No one lounges on a treadmill or takes a snooze in the sunshine while floating on a lat pull-down machine.

Only a swimming pool has the distinct honor of being both a place of summer relaxation AND a venue for serious exercise, which means a workout in the water can still hint at an impending pool party (especially when the pool noodles come out).

And during an Aqua Fitness class at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, you might forget you’re actually exercising…at least until those innocuous-looking foam dumbbells come out. (They weigh nothing on land and yet they’re sources of pure muscle exhaustion once they’re in the water.)

A workout in the water at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Shannon Bryan photos

But wait! You’re not a student at St. Joe’s? Not a problem! Many of the fitness classes at the college are open to the public, too. Aqua Fitness costs $7 for a drop-in, or $60 for a 12-punch pass. (And if you are a student or alum, you can take the class for free.)

Class begins with a warm-up in the shallow end – a back and forth that includes high knees and butt-kicks and submerged jogging that’s so slow it makes my real jogging seem super fast.

The warm-up during an Aqua Fitness class at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Shannon Bryan photo

Then you bring in the foam dumbbells. These implements of aquatic exercise look like bath toys and are so light you’ll wonder WHAT you could possibly get out of using them. It won’t be clear at first, as you lift them overheard or to out to the side, letting them hover over the water as your arms pulse up and down.

Raise those dumbbells up! Shannon Bryan photo
Some upper body work in the pool at St. Joe’s. Those foam dumbbells look so light and fluffy, but they pack some serious resistance once in the water. Shannon Bryan photo

But then the instructor tells you to bring them under the water for some more upper body exercise and that’s when it becomes clear: Those dumbbells want to float. Resistance, it’s no joke. And those water weights get decidedly more challenging once they’re submerged. (The better to work you out!)

Working out with the water weights during an Aqua Fitness class. Shannon Bryan photo

There’s plenty of lower-body and core work in the class, too. You’ll move about the pool, kicking your legs and swinging your arms or floating on your back and bringing your knees to your chest. All the muscles will some attention.

Core work in the pool at St. Joe’s. Shannon Bryan photo

And what’s great about aquatic exercise (aside from the whole “hey, I’m in a pool!” thing) is that it’s perfect for anyone who’s got joint issues or who needs a low/no impact way to work out. The buoyant water takes the pressure off hips and knees.

Moving about the pool. Shannon Bryan photo

The Aqua Fitness class at St. Joe’s is an all-levels class, and the participants range from college students to retirees. It’s also nice to paddle around and chat with other people (which you can do because your head never goes under the water. One woman in the class I took aimed to keep her hair dry the entire class, and she pretty much did).

The pool noodles are OUT! Shannon Bryan photo
She’s working out and seems to be having a good time, too! Shannon Bryan photo
Aqua Fitness at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Shannon Bryan photo

Aqua Fitness at St. Joseph’s, Standish

Alfond Center, Saint Joseph’s College, 278 Whites Bridge Road, Standish
Free for St. Joe’s students and alumni, $7 drop-in for community members, $60 for a 12-punch pass (Standish residents get a $10 discount on punch passes).

Schedule (which changes, so check the website for current schedule).
8-9 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday
8:15-9:15 a.m. Monday and Wednesday
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday