Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Dialogue Continues

Notice anything different from yesterday? Like 1.75" less knitting? That's because Melanie and I both goofed. I incorrectly thought the bottom was a hemmed edge. Melanie got the chart wrong. Off to the frog pond!

The bottom edge is in fact a garter stitch pattern not turned under and hemmed. My goof. But Melanie, Melanie, Melanie. Your chart is wrong, wrong, wrong. Take a gander at the swatches and then troll back to my post of November 18 which shows the pattern photo. You will detect there a distinct checkerboard border made with the two main colors. Now check (so to speak) yesterday's photo and see that what I knitted in stocking stitch is not really a checkerboard either. Close, but no cigar. The border is supposed to be a single thickness of garter stitch. Fine. As I said, my boo-boo. But have a squint at your chart A1, Mizz Melanie. Garter stitch, yes--alternate knit and purl rows on the front side. But if you alternate 2-dark-2-light stitches horizontally and alternate dark-light every row vertically, you get the mashed-up muddle in the swatch on the right (and yes, that is the front side and I am carrying the floats at the back). Only if you alternate pairs of rows dark-light will you get the checkerboard effect seen in the pattern photo. And the actual checkerboard you get is really pleasing texture-wise. The switching of the alternate yarns in the purl rows makes a tiny crease between each "square" that makes each one stand out in a little bump.

So that's what's going on the needles now. 2 x 2 color alternation in both dimensions and, I hope, no trips to the frog pond for at least 16 rows!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dialogue in the Bleak Midwinter

These bleak midwinter days sure are hard on an Alaska knitblogger's photography. There are only about 3 hours in the middle of the day when it's bright enough to take photos that, even with a flash, show your knitting decently. So it's not always possible to get a picture of every stage that you'd like to illustrate. Ponder the irony of a pattern called Winter Sunset.

Reader, I've cast on. 346 stitches. And I commenced the 16 rows of bottom facing. And then I contemplated what the pattern had asked me to do and cussed at it. (This happened at night, ergo no photo.) What the pattern wanted was a 2-color checkerboard garter stitch. Really? I checked the book and rechecked it about 43 times. Can you think of a FATTER fabric than 2-color checkerboard garter stitch? For a facing? Melanie Elizondo (the designer), are you kidding me? What you want in a facing (well, certainly what I want) is something slightly smaller than the outside of the sweater, knit possibly in a smaller gauge (check) with fewer stitches (check) that will lie flat inside out of sight, doing its job of stabilizing and weighting the edge without calling attention to itself. If ever there was a formula for a foofy flaring bottom edge it is this garter stitch inside with stocking stitch outside. So rip it, rip it, rip it and cast it all on again and do it in checkerboard stocking stitch. I was tempted to be really radical and do an even thinner single color stocking stitch (or stripes?) but decided on this middle path.

Next I realized that the pattern does not call for what always serves turned edges well, namely a purl row to define said edge. At about this point I realized that Winter Sunset Cardigan is not going to be a pattern, but a dialogue between Melanie E and me. She will present her ideas and I will evaluate them for reasonableness and liklihood of good results, and then proceed with what experience tells me is a reasonable course. This is not going to be a quick knit.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Darker shade of pale

This is old news, but I still want to show off, so bear with me. The items above were my contributions to the faaaaabulous prizes in the attendance promotion for one of my water aerobics classes. The prizes have to be something you've made yourself or gotten for free. Scarves are a synthetic pink/blue/silver ribbon yarn, two furry ones (they are so fluffy they almost look like real fur) made from and elann.com eyelash, and a black kettle-dyed merino one. Also in the group is the linen string bag you've seen previously, plus a water bottle from I can't remember where, a cookbook that I got as a prize elsewhere, and a pair of commercial snowman socks that are cute, but wouldn't fit my clodhoppers. They are all by now gone to their new homes, to ladies who have been maintaining their committment to fitness!
On to the real reason for the post. More swatcherama for the Winter Sunset fair isle cardigan. I took Lori's advice, bit the bullet, and got me the original background yarn. You see above the three tan colors I have now swatched. On the left the KnitPicks Palette in Oyster, on the right KnitPicks Palette in Camel heather, and in the middle the winnah, Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift 2-Ply in Eesit, all photographed on a background of snow for best contrast with the ultimate white. It even looks like the gauge will still work with the mixed yarns; I will know for sure when the washed and blocked new swatch is dry.

Nerdlinks: Eesit is one of the wonderful Shetland names for natural fleece color. Others are Moorit, Shaela, Awt, Emsket, Mooskit, Sholmit. The yarns are here; examples of the fleeces here.

I promise that the next time I bore you with this sweater I will have actually cast on! Aren't you thrilled?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's in the bag

Another FO for my class prizes. It started out to be the net bag from Mason Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines (available free here) but the fancy stitches were too complicated for me to understand quickly and I needed a product, not skill advancement. So I used the stitch count and general scheme and the Louet linen yarn prescribed, but made up an easier stitch pattern. Rinsed it and sorta blocked it to set the stitches and shape and here it is.

Deadline is December 11. Can I whip up something else by then? Tune in for our next thrilling chapter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Little FO

A small Finished Object to show:

A pair of Ayanna Mitts in Elann's Baby Cashmere, in pewter, a medium size knit on 3 mm needles. They're wonderfully soft and the lace is pretty, but not so holey that your hands would get cold. Amazingly, one 25g ball was exactly enough to make the pair. 100 meters with only that little stringy bit laid on the pattern left over!

They are a prize to be contributed to my water aerobics class's attendance promotion, hence the display on cardboard hands. And there's a whole ball left over, enough to make a pair to keep! I can't help thinking that what would really enhance them is beads.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Ptarmigan Goes Fibrous

For a long time I have followed knitting blogs, laughed at, learned from, been appalled by, bored by, frustrated by, energized by, inspired by, and enlightened by knitting blogs. For almost as long a time I have itched to have my own. Now that blogs are becoming passe and twitterbook and inyourfacespace are all the rage, here I am finally knitblogging. Thank goodness my self esteem is not founded on being the vanguard of the latest trend.

I pledge to myself (and you, O mythical reader) that I will post at least once a week and that said self-imposed structure will surely help me document my projects and egg me on to challenge and achievement with this craft.

For starters we have my Big Project To Be, the Winter Sunset Cardigan from Jamieson's Shetland Knitting Book 1. I have been inspired by FAIR*ISLE to do another big fair isle project. Trouble is, I am too cheap to use the original real Shetland yarns. That would be at least $130 plus shipping, I figure. Only about $30 (plus shipping) to use Knit Pick's Palette yarn, and Palette is softer, not as scratchy as Shetland wool. But of course, Palette does not come in the same shades as the original yarn. That and potential difference in gauge mean serious swatching. So I have swatched. Seriously. That's them in the photo at the top.

The big problem is the main background color--none of the Palette options are really satisfactory. The original Shetland is a color named Eesit, a heathered tan named for one of the many natural color variations of Shetland sheep. Clockwise, from upper left, I have tried Oyster Heather, Marble Heather, Camel Heather, and Iris Heather. The photo makes Oyster look like a match to the photo, but it's not. Oyster is not different enough from the Cream contrast stripe (despite what the photo makes it look like). What I need is something between Oyster and Camel, but it's just not available.

Swatching has helped with a couple of things, though. I know I need to go one needle size down to get gauge, and I like Oyster for the light contrast stripe in the darker colors. I still haven't made up my mind about the main color yet. Camel? I really don't want such a brown sweater. Iris is ok, and I really like the variation in the heather, but the other contrast colors (aquas) don't work well with it. Marble is probably the best of the lot. Knitted up it looks more of a steel blue-grey, darker than I'd like, but the aquas really pop with it.

Thank goodness I'm not in a rush--I can let this all marinate a little while longer. There's plenty of pre-Xmas knitting to be done before I can even think about casting Winter Sunset on. What do you think?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

IAFC Miscellany

I got home again with no trouble and the cool, dry Alaska air hit me like a delicious tonic as I exited the airport. Everything I brought home was damp and musty and needed airing, washing and/or drying. My poor old water shoes never got dry once in Florida. I baked them in the Alaska sun:
but they still were beyond redemption and had to be thrown away. Fortunately, I had anticipated something of the kind and had packed an old pair to begin with. I had every intention of quickly writing up a final post with all the bits that hadn't fit anywhere else, but that excellent ambition fell victim to a week-long brain crash compounded of jet lag (why is it always worse going west?) and withdrawal from massive quantities of exercise. Just a good thing that I didn't have to do any brain surgery or rocket science right away.

So here they are, finally, all the odd bits and pieces:
  • I had a wonderful conversation with a lady who is the aquatic director of the Orlando health club that advertises itself as the home of the Magic basketball team. She had great stories of the pro players in the pool, like the 7-footer doing laps behind his trainer. The trainer was swimming, "pacing" the player. The player, a non-swimmer, walked behind him in the "deep" water while "swimming" his arms. The trainer hadn't a clue.
  • I heard rumors about fabulous pay for aqua teachers in the southeastern retirement areas--$50-$60 per class. Hard to believe numbers like that, but I'm sure there is high demand that will continue as boomers retire.
  • To my surprise, I was not the fattest, oldest, palest, or least fit participant in the conference. The attendees were a wide spectrum of humanity from all over the world (29 countries represented). It was so splendid that what we all had in common was a commitment to excellence in water exercise.
  • I keep getting asked if I lost a bunch of weight during that week. Sadly, no. Actually, food was a bit of a problem. Except for the meals included with the conference, it was hard to find good quality, reasonably priced meals and the time and energy to get them. Food at the hotel was expensive; within reasonable walking distance there was only franchise fast food. After a long soggy day you really just want to rinse off the sunscreen and crash.
  • I just have to mention what was probably the best feature of my hotel room, the thing that made blogging and peace of mind possible--the room safe.
It was really ingenious. It was wide and deep, so a laptop fit in there just fine and there was even a plug in the back so you could recharge while it was in there. And what peace of mind for a conference where you had to spend so much time at the pool! You could put your purse or wallet in there and not have to tote it around and worry about light fingers all day.

So, what about next year? The AEA has already booked the Wyndham for a week in April 2010. A bit hard on west coast members, but really it is difficult to imagine a facility better suited to such an event. And the April date will mean that the climate may be a little kinder. Warm, but not quite so hot and less chance of thunderstorms busting up the fun in the afternoons. Start saving those frequent flyer miles!

And how great would this look to you coming from Alaska in April? Ornamental pineapple and banana plants on your way to the pool...................

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Last Zumba in Orlando

It’s my last day, but not the least. Another 12-hour marathon. No restful bower of blossoms for the newlyweds, either. 7:30 am and I’m on my way to my first class and I see Troy (the new Mr. Angie) out and about with the dogs.

The eye-opener this morning was a team effort called Tranquility and Turbulence with Steph Toogood and Craig Stuart. Click on the link at Craig’s name to find out all about it and him. The creativity of the aqua gods and goddesses you meet here is really stunning. This is the second really innovative new take on ordinary old intervals that I have experienced here. Steph and Craig took positions at right angles to each other on two sides of the pool. During her tranquility portion she did not speak and made all her cues for slow, sweeping motions visual. Then we would turn 90 degrees to face Craig and he would lead a burnup cardio segment.
And back to Steph to cool down, back to Craig to rev up, back and forth until they both led the final stretchy cooldown. Amazing. Wish I had taken a better picture. She's not blindfolded--she's wearing a wide headband and tucking her chin.
Next it was Terri Mitchell again with a land and water workshop that I liked much better than my previous experience with her. This was all about using diagonal planes of movement in deep water. This is good for functional fitness because many of our real-life movements are diagonal or spiral. Putting on your seatbelt, for instance. Part of the time in the water she had us get in circles of 4-6, moving around to left and right, into the center and out to the edge. No sustained supine work here, but quick bursts of reclining diagonal knee touches.

And on to Marty Biondi’s Lower Extremity Joint Replacements Post Rehab Aquatics. On land she took us through the basics of what comprises the replacement of hips, knees and ankles. She said that health insurance payers are pushing joint replacement patients more and more quickly out of physical therapy (typically when they hit a plateau on account of pain) and they end up in aqua classes to finish rehab on their own. She also said that bones have more pain-type nerves than any other body structure, probably nature's way of getting people to quit using a limb with a broken bone, but not so nice when they are messed with by surgery or trauma. She told us that people in rehab are not only recovering from the surgery, but also from imbalances in musculature and movement habits built up over the time they were coping with the painful joint before it was replaced. The exercises she showed us in the water mainly focused on regaining symmetrical muscle strength and improving balance.

That workshop segued nicely into Ruth Sova's Building Balance Skills. I can't say enough wonderful stuff about Ruth. She's so funny yet so inventive. One class member said "it's like getting a workout with your best girlfriend."
She had really great ways to challenge balance and work the unsung heroes of the core muscles. For instance, try "heavy feet" right now. You're doubtless sitting in your chair in front of your computer. Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor, knees and hips at 90 degrees. Now pretend that there is a bag of cement on top of one foot. You're trying to lift it up but it's very very heavy and you can hardly budge it. What's happening to those lower abs? You're squeezing hard, right? And the same will be true if you push down on that foot as if you wanted to push it through the floor. Try it with both feet, both up and down. Even harder, yes?

All through the workout Ruth kept making jokes about beer and being from Milwaukee. So when we arrived at the classroom for the land portion, one class member walked in and handed Ruth a glass of what we decided to call cold, foamy golden tea!
She said that she wasn't going to sin alone, so she took a sip and passed it around the class! When it got back to the front there was about half a glass left. She set it on the table at the front and when the lecture period was over she concluded with, "and now it's Miller time!"

One more workshop to go--Latin's ABC: Adaptation, Beat, Charisma with Tinoca Senra, the female half of the yoga-for-2 couple from a 2 or 3 days ago. In the land portion, she told us about some of the principles of Latin dance and culture. And then had us practice some ordinary water movements as they could be adapted to Latin rhythms and dance steps. And added in that charisma and attitude. Then into the water to put them into practice. Wow. It was as much fun to watch Tinoca's energy and beautiful moves as it was to try to imitate them in the water.
45 minutes of that and we were all warmed up for the last event of the conference, the last aqua Zumba session in the pool. On the deck to lead us were Maria de los pink hot pants, Carlos, and Mimi, the aqua instructor who did most of the inventing and translating of the land version to the wet version. It was quite a finale. Not only was the pool full, but people who couldn't fit in were dancing all around the deck. It was the highest of high notes to end on.
And now this pooped ptarmigan has to pack and try to dry out the soggy stuff I've been wearing all day. (Just between you and me, 12 hours is too long to spend in a bathing suit after about age 5.) At this point sitting down in airplanes and airports all day tomorrow sounds great. It's been an incredible experience, beyond anything I imagined. I'm not quite done with the blog--I'd like to do another post or two with odd bits of stuff I heard and learned, and some evaluation-type reflections. But if you've enjoyed this, give the bird a hand. Shout out in the comments (you can be anonymous) or if you want to really stay out of the limelight you can shoot me an email. See you back on the Last Frontier!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Four classes and a BIG BIG surprise!

This morning was the conference breakfast and awarding of awards. I’m sure you’ll be able to read about and see pictures of them in AKWA magazine. What you won’t read about is Angie Proctor’s announcement that on June 6 she is getting married to Troy, after 8 years together, 4 of them getting from his proposal to answering “yes”. You may not have ever seen Troy, but if you’ve emailed or phoned the AEA office about something, you’ve probably contacted him. AWWWWWWWW. Everybody started banging on their water glasses, but they wouldn’t smooch.

My first class this morning was with Steph Toogood again. Deep, Deep, Deeper Intervals. My first all-deep class and another with Steph. Again, she was wonderful. The intense cardio segments were short—30 seconds—and no-brainer simple fast moves. The slower segments were muscle endurance work, more horizontal than you generally think of with deep water, but within Pauline Ivens’ guidelines because the positions were transitory rather than sustained. One thing she said in the lecture portion that really stuck with me is that bad vertical form in deep water can be as damaging to the spine as running on concrete. Wow. The practical session in the water was fantastic, of course. It really is so much better to do the land portion of a workshop first so you can review the theory in your mind and you find the truth of the action in the water with your own body. Sorry none of my pictures turned out. You can refresh your memory of what she looks like from the class in the earlier post.

And then…….Frugal Fitness with Terri Mitchell. The contrast couldn’t have been starker. Frugal as in using inexpensive noodles and FRUGAL also as an acronym for something. But lordy, lordy. This workout did exactly what we had been warned against—sustained supine posture, and lots of long leg lever movement during those sustained periods. Thank goodness I was at the back of the crowd. I eventually just quit, thinking “My back is in good shape, and this is certainly NOT the place to hurt it, but if I keep up these L-position jack legs, who knows what will happen?” My mother always said to me that every teacher has something to teach you, and I did learn a couple of noodle things from Terri, but I opted out of the land portion of her workshop, as I sure don’t need the CEUs, and I can look up what FRUGAL stands for in the conference literature.

In the background of the picture of Terri's class is Pauline Ivens in black shirt and white cap. I asked her afterwards what she thought, and she very diplomatically said that she (Pauline) needs to do a video of the whys and wherefores of avoiding sustaining some of those potentially harmful positions.

Next up was an entirely land class, Posture Made Perfect with Adita Yrizarry. Adita believes that posture is the basis of all human movement and she led us through some simple exercises to show how to both find weaknesses and to build strength in those muscles that will improve function. She has a very concise and on-target way of saying it--every bad alignment occurs because some muscles are too tight and some are too loose. For example, in an upper body forward slump, the pecs are tight and the rhomboids and delts loose. To correct this, exercise needs to target those weak muscles. Here's another nugget that I hadn't thought about before: the arches of the feet play the final role in good posture. The toes should all land equally and when standing the weight should be balanced equally on all toes and through the heel.

But enough of this serious stuff--let's go shopping! Throughout the conference period there is a "shopping mall" entirely full of stuff for the aqua professional. Imagine! Discounted prices and (the bane of the Alaska online shopper) no shipping! Imagine racks of H2O bathing suits that you can try on! And bins of the latest exercise music. Audio systems. Buoys, belts, and all the latest toys you tried in class. Get out that Visa card and CHA-A-A-A-ARGE!!!!

Last class of the day was another land class. (And by Day 4 I was way excited to be spending an entire afternoon dry and in regular clothes.) And its crowning glory was that it was a Zumba Gold class (Zumba for dummies, for chubbies, for oldies, or whatever). And my friends, I may have sweated my whatever off, but this was FUN. This was doable. Hips were wiggled, shoulders were shimmied, mambos were mambo-ed. I wish one of my photos of the leader, Joy Prouty, had turned out. In all of them she's a blur, although come to think of it, that's probably very fitting. She's a former Rockette, a longtime fitness professional, a co-inventor of the Zumba Gold format, but most of all a person who is just totally inhabited and animated by dance. Joy in motion is truly what she is. Anyway, you'll just have to make do with the picture of the class participants and know that they are all energized by one tiny blonde livewire:
This evening was the big gala dinner/beach party, the 25th birthday celebration of the AEA. Dinner at 8 and a special champagne toast at 9 pm, courtesy of the resort. On the way home from Zumba I met Angie's parents sitting out on their patio. Angie buzzed by collecting her dogs and recognized me from Alaska. "Going to the dinner, aren't you? Be sure to be there for the 9 o'clock toast." She said it very emphatically, but what did I know. Towards the end of dinner Mark Grevelding gets on the mike and bursts out with the secret that has been killing him for weeks--Angie and Troy were going to get married right there and then in front of all their AEA "family". Suddenly they're unrolling white carpet, setting up a tulle-draped backdrop, the officiant takes his place and Angie is strolling in on the arm of her father:
(So that's why her parents came to the conference!) They promised to love, honor, and cherish, traded rings, a big kiss, and by the authority vested in some guy by the State of Florida they were really truly hitched in front of our eyes. One of the blog's commenters has said to me that the blog was like reading a thrilling romance. And friends, it doesn't get more romantic than this! Girl gets boy and they live happily ever after.

So toasts were toasted to 25 years of AEA, but also health and long life to the bride and groom.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's been a long full day

Up and at ‘em at 7:45 this morning, first stop the pool practical session of Hand Buoy Choreography Challenge with Steph Toogood. She’s British, and one of the pillars of water exercise. This means she’s been at it for a long time, really knows her stuff, and it shows. What’s marvelous is that she’s still as full of enthusiasm and motivation as any just-certified newbie.

But on to the class. Steph said that she’s been teaching seniors lately and their only complaint about the class was changing apparatus—stopping to pick up buoys or noodles from the side and putting them back. So she designed a workout for them that has buoys in hand for the full hour in defiance of the general rule that says warm up first before adding resistance. She does this by letting the buoys rest on top of the water in the beginning and intermittently through the workout. She also adds variety by having some one-buoy time and some partner work. She’s especially proud of the fact that people don’t have to touch during the partner work. Sad, but a preference I’ve also found.

This was my first workshop class. They’re like the CEU workshops we get at the Alaska Club—a practical pool session and a land classroom session. Here, because the pool schedule is so tight, you can have a workshop, as I did, with the practical first, classroom second. This means you haul out of the water, dry off as much and as quickly as you can, cover your soggy self and jog to the convention center at the other end of the resort. No help for it—most of the seats in the room are kind of damp when we leave.

I took a look at my schedule and of the workshop classes I have, about half are soggy bottom style—wet first, indoors after. It’s not ideal, but everyone’s in the same situation, so we don’t mind the odd looks from the pantyhose and necktie crowd hanging around from other meetings in the convention center.

Second this morning was Senior Aqua Training with Joao Regulfe, another Brazilian guy. A guy with balls. A whole bag of 6-inch rubber balls which he used in his workout for resistance, balance challenge, partner work, and fun.

The only beef I had with him is that it would be hard to keep gripping that ball for an extended period with one arthritic hand. The two-handed stuff was ace, and the partner work was inspired. Again, a lot of it did not require the partners touching.

My class partner told me about how she uses balls in her class. You can get them cheap from Oriental Trading and make the 6-inch size easier to grip by deflating them a little. She also told me how she uses ping pong balls (really cheap) and here's a Hint from Heloise: revive a dented ping pong ball by microwaving it briefly.

Then there was lunch, the first meal provided by the conference (more about food another time) and on to a product demonstration workout—Speedo hydro resistance gear given by Mark Grevelding. Mark’s another pillar of the profession and really fun and funny.
The session wasn’t at all a sales pitch; it was a tryout of the hand and ankle resistance cuffs and a new buoy/disk thingie. I was really glad to find out more about how to use the red hand gizmos in some effective boxing-type moves. The disks were interesting, but not a must-have item unless your facility has no buoys at all.

And then it was on to SCRAMBLED Choreography progressions, a lecture by Ruth Sova (yet another pillar). And a super knowledgeable yet super nice person. Ruth was trying to find a good way to quickly come up with new moves or changes in choreography both on deck and when making an advance plan. She made a list of all the things you could change about a move: Speed, Combine with other moves, Repetitions, Arms, Move, Bend, Link (people together), Elongate, and Direction. Then she had her husband find an acronym of the first letters of the words so she could remember it easily and behold--SCRAMBLED. The basics of her method are in an article she wrote for the February/March 2009 issue of AKWA magazine; I won't belabor them any further here.

As thunderclouds gathered, I headed to my last workshop, Aqua Yoga2gether. I knew that there probably isn't much call for this sort of thing in any of my classes (people don't like to work in partners and the water is usually too cold for this kind of slow movement), but I was curious to see what the concept was. It was taught by a lovely Brazilian couple, Ivan and Tinoca. They were very sincere and knowledgeable about yoga and Tinoca had adapted it all for water, but alas, we had to try to try it out on dry land, as water was falling out of the sky.

For me, it was all pretty far-fetched to be very engaging. That, and by the time the class was over it was 7:15 pm. It has been nearly a 12-hour day and I'm knackered. Good night.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday minus Zumba

Come with me on my way to my first class of the day. The first pool I passed was in session with a genuine Russian ballerina (in sneakers, not toe shoes) leading a water ballet workout. No time to linger, but ronde de jambe and tendu sound really great when said with a Russian accent.

I get to the pool for my class and there's this guy in full flow with the class previous to mine.
Want to see him closer? I thought you did.
He's got great music, he's a marvelous athlete giving good cues, but those people have been suspended in deep water with their airplane arms supported by noodle knots for about 40 minutes. Ouch! Just because folks are presenting here doesn't necessarily mean that they're doing great work.

But on to the African dance class, taught by a woman from Spain. She was really great, an excellent dancer, energetic and motivating, and she had a great way of bypassing the language barrier. She could whistle like a Scottish shepherd calling his dog from 3 pastures away. It was brilliant. It sounded exotic and it got you to look at what she was doing (she'd mainly whistle when a move changed).
Later on it was time for Celtic Revenge, taught by another Spaniard. Here is Javier showing off a little, but his workout was mainly simple moves based on a great idea. Most exercise music is manufactured to have a steady beat at a predictable rate. Javier took celtic music from a couple of Michael Flatley shows and used its natural variation in tempo to do intervals. It was perfect!
At one point when he was getting really overheated (the sun and humidity were brutal) he threw off his mike and jumped into the pool while having us elbow-swing with each other at random while he made his way through the group having a swing with nearly everybody:
Last but for Zumba was Nino's class, titled Senior Posture. He had really great ideas in his handout about using multiple muscles and joints in multiple planes to promote functional fitness, but the rubber (in this case a dynaband) didn't quite meet the road. What he was asking for worked great on land:
but not in the water where you've got to have either 2 feet or 2 hands on the band to make it stay put. Some of his noodle ideas were better, using single noodles not as support but as an opposing balance challenge and doubles as buoyancy for brief suspended moves:
Why he called this "Senior Posture" I never quite figured out. Sometimes the titles of classes have even less to do with the content. Or maybe it's the language barrier. All I know is I glimpsed a class taught by a young Japanese lady (she teaches exercise on tv back home) with a techno sound track. The name of the class? "Baby Boomer Aqua Groove." Really.


Today is really two posts' worth, so I will devote this first one to the Big Deal of the week, the debut of Aqua Zumba. Those of you not up on the latest trends in exercise may not know that it is one of the hottest and fastest growing group exercise formats in the world. For a taste of it, go to the web site. I'll wait quietly here till you get back. Zumba was started by a poor Colombian kid, Alberto "Beto" Perez, who stumbled on to the use of latin music in group aerobics classes he taught. He is now the charismatic head of an empire that is covering the planet with hip-shaking happy exercisers. Seriously. The Zumba big cheeses just got back from setting up in China. And the next trip is to Turkey. Turkey!

So it is a big deal that Zumba has been adapted for the water and that its introduction to the world was here at the AEA convention. And a big deal that Beto himself was here to lead the first few classes. That's him in the eye shade and no shirt. Lots of people besides me were taking his picture.
I took photos of an earlier class than mine so I could just enjoy my own. It was indeed fun and fast-paced, made use of some familiar water movements among the latin dance steps and some moves that Beto made up himself. I would have enjoyed the class more if the water had not been so crowded. I got trapped between an ancient guy in a wide hat in front of me and a pool wall behind. Couldn't see all the time and couldn't travel much what with the wall and Father Time moving consistently in the wrong direction.

An earlier dry land lecture session introduced us to the "Zumba Team" and filled in the organizational details of Aqua Zumba instruction. To be an instructor, you must first get certified in one of the land forms--Basic Zumba or Zumba Gold (the version for seniors, the deconditioned, and the obese. Their words, not mine.) You learn to identify and choreograph the 8 rhythms: salsa, merengue, cumbia, reggaeton, belly dance, tango, flamenco, and samba. Then you train for the water. The training teaches you the basic framework and how to choreograph for each rhythm. After that, the individual instructor puts their own creativity into it. Most instructors belong to the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN). Membership is voluntary, but most belong because it is the source for new music and moves, as well as continuing education workshops. They are setting up a system for credit for AEA CEUs.

So why are these people smiling?

Because deep under the water their hips are shimmying like mad. Zumba!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First Classes

The conference is now officially open and the fun has begun. I was a little surprised at the minimal amount of swag conferred on registrants. I had put off getting a tote bag and water bottle, thinking those were the sort of handy things likely to be given away to keep the name of Speedo or H2Owear in our minds. Hard economic times curtail the swag, apparently. I sped quickly to the tourist mart across the street and eventually filled my needs with a bag and bottle NOT marked with the image of a Disney character. Going non-Disney here isn't the easy choice.

Coming back to the hotel I heard the unmistakable sound of latin music and followed it to a pool where an aqua Zumba class was in session. It looks and sounds as cool as I thought it would.

But I had to scurry off to suit up for my own first class, “In Synch” with Julie See. It incorporates some synchronized swimming moves into the deep part of a combo class. The silly flowered bathing caps were loaned to the class, I think, to make us more photogenic. Even the two cool Brazilian dudes wore them (after I put my camera away, of course). It was a good class, a good workout, and by using only 3 different synchro moves among the conventional ones she made it very memorable.

Next was “Flex and Stretch”, a repeat of a class from last year, I was told, that was very popular. It was taught by a Brazilian guy with lots of academic qualifications, a very serious manner, and very little English. We had a hard time until we decoded some things—like “push” means pull and “left” means right. It was mainly isometric exercise aided by a specially looped piece of toweling that the guy had designed. A good deal of what he was doing, my partner Mary and I agreed, would not be recommended for people with upper body issues like rotator cuff or carpal tunnel. Class was cut short and I didn’t get a picture because a huge thunderhead was piling up and at the first bolt of lightning everybody scampered out of the pool toot sweet!

From the safety of my room I had the pleasure of watching and listening to a tropical rainstorm, the kind that rattles the palm leaves with hail and turns the air to water in an instant.

After 45 minutes of wild wetness, it settled down to a steady dribble with intermittent thunderbolts. In theory, inclement weather moves classes indoors, but doing aquatic martial arts on land doesn’t have much appeal, so I think I’ll just stay in this evening and watch a movie.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Ptarmigan has landed

Here I am after a long but uneventful journey, roosted in the Wyndham Orlando Resort, headquarters of the IAFC conference and, to my surprise, a lot of other stuff as well. This is a bi-i-i-g place, and though we are likely one of the few groups who monopolize pools, other groups are having meetings and conventions here, too. I daresay we are going to be more comfortable and have more fun than the businessmen in their dark suits & ties or the businesswomen in full face paint, pantyhose and tight skirt rigs. The resort lies on the border of the posh and the tickytacky. This is the view to the north from the front of the Wyndham:
Franchise food and Disney t-shirts as far as the eye can see. To the south it's much greener and posher with snootier malls and swankier restaurants. Inside the resort fence it's a quiet world of 2-story buildings connected by winding paths that wander around the artificial streams and ponds. It's quite a hike from my room to the area where the conference events will be held, but if you're feeling wimpish (or tired and hot), you can hitch a ride on one of the bellmen's golf carts. But if you walk, you can see the ducks, the little lizards (and a cat that hunts them at night), and glorious tropical foliage, to wit:
I stopped by the convention center, where the conference honchos are setting up shop along with a couple dozen actual shopkeepers representing any kind of merchandise an H2O teacher might covet. I ran into Angie Proctor, who even remembered me from her trip to Alaska (I'm sure the pasty winter complexion was a big clue). Tomorrow morning they'll be ready to check me in and at 1 pm I have my first class.

On the way to my room I passed these folks quietly enjoying themselves by one of the pools. I bet tomorrow they're going to wonder what hit 'em--and that'll be way before the drumming circle or the salsa music!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Now with photos (sort of)

My wonderful class at APU, who good-naturedly allow me to try out all kinds of dubious inspirations, have allowed me to use a photo of them to test out the picture possibilities, because who wants to read a blog of just words?

And here is where I need to find Blogger for Dummies, because somehow Blogger takes it into its little head to rotate photos the wrong way round and darned if I can figure out how to make it right. I don't have time to fool around with it much, so I guess I will just have to eliminate pictures like the above rather than ask you to lay your head down sideways in front of the computer to see what I'm talking about. If you know of a for real Blogger for Dummies resource, one that is much more helpful about photos than Blogger's "support" pages, I'd be grateful for the info in the comments.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Trial Balloon

I am creating this blog to record my adventures at the AEA conference in Florida. I'm hoping it will help me process, share, and save the huge amount of information I anticipate will come my way. This is evidence of my first try to set up and post some words.