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Sweating in the water with Aquacise

Sweating in the water with Aquacise

It’s 5 p.m. on a recent Wednesday at the Hagerstown YMCA and a group of people are already in the 4-foot-deep pool running in circles in the water.

Those taking the one-hour Aquacise class, which are offered on Mondays and Wednesdays, praise the cardio workout they get from the workout in the water.

Shawnie Shawyer, water aerobic instructor, has been leading this class for about a year. The class is offered as part of membership to the YMCA.

That night she had about 20 students, which can vary from week to week.

“It’s great for everyone,” Shawyer said after teaching the class.

She said people who often take her class are those who have injuries and need the low-impact, therapeutic aspect. or those losing weight who are in need in the high-intensity cardio portion of the class.

And, she said, there’s no real age limit. She’s had students from in their 20s to senior citizens. 

For an hour, Shawyer stands outside of the pool, while students are in the water, and leads them through the workout. She uses water noodles and foam barbells in the water. 

“The weights and the noodles are great for adding extra intensity if the workout isn’t hard enough,” she said. “And it’s also great muscle training.”

The YMCA, she said, provides the noodles and weights. 

Shawyer said of the students’ favorite workouts is “surprisingly, the running.”

Students run forward, backward, sideways, with the current and against the current in the pool, she said. 

Shawyer said the class has so many benefits including increasing flexibility, building core balance and muscle training for strength and mobility. And, she said, it’s also good for relaxation.  

Although it’s low-impact, Shawyer said some students are anxious before they arrive because the class is nearly nonstop for the hour. 

“But they find out I do allow water breaks, and that we do spend a majority at the end — from 15 to 20 minutes — just doing stretching and yoga poses,” she said. “Aerobic is 30 minutes of cardio with breaks in between but with quick, high-intensity intervals. “

Jeff Jones, 63, of Hagerstown has been taking water aerobics classes at the YMCA for about four years. 

He said he’s noticed increased flexibility and a good cardio workout. 

Jones said the reason he took the class was for something “different than being in the fitness center.”

Hilary Elmerraji, 60, of Hagerstown said she absolutely hates exercise.

“But I love this class because I love to be in the water,” she said. “It’s happiness from beginning to end.”

Elmerragi, who teaches French at St. Maria Goretti, said she looks forward to the class after a long day. 

“I noticed lot more energy,” she said. “I teach at Goretti and I’m exhausted at the end of the day. It takes a lot of courage to get over here, but after an hour I’m ready to go again.”

She said one of the reasons she likes the class is because of Shawyer. 

“What I like about her is that she really does the exercise with you. She doesn’t pretend. She does them with us,” she said. “And she shows us how to breathe, which is something I really didn’t know how to do.”

Elmerragi said she’s already told everyone at school to join her because “this class is so amazing.”

Shawyer encourages anyone to come and try the class, 

“I would say come in you never what your body can do until you try it,” she said. “You’ll find people in the same physical fitness level as you. And you’ll meet new friends, and learn that you can try new things.”

Want to go?

Aquacise is offered from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday nights at the Hagerstown YMCA, 1100 Eastern Blvd N., Hagerstown. Classes are part of YMCA membership. To find more about the class, go to or call 301-739-3990.

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