Ten women alternate raising foam barbells over their heads – left arm up and right arm down; right arm up and left arm down – as they nimbly walk across the width of the pool. As the group forms into a circle, one of the members mentions she has some black-eyed Susans available if anyone would like some. This prompts a discussion on flowers and gardening.
Among the talk, Lynda Fourrier calls out the different exercises for the group to complete. The women go through the various activities, which have become routine.
Three days per week the Waterloo community pool hosts 45-minute morning aqua aerobics classes. The group of attendees is known as the Water Lilies, a name given to them in the late 1990s by then-pool director Pat Sayre, and some of the women have been members of the group for nearly 30 years.
For some of the women, joining the Water Lilies was due to the joy they found in swimming.
“I just love being in the water and swimming,” said Delphine Schaefer of Columbus, who has been with the Lilies for 28 years. “Now, I just love being with this group. It’s amazing how many of us have stuck together for so long. How many other groups can say that they’ve been together for almost 30 years?”
Waterloo Roberta Schoenwetter recollects that she’s been with the group for 10-12 years. She initially joined the morning aqua aerobics class because it offered a convenient location and time. Schoenwetter stayed because of the friendships that have been formed.
The friendships have expanded beyond the water. After the Sept. 9 class, the women were going out for coffee, something they try to do once a month. Fourrier, of Waterloo, said some of the members started to bike together and there are occasionally other outings.
Fourrier, a member since the mid-1980s, has voluntarily been leading the group since 2006, when the previous instructor left for a different job. But just because she calls out the exercises does not mean she’s the only person taking charge.
“A lot of the women see something that they want to try out and so we do,” she said.
For instance, when the Water Lilies needed to temporarily locate to pools in Beaver Dam and Watertown while the Waterloo pool was being cleaned or renovated, the group would see what exercises other aqua aerobics groups were conducting and the Lilies added those to their repertoire.
When the coronavirus shut down schools in March, it included all facilities including the community pool. Pool and fitness center director Janessa Henning said the Water Lilies was one of the first groups itching to get back into the water once the pool reopened at the beginning of July.
There are numerous indications of how the group has needed to adapt to COVID-19. For instance, all the women have their temperatures scanned by the lifeguards before entering the water, there are dedicated spaces on the pool deck for masks to be placed when not in use, the members keep some distance between one another while in the water, and a few of the participants even choose to wear their masks while in the pool.
As of now, due to restrictions, only 11 people are allowed in the water at the same time. Fourrier said the Sept. 9 gathering had the highest attendance since the group resumed meeting after the pool reopened in early July; at that time, no more than six people were allowed in the water at once.
“Having the group back in the water adds a bit of normalcy to life,” she said.
“We enjoy being back together,” said Schoenwetter. “We’ve all become such good friends that we’re happy to see each other again.”