bodies, telling me I couldn’t measure up.

(By the way, don’t feel too much pity for my sob story. I still had a great pregnancy! My partner was amazing, my workplace was accommodating, and my morning sickness was pretty limited. Lucky, lucky me! But I inhabit my body comfortably when I feel strong and capable, when it can live up to my expectations. This was a tough lesson in my own limits, and how to live in a body that couldn’t do what I expected it to. It was humbling.)

Then, around 30 weeks, I found the solution (for me): I tried a prenatal aquafit class ( I was pretty skeptical at first. In fact, I realize now I was an unconscious exercise snob. I thought of myself as someone who did sports (rowing, boxing, running, soccer) not classes.

I think there was a gendered component to my snobbery, too: on some level, I’d decided classes were for ‘girls’. I feel pretty sheepish about that, as a woman and a feminist – and especially now that I know how hard aquafit can be!

I’d come home after each class with shaking arms and legs, a happy ache, and that particular euphoria I associate with a long run. As long as I was really careful about how I moved my hips and groin in the water, I could avoid exacerbating my sciatica, and in the meantime my abs, back, legs, and arms were getting a serious workout, using water and my now considerable weight as resistance.

I also met other pregnant women of all backgrounds, shapes, and sizes (way more diversity than in the downtown yoga class). We set up an email list and planned post-partum stroller walks.

I don’t know whether my unfit pregnancy OR my (aqua)fit third trimester made a difference, in the end, but after a really long labour (ahem – 60 hours) I had a big, strong, perfectly beautiful baby.

And I’ve learned my lesson about exercise snobbery, too. I’m not back at aquafit yet, but I’m taking all the Baby and Me ( fitness classes I can. Two or three times a week you’ll find me squatting and lunging my way through the park while pushing a stroller ( or lifting weights while my baby snoozes in a carrier on my chest, then trying to rediscover my abs by doing planks and making faces at her on the mat (

(By the way, if you like the idea but not the budget for postpartum fitness classes, I’ve noticed people arranging stroller fit dates on and there are online suggestions for how to structure them).

I didn’t ‘bounce back’ to my pre-pregnancy body, but my sciatica vanished like magic, and I’ve even started running short-distances again. In the meantime, these classes get my daughter and me out of the apartment, structure our week, and have helped me meet some really cool women. But mostly, they’re teaching me that my conception of fitness – prenatal or postpartum – needed just about as much adjustment as my hips.


Alice MacLachlan lives in Toronto with her wife, Amy, and their daughter, Emmylou. When not taking aquafit classes or running around the park with a stroller, she teaches philosophy at York University.