Having recently attended the International Aquatic and Fitness Conference (IAFC) in Florida in May, I was struck by one word that I kept hearing over and over again. I thought it was really interesting as I hadn't heard that word used as ubiquitously before at any other fitness conference – and I have been to many. I often hear words like 'passionate', 'engage', 'motivated' and 'inspired' but never this particular word. Fitness professionals use it often to describe how they feel about their individual work, but not about a community. The word? Love.
Yes, Love was used often to describe the feeling at the conference. Several times a day, I would hear people describe the Love that they felt from other instructors, from the presenters, and from the organisers. There was this palatable sense of community that I have only ever felt in the aqua circles and the first time that I have heard and felt it at a large event like IAFC. 34 countries were represented at this event and AEA celebrated their 30th year of IACF events. A milestone that Australian Fitness Network had also achieved this year (FILEX was an amazing show this year and one that I do not miss – ever!).
This six day conference of all things water exercise with several streams to pick from, it is an aqua instructor's form of heaven. In the perfect warmth of the Florida heat, nothing is more inviting than to hop in the pool for yet another amazing water exercise experience. Everything was on offer from the fun, dance inspired, choreographed sessions to the presentations on how to cater for chronic diseases. HIIT training was certainly the focus on many sessions and it was really exciting to see how water exercise has changed over the years from being a format that was essentially gentle exercise to now, one of any level of intensity – and that could certainly be more than one would expect from a land based training, without the same impact and higher recovery speeds.
Meeting new people is easy, especially when you are splashing alongside them or drying off in the sun. Water exercise instructors are different from the rest of the fitness industry in many ways, other than the obvious (working in a completely different environment) mainly the casualness of attitude and attire. No one looks pretty with pool hair although there were a couple that seem to defy the odds this year. Cultures and backgrounds fade into the background and each new introduction is an opportunity to learn from each other, smile and share.
So now this year's IAFC is over, but I have made more new friends that I know that I will see again next year. I have seen more expert presenters that have taught me new ways to teach, and use the water effectively and finally I have had the amazing opportunity to experience the Love that was the overall outcome of this conference. Yep – I will be back in 2018.