“Five, four, three. Swing your leg from the back. Kick. Shoulders back — watch this.”

Bright and early Monday morning in the Darien YMCA’s large pool, with upbeat music playing in the background, a dozen women jumped, kicked and turned, as part of Darien YMCA’s new COVID-friendly Aqua Fitness class.

This was just the second week of the class since it has reopened following Connecticut COVID safety guidelines — and everyone looked very happy to be there.

About the class

Aqua Fitness is open to all Darien YMCA members. The fall session begins Aug. 28. Fall programs are on a rolling basis.

The 45-minute class is offered for up to 18 students, and is open to both swimmers and non-swimmers. The pool is from 4 feet to 10 feet and is heated to 80 degrees.

“Some people take the class entirely in the deep end and they wear a waist belt. The belt provides flotation for participants who are in deep water and offers a sense of security to those who may have limitations or are not a strong swimmer, even in shallow water,” said Amy D’Andrea, aquatics director.

Several instructors teach the class, on a rotating schedule. They each choose their own music and exercise routine.

Registration for the class is available on the Darien YMCA website, at darien-ymca.org/, in person at 2420 Post Road, or by calling 203-655-8228.

COVID-friendly

While the YMCA officially re-opened at the end of June, “we waited for this program to come back,” D’Andrea said.

“It took us a good amount of time to prepare for this class to ensure that these people have proper distancing,” she said, adding that most of the students are seniors, and therefore, in the “vulnerable” population, in regard to catching the virus.

To make the class COVID-friendly and adhere to all state guidelines, its entire layout has been completely changed.

To maintain social distancing in the class, each student exercises inside a 12-by-15-foot individually divided area.

Additionally, all staff members are required to wear masks at all times, except for the instructor.

“Our first lane is empty so she will be more than 12 feet away from the closest participant,” D’Andrea said. “She will take her mask off so the students can hear her.”

Students keep their masks on until they get to where they put their towel down, and then they take it off to get into the pool.

Hand sanitizer is available in the pool area and locker rooms.

“We have a sanitizing procedure that takes place before and after each scheduled activity, including all high touch surfaces and all equipment,” D’Andrea said.

Two showers are open to rinse off before coming into the class and again, after the class, prior to changing.

“Gentle exercises,” virtual option

“Exercising in the water is great for any age or ability,” D’Andrea said. “It allows the participants to build strength and improve flexibility by using the resistance of the water. It helps build a healthy spirit, mind and body.”

She continued: “These are very gentle exercises because, for a lot of people, this is the best option, since there is no impact.”

During quarantine, Aqua Fitness was held virtually. For those who still don’t feel comfortable taking it in person, the class is still being offered virtually twice a week.

“The virtual class is tailored exercise-wise to things they do in the water, but can be performed when sitting on their couch or standing in their living room,” D’Andrea said.

“Together again”

Patty Kane, the Darien YMCA’s marketing and communications director, said the Aqua Fitness class is “just one of example of one department that is taking these safety precautions. We are doing the same thing across all of our departments, across the board.”

From a social standpoint, D’Andrea said the class has “been wonderful, because these people are all friends as well. They are so happy to be together again, and see each other, and it’s connection.”

Norwalk resident Marie Reynolds said she’s really pleased the YMCA has been able to create the class during the pandemic.

“They’ve done an incredible job making it safe and also providing us with the services that we absolutely need,” Reynolds said.

Stamford resident Nancy Colletto said she loves the class, and especially loves being back in person.

“Four months of no aqua aerobics was the longest four months,” Colletto said. “The precautions are above and beyond what I expected. The hard part is not being able to hug our friends.”

sfox@darientimes.com