Can You Sweat Underwater? … and other questions for Aqua Zumba instructor Christine Agustin

click to enlarge SERGIO CHAPA
Sergio Chapa

Aqua Zumba. Offered as part of Fitness in the Park most Wednesdays from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m., this course is not to be taken lightly.

No, really. The hour-long, free, workout/party, led by instructor Christine Agustin, is fast-paced, fun and best of all, underwater (well, not for Agustin; she's probably dehydrated by the time the class ends).

Agustin, a Guam native who came to San Antonio 10 years ago has always had a passion for dance. The Tahitian dancer found the transition easier to handle by becoming a Zumba instructor.

“I found this craze and I grew to love it,” Agustin, 32, said. “It’s so versatile. I tell my students the best part is that it can take you around the world by introducing different rhythms — salsa, merengue, cumbia — I love that idea.”

Though she teaches land Zumba regularly at various studious and Gold’s Gyms around town, Agustin has carved a niche for herself with Aqua Zumba, which requires another license to teach. The training shows would-be instructors how to modify movements specifically for water.

“I was hesitant at first, but then I thought I’m an island girl, this will be a piece of cake,” she says.

Aqua training includes eight hours with one master class in the water, but it was out of the pool where the real learning began. Movements are easier underwater even with the added resistance, but instructors are taught to make movements bigger so they’re doable below the surface.

“I was literally covered in sweat puddles,” she laughs.

The class has been featured through Fitness in the Park since 2012 and these days Agustin tallies more than 80 people per session. Participants, mostly women, range from mid-20s to late-80s. The number of men has also grown exponentially as the class increases.

“It changes the energy. For a guy to be open about joining, it helps to emphasize this class is for all shapes, sizes, sexes, and anyone is able to take the classes, dancers, nondancers a like,” Agustin says. “It makes me happy.”

Class often feels like a night out at your favorite dance club, but the work out is real. Unlike a traditional zumba class, purposeful coordination and movement are required to nail a majority of the steps. The end result is Jell-O legs and a nuanced soreness throughout your entire body. But! No one can see how poorly you dance, how off beat you are, or how sweaty you're getting — it's a win-win-win.

For Agustin, who brings an ice-filled cooler to class as a way to deal with the South Texas heat and humidity, the reward is hearing the difference the class makes for pool-goers.

“It’s exhausting, but once you hear people say the difference you’ve made, when they couldn’t bend over to tie their laces 3 months ago, and now they can after taking the class,” Agustin says.