The excitement and the anticipation of attending the fifth International Conference on Evidence-Based Aquatic Therapies (ICEBAT) had been growing inside of me for months. Unsure who I’d meet, but, certain I needed to be there, my excitement multiplied when names like Bruce Becker and Johan Lambeck appeared in the “line-up” of keynote speakers.
For me, best possible outcomes for my patients/patrons meant I would have significant opportunity to learn empirical evidence from the some of the latest published studies and have face-to-face conversations with aquatic leaders like these two industry icons. Not only would I learn but, as in past professional aquatic conferences, I could reaffirm what I’d already put into practice with my patrons.
Keynote speakers from various countries presented their findings on such matters as end-stage dementia, neural plasticity, and motor learning, therapies for the end of life quality, appropriate applications for children with CP and cartilage health and repair. Oral presenters and poster presentations were intermingled with pool practicums and equipment demonstrations that, in some cases were new to many and in some cases familiar to me. What wasn’t familiar were vendors from other countries offering products and services like dolphin encounters as a therapy or in-water photography.
What I gleaned from all the presentations and research was simple: the industry requires unification and some concrete basis of “assumed competency” and “common knowledge” that bridges between the practitioner (me), the trainer like Mary Wykle and Kiki Dickinson and the researchers like Ben Waller and Johan Lambeck.
To start, Paula Geigle’s opening keynote address emphasized a need for recording the specific parameters of dosing: a consistent and comprehensive documentation of what is taught in the water and how. Specifically, each professional needs to record the following:
- Water Depth and temperature
At the top of this list, “cadence.” Is it a coincidence that Geigle referenced it first and I find it THE most prominent controllable parameter of consistency for the participant? Geigle’s leading bullet was an affirmation for me that I continue to “set the pace” for my participant(s) by establishing the rhythm or speed either by music or verbal counting cue and sometimes both when cueing half-speed or double time.
Other keynotes spoke about using a metronome, but as a practitioner, in a true natatorium like a YMCA or Community Center, a metronome would likely be inaudible…especially to older adults! The bass thump of 135 bpm Dynamix CD, however, would ultimately serve as my backdrop for tempo, half-tempo and double or even quadruple time, depending upon the moves.
As an Ai Chi instructor, I have grown so holistically through this practice of coordinating breath with a movement that I now incorporate it in ALL my teachings from personal training to boot camp or HIIT and deep water running or arthritis and mobility instruction.
Another practicum leader stated that he didn’t believe in stretching. It has been an integral part of my cool-down phase of instruction in virtually every class or personal training I have led in 27 years of practice. I have no clinical data to back up my experience in leading arthritis classes, but, I feel certain that a stretch is imperative in the older population. Where is the evidence to support such a belief that it isn’t important?
Bottom line: This conference will reconvene in two years in China. Start saving now. In a worldwide perspective, all can contribute, learn and be made stronger in the profession. The intimacy of the gathering makes it somewhat elitist but also empowering. In this setting, relationships can be established that foster progress for the industry in the world, not just in our country or region. For us in the U.S., it seems we need to ‘catch up’ with some other countries who are leading our industry. Also, I hope that 2020 vendors will include new players in the field like float therapy pools and AquaBase. With the advent of full face mask snorkels, how many non-swimmers could overcome their fear of water?
Felecia Fischell is a certified aquatic practitioner with 27 years experience in aquatic personal training and group exercise. She is passionate about water and it’s pain relief and healing properties. Fischell is currently in the process of relocating to the island of Ambergris Caye in Belize where she is setting up an aquatic practice. She continues to maintain an active interest and perhaps role in creating the 2020 ICEBAT Conference to be held in Beijing. Find her on Facebook at FunLife Aquatic Consulting, LLC.