JEANNIE BROWN JOHNSON …. “AQUA GIRL”
Q. What started you on your fitness journey?
I have always been an “aqua girl” or ‘mermaid’ as my husband lovingly calls me. I was a competitive swimmer at an early age, then became a life guard, college swimmer/water aerobics teacher, mentor and motivator. What REALLY started me on my fitness journey was challenging myself to get back into athletic shape after a horseback riding accident in April 1993. I broke my wrist in two places and my humerus bone right above the elbow. Before the accident, I was a size 10 and five months after not being able to work out, too much “whoa is me”…feeling sorry for myself and eating way too much, I found myself at a size 14.
After doing Jazzercise for about 3 years, something was calling me back to the water. I began a water aerobics class in my neighborhood where many folks in the class didn’t look like me (African American). It would have been fun if the music were different or if they did some moves that I could relate to. Then I got an epiphany to stop complaining and take the necessary steps to start teaching on my own terms.
I did some research, found a mentoring program at a swimming facility, came across an international certification association, Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA), studied for 5 months, and passed the test in 1999.
During the annual AEA International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) in Florida, two new friendships developed with Linda Grymes and Erica Wilson. On the first day of the conference, we happened to be dressed in the same colors and people asked if we were a group and we said, “YES, WE ARE TRIPLE DELIGHT AQUATICS!” We continued to go and learned as much as we could from presenters from all over the world. Now we are presenters at IAFC’s annual conference for the past 7 years and have inspired other African-American instructors to become presenters.
Q. Do teaching classes interfere with your family life? How do you balance them?
Teaching classes is my life and my husband and I support each other’s endeavors. He teaches full time Tai Chi & Qi Gong for several hospital wellness programs, assisted living communities, and privately. We balance our schedules by not working on Sundays. We have brunch together, date in the afternoon, kayak, bike ride or drive to the beach. We work together on assignment and also execute our own destination Tai Chi entered trips for students to Negril, Jamaica and West Virginia.
Q. Let’s talk about the hydro spin What made you decide to teach it?
The Italians debuted the HYDRORIDER (aqua bike) at the AEA/ IAFC conferences in 2005. I tried it and was hooked. It was something new and different as a group exercise program in this country. When realizing the company would be certifying instructors in Philadelphia the next year, I was excited and went there to take the course. I didn’t start teaching hydro spin until Spring 2012 because the bikes were expensive, and no clubs or centers wanted to take the risk on this new program. Theresa Banks Community Center in Glenarden, Maryland, decided to take a risk, purchased the bikes and placed this dynamic new program on their roster. The classes have been a great success!
Q. What are the benefits of hydro spinning and what do we need to know about the bike?
Benefits are: (1) Hydro spin offer the special ingredient of water….buoyancy (the ability to float in a liquid). Buoyancy offers a kind of “cushion” so the water can gently lift the body in the water …alleviating the pressure of gravity on the joints. (2) Water also offers us hydrostatic pressure (a gentle compression effect that massages the muscles). (3) Aqua cyclists can utilize challenging suspended moves that are not possible on land. (4) Various people of different fitness levels can take advantage of cycling:
- Level I – for beginners, the de-conditioned, physical therapy, and rehabilitation patients.
- Level II – for group exercise, those who are conditioned, and athletic training.
- Level III – for advanced group exercise, the highly conditioned, and athletic training.
With respect to the bikes, set-up is key. Once the bike is rolled into the water via pool ramp, participants need to position themselves in the ideal depth of water which is 3’7” to 4’8” (waist to chest line). Students have the option to lower the seat 1–2 inches to adjust for buoyancy.
Q. What advice would you give a person interesting in becoming an aqua instructor?
Take a few water classes and see if teaching is one of your passions. Also, pay close attention to whether your skin can deal with the chlorine. Talk to your instructors to see if they would consider being your mentor. Observe how she/he communicates with the participants, choreography and their personality while teaching. Assess if you STILL love it. If so, study to become certified & then …DO YOU! If you love it, your students will too. Remember to change up the challenges and the music occasionally to keep classes innovative, exciting and safe.
Q. What advice would you give a person just starting out on their fitness journey?
Make sure to get the green light from your doctor before beginning any fitness program. If you haven’t exercised in a while, or, just beginning, be kind to yourself….start slow & build up so you won’t experience any unnecessary injuries that could lead to setbacks on the progress you’ve made. And remember….”Rome was not built in a day! Give yourself time to succeed.
SOOOO….WRAP THAT HAIR UP IN A SCARF, PUT ON A SWIM CAP & “KEEP IT MOVIN!”
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