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‘Those water aerobics are no joke’: New events draw members back to Laurel swim clubs

As the song “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO blared from her boombox, Nancy Whipple led the 25 participants in her Thursday night water aerobics class through a vigorous routine that had them bouncing, kicking, swinging dumbbells and smiling.

This is the first year the West Laurel Swim Club has offered a series of fitness classes — for water aerobics, yoga and strength/fitness — and they have proven to be popular with both members and nonmembers.

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“We really wanted to be a community pool,” said Vanessa van der Have, a West Laurel Swim Club board member. “We’ve added more outreach, community events.”

Since opening on June 18, West Laurel Swim Club has worked hard to create a safe and entertaining place for its members and guests. Posted signs remind people to stay a dolphin apart — about 6 feet — and guests are told to flip their chairs on their sides when they leave to signal it needs to be cleaned. Masks are to be worn in the restrooms and during any interactions with staff.

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“For me, I am very comfortable with the policies we put in place and the county approved,” said Greg Karpman, a board member. “We have had very little, if any, push-back. Everyone is adhering to it voluntarily.”

At Hammond Park Pool, which opened on June 22, members have to bring their own chairs and umbrellas to the pool. Twenty-five picnic tables are available to use, and staff clean them after each use. All railings in the pool are cleaned every hour, according to pool manager Amanda Petersen.

“Thankfully, we have pretty decent-size grounds, so everyone can spread themselves out,” Petersen said. “We have a maximum capacity of 162 people and, so far, we have not had to turn any families away.”

Neither club is hosting a swim team this year. West Laurel’s team members are encouraged to do laps three days a week and Hammond Park hosted a swim clinic for its swim team. Swimming lessons are also unavailable at either pool.

With many pools remaining closed this summer — the Columbia Association has kept all of its 28 outdoor swimming pools closed — both West Laurel and Hammond have seen an increase in memberships. The shortened season, however, coupled with the lack of income from pavilion rentals to social gatherings, has each club looking for new sources of income.

Hammond recently started a boot camp program for fitness, Petersen said.

“We had 10 people,” Petersen said. ‘We’ll see how it works out over the next couple of weeks. It starts at 8 a.m., before the hot humidity.”

The pool also hosts food truck nights throughout the week, Petersen said, and it also had a book club.

The idea of offering outdoor fitness classes at West Laurel had been discussed over the years, van der Have said, with all the pieces falling into place this year, as instructors, unable to teach in indoor facilities, were available.

“I normally don’t teach outdoor classes,” said Whipple, who teaches water aerobics at Fairland Sports and Aquatics Complex in Laurel. “The weather is so unpredictable.”

Since she started teaching two classes a week in the beginning of July, Whipple has had to reschedule one class for a Saturday morning. During class, participants are to keep socially distant in the pool, Whipple said, and she often keeps them turning during a routine so they can see where they are relative to everyone else.

“This is a nice group,” Whipple said. “A lot of them had never taken a class before.”

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On a recent Thursday evening, both sides of Whipple’s class were surrounded by activities, as people of all ages cooled off in the water on the humid night.

“Look how many kids are here,” Karpman said. “It’s 7:30 p.m. and this is where parents are bringing their children. It’s a place to go to be outside.”

Beth Friedman has been a member at West Laurel for 13 years, starting when her kids were young and on the swim team.

“It was an easy half-hour to two-hour vacation,” said Friedman, who has participated in both the yoga and water aerobics classes.

“It’s a good way to get exercise,” Friedman said. “Those water aerobics are no joke. It really works you out.”

As the West Laurel Swim Club’s property extends beyond the fenced pool, the board is considering future uses for the property, from building tennis courts to creating a dog park, van der Have said.

“We’re not there yet,” she said. “I’m just putting it out in the universe.”

The club is also considering whether to remain open after Labor Day, when it typically closes, as many of its staff are college students and may be available to work due likely participating in online schooling, Karpman said.

“We might stay open weekends,” Karpman said. “People are getting creative. There are a whole lot of new ideas now we never would have thought of before.”

For now, the board is relieved to be open and to be able to offer the new classes.

“We are grateful for every day that we are open,” Karpman said.

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