Three times a week, several residents of the area get up early to take part in a water aerobics class at the Northeastern State University fitness center, led by Kathy Ryals.
Water aerobics is a form of strength training that is particularly popular with seniors and people with chronic joint pain. Variations of water aerobics such as aqua zumba and water yoga are also popular. Water aerobics is usually performed with music and led by an instructor.
Kathy Ryals was a gymnast at NSU and has been involved in physical fitness her entire life. She became an accountant and worked as a financial controller in the oil industry. After her retirement, she returned to Tahlequah to spend time with her family.
“I did aqua aerobics because I had chronic back pain. I tried yoga, but it didn’t suit me that well. I did aqua aerobics for two months and then I realized I wasn’t in pain, ”said Ryals.
Aquagym helps patients with joint pain because it develops core muscles in a low-gravity environment.
“Because of this, it is used in recovery therapy for knee and other surgeries,” said Ryals.
Water aerobics is one of the most popular activities in the NSU Fitness Center. It’s not uncommon for 20 people to show up for class, which starts at 8 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. When they resumed, Ryals split classes for social distancing, teaching one at 7 a.m. and one at 8 a.m.
Ryals believes the activity is safe given the high ceilings, open doors, and chlorinated water vapor. The participants can keep as far apart as they feel comfortable.
“The NSU pool is heated. They keep the chemicals in balance so we’re pretty comfortable in the current environment too. You are in a large room that has chlorine vapor, ”she said. “We don’t talk about politics or religion because we’re there to play sports. When people are worried about exposure, they just don’t come. We’ve had times when the COVID numbers were high that some people stop coming until they’re comfortable. “
Ryals is a volunteer and leads the class because she sees her life changed. It is a way for them to give something back to their community. She started participating about eight years ago.
“The class used to be taught by Deb Amlin. She worked in the training department. I just took the class, ”said Ryals.
After Amlin retired as a teacher, a student initially took over the class.
“He got a job and we wanted to keep the class so I said I could lead him,” she said. “I do volunteer work. It’s my way of giving back to the community.
Volunteering also keeps them disciplined. She has been leading the class for almost four years.
Most new members hear about the class through word of mouth. If you want to be there, you can purchase a membership in the NSU Fitness Center. There is no contract as members pay monthly; family membership is $ 40; individual membership is $ 30; and several other plans are available. Membership gives them access to all of the classes offered in the fitness class, including aqua aerobics.
“We meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 am to 9 am,” said Ryals.