Around the time of my “official” AS diagnosis (I stress “officially,” because most of us have this disease for years before diagnosis), I joined AQUASTUDIO in New York City. It’s an intimate, friendly, and low-impact studio dedicated to holistic wellness and water workouts. The majority of classes are on bikes underwater, but they also offer aquatic classes without the bike. In those classes, we run around the pool, do jumping jacks against the water’s resistance, and find restoration and body alignment by stretching, working on our core, and holding our posture.
Obviously, this sort of class can’t be for everyone with AS. For one, not everyone’s knees would like the movement on the bike, and some bike positions require stronger wrists than many people have. However, the classes have been a joy for me.
I found early on that the traditional gym isn’t for me — and yet it is for many people with AS. I struggle with the high-impact of most on-land workouts, and I don’t particularly love a hot, sweaty, and grunt-filled gym. In the water, my body feels light and flexible, and the moves on and off the bike are low-impact.
My strength, posture (and awareness of it, which is invaluable for our spinal disease), and endurance have increased tenfold. Not only are those benefits outstanding, but the fact that I’m moving without putting a strain on my spine greatly reduces my pain. The daily level of pain I was in before AQUASTUDIO ranged from about a five to an eight, and the pain I’m in now is between three and five.
If you have a local pool, a YMCA, an aqua workout studio, an aqua cycle venue, or a hydrotherapy location near you, I encourage you to join or at least go a few times per month. You’ll see how nurturing, supportive, and soft the water feels on your body, and — little by little — you’ll find more mobility, flexibility, and strength. On top of that, being in water is soothing to the mind as well. This can be immeasurably helpful for chronic conditions like ours, where the anxiety and worry about pain, doctor’s appointments, and our future can wreak havoc on our bodies.
Good luck, and see you in the water!
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