Aquarobics: Antidote to Injury

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I have a confession to make: when I used to swim laps at North Sydney Pool, I had a pretty mixed opinion of aquarobics; from the bobbing bodies invading the lap lanes 10 minutes before the start time, to the blaring 80s music and inane commentary of (then male) instructor, to the phalanx of 30-odd older women which descended en masse on the dressing rooms, talking loudly and showering slowly.

Game Changer

That all changed about 13 weeks ago when I broke my foot.

More correctly when I tore a ligament and cracked a bone in my right foot. Arrogantly thinking I could heal myself, I did nothing for 3 days and sought no professional help. Bad idea. The foot kept swelling and bruising until both the instep and sole were black. That’s when I realised I might need help.

We live South of Sydney these days, so I was astonished to find an experienced team of podiatrists just 3 minutes away in sleepy Shellharbour Village. I was more than surprised, (devastated more like it) when the extent of the injury was confirmed and surgery was suggested. Oh no! Not again!

I was also told I’d be unable to walk, drive or swim for at least 6 weeks before my first assessment (there would be more than one) and I’d have to immobilise my foot in an orthotic boot when not sleeping or sitting.

Bright Spark

I’m not very good at inactivity, even for a short time, so this was not the news I was hoping for.

My boot and me

Even so, uncharacteristically, I did nothing for a week except to become more irritable than usual. (Did I mention my husband Kim is a saint?) Happily, he also thinks outside the square and this led him to a very bright idea (albeit stemming from desperation): ‘Why not do some of your usual stuff but don’t use the foot?’ Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?

So, for the next week, I did cut-down sets of my usual stretches and static isometric holds, meaning lots of repetition which, as you can imagine, drove me nuts. But at least I wasn’t doing nothing. The bonus was, the swelling and bruising went away and, unlike previous injuries, I hadn’t made things worse by ignoring advice and going back to exercising too soon.

Maybe at 67, I’ve finally woken up? (Read about this time about 10 years ago when I didn’t).

Another Pool. Another Reno.

About 3 weeks after the injury, I remembered the pool.

Nearby, in sleepy Oak Flats (yes that’s the real name; a bit like ‘Snake Gully’ of Dad and Dave fame) we have a heated, outdoor 50-metre Olympic Pool. You could say it’s just like North Sydney’s – but without the history, the architecture or the view.

But Oak Flats Pool has a big advantage over North Sydney right now: it’s open. North Sydney Olympic Pool has been closed for a renovation since 2021 and is unlikely to re-open before 2025. Talk about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush!

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t going to disobey my podiatrist and start swimming too soon. But, I did ask him about aquarobics and the answer was yes, so long as I was gentle. Beside myself with joy, I turned up at the pool the next day only to be advised that, like North Sydney, it was undergoing a reno. Oh no!

Iconic North Sydney Olympic Pool

But the good news was the budget wasn’t $100 million and each pool would only be closed for 4 weeks (not 4 years) and the closures would be sequential. That is, the small 25-meter pool for aquarobics would be closed for 4 weeks and the big one for 4 weeks after that. Happy days!


To cut a long story short, I quickly become addicted to aquarobics; I found I got all the sensations I love from being in water – movement, buoyancy, resistance – all the while protecting my precious foot.

More than that, one 45-minute class is a full-on aerobic training session where I’m puffing for the whole time. I’m using my body in ways I’d never would in air – and using muscles that haven’t been used in years. Of course, I could just bob around, but getting into it is much more fun. I absolutely love it.

More Than A Bob

One thing that really surprised me about aquarobics is the huge variety.

From walking full-speed under water using arms and legs, to side-kicks, front and back kicks, leaps and thrusts, and using polystyrene dumbbells and so-called ‘noodles’ to increase resistance, the variety is limited just by imagination.

Another surprise was how difficult it can be if you make it so. That said, you can just bob around for 45 minutes. One instructor, Shelley, is particularly imaginative, energetic and enthusiastic. She’s not the one in the picture above.  

Happy Days

By happy coincidence, I see my podiatrist next week to review progress X-rays and Ultrasounds at the 13-week mark – and the big pool reopens in the same week. The 25-metre pool reno is already done.

My plan is, once I get the go-ahead, to add laps to aquarobics, maybe before or after, so I get the best of both worlds – or maybe I’ll split them on different days. Swimming is great for aerobic fitness but doesn’t use as many different muscles as aquarobics which, for me, was a huge surprise. The even better news is, once both pools are open, aquarobics will be in the small pool and lap swimming  in the big one. Separate. Perfect. Even better than North Sydney!

Mea Culpa

So now, it’s time for the apology to all those women and men who’ve known and reveled in the benefits of aquarobics for years.

I was wrong; aquarobics isn’t just for oldies. It can add variety, balance and fun to anyone’s exercise routine, regardless of age or level of fitness. I’m definitely going to stick with it.

The best news news is, the next time I injure myself, I’ll know where to find my antidote: aquarobics, just a few minutes’ drive away.

Kim Brebach

Tracey James

Hello, I’m Tracey James, boomer, former scientist, technical writer and Fixer of Things at M&M. In my spare time, I like to walk, swim and garden.   

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