What’s going on stateside?

International fitness presenter and Network Ambassador Marietta Mehanni reports from her recent trip to the world’s leading aqua convention.

Each year the AEA (Aquatic Exercise Association) in the US holds its International Aquatic and Fitness Convention (IAFC) in Florida. This was its 29th year (similar to Australian Fitness Network), and I was honoured to be presenting at the 4-day event.

This year’s IAFC was held at Innisbrook Golf Resort which has several pools, conference facilities and accommodation options on site. To get to each venue you can catch ‘trolleys’ (they’re mini buses, but trolley sounds fun!) to each session location, or walk or hire a bike, which is what I did as the weather was so perfect it seemed crazy not to enjoy the fresh warm air (May in Melbourne gets pretty chilly, so this felt like a holiday).

The IAFC program has something for everyone, from older adult programming with updated information on arthritis, health issues and gentle movement to highly choreographed energetic sessions. The event may have an aqua focus, but there was still a big emphasis on HIIT programming, which is now ubiquitous across the fitness industry. Another interesting point thing to note was the wide range of attendees from around the globe – this event is truly international, with 33 countries represented by both delegates and presenters.

Sometimes, when you experience workouts and classes in other countries, you’re struck by big differences, like completely different timetables or class formats. Other times, it’s the little things that really grab your attention. One thing that I found really interesting was the way in which instructors use choreography. In Australia when we talk about choreography, it is about matching the music with the move, similar to Les Mills and Zumba formats. At IAFC, choreography refers to routines that are developed much like a land-based freestyle HiLo or Step class. For example, teach a flick kick to the front for 32 or 64 counts, then teach a side kick for 32 or 64 counts. The next step would be to add them together and make sure that you still worked with the 32-count block. Other moves would be added or linked together in a similar fashion and then you would layer intensity, direction, rotation or travelling to the moves you had put together. In one master class there was usually 3 combinations or routines and then they were repeated for a finale song. As an experienced instructor, it was really striking how different this is from what we do in Australia and New Zealand.

Several presentations were focused on the transition moves – how to move from one pattern in the water to another seamlessly, and this master class format was delivered by most presenters at IAFC.

The event organisers Angie Proctor and Julie See manage to make the event also feel like a holiday – which only makes sense when you’re spending so much of your time in the pool in the Sunshine State! Social buffet lunches, a charity dinner, and an Atlantis-themed gala night in which guests competed to wear the best and craziest outfits all added to the vacation feel.

There was also plenty of wildlife to enjoy, such as the alligator that I found sitting out on the golf course (a local resident apparently - and one that would certainly make me pick up my pace on an early morning run...!). Squirrels, exotic birds, ducks and skunks can be spotted regularly, though I didn’t catch a glimpse of the snapping turtles. Hopefully next time.

The convention culminated in a master class where almost every delegate shows up to either participate or watch a selection of presenters showcase five minutes of their favourite moves. So cool, so much fun and an incredible way to end a week of learning and sharing. This is an event that I want to make part of my yearly schedule and I’m looking forward to 2017.

Marietta Mehanni is an award-winning presenter, highly respected instructor mentor, Pelvic Floor First Ambassador and Australian Fitness Network Ambassador with over 20 years’ experience teaching and presenting group exercise. mariettamehanni.com