Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 23 - Debbie Booth - WATER IS THE NEW GYM - Part 1 of 3

So, if I sit them on an aquatic bench in the water, their feet most likely will just pop right up. They don't know how to get them back down. So, you have to teach them how to sit and stand.

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“So, if I sit them on an aquatic bench in the water, their feet most likely will just pop right up. They don't know how to get them back down. So, you have to teach them how to sit and stand. But that sit stand translates to sit standing on - chair, transferring with help if they're at that point where they have caregivers, I can get them strong enough to caregivers, they can help the caregivers and become more independent. Even though some of these people will never be independent again, but they can be more independent.” This episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast is brought to you by Solpri, Skincare for Athletes. Whether you're in the gym, on the mats, on the road or in the pool, we protect your skin so you're more comfortable in your own body. To learn more, go to

JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I'm your host Jesse Funk. Today, my guest is a NASM certified personal trainer. But more importantly, she actually has a lot of special certifications and kind of a special thing that she does. She's certified in aquatic rehabilitation. She's certified aqua pilates instructor and she is the creator of Water's the New Gym. Welcome to the show, Debbie Booth.

DEBBIE: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

JESSE: Thanks for making time for me Debbie. I know it's been a back and forth trying to figure out both of our schedules because you're busy doing your thing, and then I'm busy doing my own thing. So, I always appreciate when people make the time to sit and chat with me.

DEBBIE: Well, I'm really flattered that you asked me to be on the show. It's a huge surprise and thank you.

JESSE: Well, the thing is I sometimes I'm looking and I also have an assistant who help me look for people and you like we've talked about before the show started, not the best at social media and I'm not either. But I'm looking for people that are doing kind of unique and noteworthy things that are both physical in nature but also very intelligent. So, let's say like aquatic rehabilitation isn't necessarily unique to you, but it does seem like you've taken it and made it your own thing. So, it was definitely like I really want to talk to you and see what you're doing. So, tell me a little bit about your office here. You were telling me you're finally putting your office back together, you've got your anatomy guy there behind you. And then you're hiding all of your certifications on your shelf behind you.

DEBBIE: I just did a huge home remodel. So, my office had to become my [??? 2:56] and I could kind of just get in and get out of it. That was about it. I did a lot of work from my bedroom for months while my whole house is being reconstructed. So, I'm back at my office and it's a little messy. So, hopefully, you can only see the top, not the bottom. There's some things on the floor. But I have my normal fitness things in my office; exercise bands and a fitness bond, my guy on the wall, which I love because it just kind of helps me refresh. Because one of the main thing I do really with water in the Water's the New Gym is take land exercise and put it to water and put it back. So, when...water it really sometimes helps when I have people complain about specific things [??? 3:45]

JESSE: Oh, yeah?

DEBBIE: Yeah. [unclear]

JESSE: Yeah, I know, anytime I'm injured, I think about where the pain is and then I'm looking up anatomical model. I'm like, oh, I need to figure out specifically what the issue is, not just like something in my calf or just know this particular muscle group is the issue so I can actually target it. I mean, that's obviously a big part of what you do as a professional is probably in a more professional capacity than my layman's googling search trying to figure out my own problem helping your clients get back on their feet. So, you gave me the run through before the show, but for the show, can you give me the run through of what is Water's the New Gym? What are you doing there?

DEBBIE: So, basically what I do, my background, I'm an athlete. I've been an athlete my whole life and I've had my own set of injuries. So, that's really what led me to the water. I had ruptured a disc when I was 35 from playing in a batting cage with my nieces and nephews and my own kids. So, that's kind of what spurred it. I had surgery, had a doctor, a neurosurgeon, renowned neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins Hospital tell me that I didn't need physical therapy after surgery, that I could just go back to my life. What he saw when he looked at me was young fit athlete, I didn't require any special treatment.

What really happened was I went back to the gym and tried to go back to my routine, which was pretty heavy in and golf volleyball or weightlifting [??? 5:34] parenting, and heading right back into that pain cycle, and I couldn't get out and the pain was excruciating. So, I finally found my own people and the therapist ordered me out of the gym, which was painful to be told you can't go to the gym anymore, but it was the best thing that happened and I ended up in a pool. So, I could only do aquatic exercise for months and months and months and months until I was strong enough and was out of that pain cycle - enough that I could go back to the gym and start doing actual gym exercises. That's how I got into this realm, and that would be 20 years ago, 21 years ago.

JESSE: Did you have anybody to guide you in the pool or were you kind of on your own?

DEBBIE: I was kind of on my own and the Aquatic Rehabilitation Institute, and really was just establishing themselves. The pioneers in this industry were just starting out. So, it was pretty new here in the US. So, it's kind of cool. So, I kind of grown up with this industry. And then for years following I coached. I've coached lacrosse, started some lacrosse programs in different states and I had injured athletes, worked with them; a lot of knee injuries, shin splints, things like that. So, I had to keep abreast of [??? 7:11] the product to keep them on the field, can't have your ace player injured...gotta keep going.

So, that's really where it was born from and then now a lot of my population is 50 and older and there are a lot of surgical patients or masters athletes that are in here, or looking to remit their land training, and train in the water more. So, there's kind of two ways to go. [??? 7:44] people think that they're injured - go right into the pool, and it's for old people and injured people. But there are also a ton of athletes using the poor as well as - military using the pool to train so that they're athletes, military personnel are not so beat up from land if that makes any sense.

JESSE: Yeah.

DEBBIE: I myself cross train to run half marathons in the pool. So, I ran more in the pool than I did on land and had my most amazing years when I was doing it that way.

JESSE: Are you actually using like an underwater treadmill or are you Aqua jogging?

DEBBIE: No. Aqua jogging, tethering to the wall. My dream is to have hydro works [??? 8:33] pool. On my...I ran in that pool in California when I did the logics master training certification. And let me tell you what, I was sweating 30 minutes after I was done. I was dressed and still sweating. It was rough. It was really hard. But it was also amazing. I also on that, I think in the website, I'm sure there's a gentleman who couldn't walk an he was wheelchair bound, and we put weights on his legs and he was able to walk with...independently.

JESSE: Yeah, I mean those machines are really cool but as you know they're pretty cost prohibitive for the vast majority of I'll say gym owners because they're so specialized too. It's like almost like a hospital type item. There are more of these but the zero G treadmill, I'm sure you've seen that as well that has like a skirt that goes around you and essentially hold you up so you're not putting as much weight on the on the treadmill. I don't know how much the aqua. treadmills are but I think the zero G's are somewhere around like 20 grand a machine, something like that. For such a specialized piece of equipment, you got to have a lot of gym patrons to justify that.

DEBBIE: Right. Well in the aqua world, they have individual aqua tapes that have treadmills. So, it's kind of like that zero G gravity one, but then there's also pools. So, hydro works...builds pools for the entire bottom moves, and the bottom of the pool comes up to deck surface. So, you can roll somebody in a wheelchair, and there's rails, and they can stand up and lower the treadmill down and they can literally walk. And we use equipment to get somebody who's neurologically impaired to feel their feet. For example, my quadriplegic lady, I tried to send you a video of her so you could see her, she's really pretty amazing. I weight her feet, so she has braces and wears full tennis shoes on her feet, the braces into her shoes.

Then I put five pounds on each leg. Now she knows where her feet are so she can stand up and she hangs on to me and she can walk and goes to the side of the pool. We'll put her back to the pool and do [??? 11:10] march. We use the pool for support and march, do various core exercises. We put her back to the wall and facing the wall...she has a rail on the side of a pool that she's able to use. And her family is just amazed that she can do any of these things. And for her, she has a tracheotomy.

So, she's breathing through a very-- it's about the diameter of a pencil. So, she's non-speaking...merge her and she's limited mobility hand wise, but we've been able to modify some equipment and she can stay fit. So, she had a serious bout of pneumonia back in December, and she survived it and she's doing much better now. It's fairly incredible for her. It's like...she's on her back or in the chair...

JESSE: Yeah. Yeah.

DEBBIE: Pretty cool.

JESSE: But it kind of makes me wonder is this...and they kind of I guess it shows you a little bit the selfish nature of people. I kind of wonder now given what you said, I've never really thought about-- because I'm able bodied, I've never really thought about this but like in your experience, how often are we basically labeling somebody is paraplegic or quadriplegic, when actually they have some mobility in their limbs, but they just don't have enough strength or mobility to move about on land, I guess.

DEBBIE: Correct. So, when you take gravity away, which is what the water does, so if you're submerged, waist deep, you lose 50% of your gravity. So, take somebody, I mean, we'll go to the illness side first. So, take somebody obese, take somebody with severe low back pain, hip knee pain, scoliosis, MS, Parkinson's, balance disorder, neurological disorder, people put them in the water. Now they don't have gravity, and they have this part of the [??? 13:37] they have something kind of helping them hold up, stand up, and then you can get them moving. And it's such a weird sensation for them because the water is backwards to land. You know, if you fall down on land, you just stand up. If you fall down in the water, you will float up.

So, somebody who's not very strong, that's one thing we have to watch is their limbs will just float right up and it's kind of - . So, if I sit them on an aquatic bench in the water, their feet most likely will just pop right up. They don't know how to get them back down. So, you have to teach them how to sit and stand. But that sit stand translates to sit standing on - chair, transferring with help if they're at that point where they have caregivers. I can get them strong enough to caregivers, they can help the caregivers and become more independent. Even though some of these people will never be independent again, but they can be more independent.

The other biggest thing I've seen it the water is it the hydrostatic pressure in the water changes blood flow through the body. So, your heart rate drops 15 to 17 beats a minute. So, if you have a heart condition or in case of obesity, your heart slows down, but the blood is pumping more efficiently because the pressure the water is pushing it from your feet all the way through heart, lungs, brain. So, I have one major stroke victim and I had more but one I'm still working with then a couple just TBI incidences and cognitive decline and that changes in the water over time.

JESSE: Because of the increase blood flow?

DEBBIE: Because of the blood flows. So, like when you see somebody with poor circulation, they might have ashen, kind of greyish skin. They're kind of not always with you, you talked to them and they kind of float off and I get them to refocus and pay attention. I have some that that's the goal is the cognitive part of it. Yeah, really amazing.

And changes happen and they happen pretty rapidly. So, it's amazing because everybody's different. Then I go to my hip lady who had hip surgery and release from therapy comes to me and we just get her up and rocking and rolling so she can live her life. It runs the gamut. My athlete who had knee surgery, she's back out [??? 16:19].

It's crazy or just the person that wants to train like said, doesn't want to train as hard on land because maybe they're already failing. Who knows, it's...look and see how many colleges, university or how many universities and like I said the military are pretty - to keep their athletes healthy, plus professional sports. I should send you that - .

JESSE: I mean, so most of your clients or I'll say older or had some kind of debilitating issue that makes movement tough, correct? So, you mostly work with?

DEBBIE: That's a lot in my population. So, I pretty much specialize on-- I work in a facility, you have to be 50 or married to somebody 50 years old. However, I will say this, our facility has more masters athletes than most. So, we run Senior Olympics out of our facility. We have the gamut of people. So, what happens by the time, this is what I've noticed, by the time somebody gets to be in their 50s, which, I'll admit I'm there, we've been doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over. So, now we had repetitive strain issues. And then they're playing their sport, and they're finding that they're compensating and then they start breaking down and realize that they need to fix it. And then -we're in a society that people are in for the quick fix. [??? 18:09] replace my knee. Great. Oh, it's only going to be six weeks. Great.

Well, that's not really how it goes. And once they get caught they realize that, oh, well it's six weeks until I can do this but I'm still not back where I need to be. You know, orthopedic surgery has come a long way, but for everybody it's not a good outcome or they don't go in strong, I don’t know if this makes any sense. But I had a lot-- [crosstalk] were headed for surgery and they come to me first and then go to surgery and then come back to me after therapy and their outcomes are incredible. [??? 18:55] strong, good blood flow, good muscle, come back and they're out running again, biking... I work with a lot of motivated people that are not going to sit on the sidelines. Oh no, I'm traveling, and that's what's cool about what I do.

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