PEQUOT LAKES — For one hour, three mornings every week, you’ll hear a whole lot of laughter echoing through the swimming pool area at the Scandia North Apartments in Pequot Lakes.
It’s not a pool party; it’s time for the Aquachicks.
The Aquachicks, as they call themselves, wear their motto, “We don’t skinny dip, we chunky dunk,” on matching T-shirts when they go out to lunch together to celebrate their birthdays once a month.
They are a group of women who started doing water aerobics together in about 1995 at the former Pequot Swim and Fitness facility, which closed years ago.
They were invited to relocate their now private group to the Scandia North pool because two of the Aquachicks live there. Renee Anderson started as their instructor and also works out three mornings a week with them.
The Aquachicks have up to 12-14 members, fewer during the winter months since many of them head south for the winter, and they range in age from 60 to 84.
While the Aquachicks began as simply a water aerobics class, it has evolved into so much more than that. The women have become the best of friends and emotional support each other. They’ve been there for one another through heartache; five of the members have lost their husbands. They’ve been there for each other when they’ve had surgeries and will call when someone misses one or two classes to make sure she is OK.
They have lots of fun in the water, but make no mistake about it, it is a workout. They push and encourage each other through their 60-minute workout sessions.
There are only two things they can’t discuss in the pool:
religion and politics, said Pat Hardy.
Everything else is fair game and might even make a grown man blush at times.
“What you hear in the pool, stays in the pool,” said Joan McBrien. “What you see in the pool, stays in the pool.”
“It’s a place to come and laugh,” added Carol Alberson.
All joking aside, the workout itself is serious business. For many of them, they need the frequent sessions so their joints aren’t stiff and they aren’t in pain. Some women said they might not have been able to walk now if it hadn’t been for the Aquachicks.
Mary Plante, one of the few newcomers, joined the group four years ago. Plante said she was on pain pills the majority of the time before she started working out with the Aquachicks. She has fibromyalgia, arthritis and a degenerative disc disease. Now, after working out three mornings a week in the warm pool, she only takes pain pills on an occasional as-needed basis.
“I feel I would be housebound if I didn’t have this,” said Plante.
Becky Guminga, the youngest Aquachick at age 60, suffers from arthritis in her hips, back and knees. She started water aerobics with the Aquachicks two years ago and said it has made a noticeable difference in how she feels.
When one of the Aquachicks died a few years ago, she made sure the Aquachicks were mentioned in her eulogy; they meant that much to her. The women wore their Aquachicks t-shirts together to her funeral.
Doris Asselstine said she’s there for the benefits of the exercise, but the camaraderie keeps her coming back.
“I don’t like to exercise at home alone,” Asselstine said.
“Where else can you wear a bathing suit and feel good about yourself?” said Joan McBrien as she led the women in an arm workout using empty milk jugs. “Come on ladies, let’s show our wings.”
■ JODIE TWEED is a freelance writer and a proud granddaughter of longtime Aquachicks member Vonnie Tweed.