Are you tired of running on a treadmill or riding the stationary bike at your local gym? If so, consider changing up your workout routine and take advantage of your pool as a source of exercise.

But before you dive in to your first workout, it’s important to consider your health and fitness level and how both affect your exercise routine; paying a visit to your doctor will determine if you’re healthy enough for physical activity. If you haven’t exercised in the past few months and have

in the water, where it feels easier,” says MaryBeth Pappas Baun, health management advocate with Gallagher Benefits Services and president of Baun Associates/Wellness Without Walls. “You need to focus especially on using your torso muscles to make sure you’re in a protected, neutral posture. Not only does your torso get

more toned in appearance, but you are protecting your back, your neck, your pelvis and your shoulders.”

In a protected, neutral posture, you bring your shoulder blades down toward your waist, engage your abdominal muscles and roll your shoulders back to open your chest.

Establish a new workout routine

If you’re someone whose joints can’t handle the shock of running on a hard surface or pedaling a bicycle, the pool is a great tool to stay in shape without sustaining the pain or injuries you could deal with from other forms of exercise.

“The nice thing about water is that besides keeping you cool, which can be important for a lot of people, it reduces the impact shock that people experience on their joints,” Pappas Baun says. “Being in the water makes it feel like it’s easier, even though, in reality, you’re getting much more in the way of resistance training.”

That increased resistance is primarily due to water’s viscosity. That’s why walking in a pool is a much more challenging than taking a stroll down your driveway. Due to that increased resistance, it’s important to take small steps toward reaching your fitness goals this season, especially if you weren’t very active during the winter.

For example, start by simply walking in your pool. Walk with the same gait and arm motion you do outside of the water—although more slowly because of the viscosity—and try it for 5 or 10 minutes. Depending on

how you feel, you can extend your workout the next day.

Pappas Baun recommends no more than a 10 percent increase in the duration of your exercise each time you work out. So if you felt invigorated after 10 minutes of walking, add one minute to your routine the next time out.

“Think of a bell curve,” she says. “Give your cardio system a chance to warm up and come up into a higher level of exertion, and then cool down gradually.”

Use the FITT principle as a guide

Even if you’ve been exercising all winter long and are in great health, you still should be cautious when transitioning into pool workouts.

“It’s important to start off very gradually if you haven’t been doing this kind of thing before or if you’re changing from another form of exercise,” Pappas Baun says. “It will surprise you.”

With that in mind, consider the FITT principle when developing an exercise plan this season:

  • Frequency. How many times you exercise each day depends on your health and fitness. Start out slow, and move toward 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each day, Pappas Baun says. Include strength training twice a week, such as using water paddles for added resistance, making slow, controlled movements.
  • Intensity. If you’re healthy and in great shape, you can gradually increase your intensity from moderate to high. After the workout, you want to feel exhilarated, not exhausted, Pappas Baun says. If you’re worn out, dial down yourintensity.
  • Type. It’s early in the season, so pool exercises will be different than the non-pool-related workouts you’ve been doing the past few months.
  • Time. Start in small increments and increase the length of your workout by 10 percent, as your body allows, Pappas Baun says.

Pappas Baun also says it’s important that you don’t try to increase all elements of the FITT principle at the same time. Instead, focus on one aspect of the principle each time you exercise. That way, you avoid getting discouraged, injured or exhausted, she says.

Diversify your workout plan

If you’re a workout warrior in the pool, it might be time to shake up your regular routine. Pappas Baun recommends the following exercises to ramp up your workouts:

  • Walk backwards, sideways or with a cross-step to elevate your walking exercises.
  • Yoga in the pool is a great way to stretch and improve flexibility.
  • Imitate tai chi or other martial arts moves.
  • Run in the water while wearing a flotation vest designed for water exercise, eliminating any impact shock on your joints.
  • Emulatecross-country skiing, bicycling and skiing over moguls.

Creating a

diverse workout routine keeps you engaged throughout the season. If you stick to a plan while your pool is open, there’s a better chance you’ll continue exercising when the cover goes back on at summer’s end.

“[Exercising in the pool is] a great way to cross train so you don’t get injured,” Pappas Baun says. “It’s a good way to exercise when it’s hot out because you don’t want to get overheated—that’s discouraging and dangerous. It works

the stabilizing muscles of the body in a

way that gives you more injury resilience and more staying power for the other kinds of exercise.”