Here at Ritual Motion, we’re big on exercise and physical health. We’re also big on the idea that working out doesn’t have to be boring, monotonous, or even super strenuous. As long as you’re simply moving around and getting your blood pumping, you don’t have to be a gym god to get some positive results. As reported by the New York Times, studies show that even a little bit of exercise improves mood and makes us feel happier. As long as you’re listening to your body and avoiding injury, there’s literally nothing negative about getting a few reps in every once in a while.

With that in mind, earlier this year I created an Animal Crossing-themed workout that incorporated basic stretches and exercises based on the game’s many emotes. The goal wasn’t to get a thorough workout by any means – I’m no exercise expert, just an Animal Crossing devotee – but I’ve heard that it inspired more than a few people to get off their sofas and work up a sweat by acting silly for a little while. That’s awesome!

The original workout was published in February, when my island town was still covered in snow. Since the temperature has changed dramatically since then, I thought I’d refresh the original workout with a water-based routine for all you pool fiends. (I’m right there with you!) Keep reading for a swim workout that will stretch and refresh both your mind and your body – and hopefully keep you cool, too.

The usual disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a personal trainer, but I used to be a swimmer! If any of these moves hurt or cause pain, stop right away and rest.

Warm-Up

Excited – 5 minutes

Whether you’re getting into a pool, a lake, or the ocean, you’ll want to warm up before you start treading water. (Not warming up before swimming can cause cramps!) Plant your feet firmly on the ground a comfortable distance apart from each other and stretch your arms out in front of you. Summon all your sass, and…dance! Feel free to do anything between busting a move and just jiggling back and forth a little. What’s important is that your arms and legs get loosened up, as you’ll be using them the most in the water. If you wear glasses, don’t forget to take them off! (oops.)

Step one: dance!

Ta-Da – 30 seconds

To further stretch your arms, keep them extended. Rotate your hands in a circular motion while flapping them in a sort of weird jazz hands dance. This will help increase blood flood in your arms, limbering them up and reducing the risk of injury. For bonus points, do the same thing with your ankles – while holding on to the closest palm tree, of course.

Step two: jazz hands!

Work Out – 5 reps each

Yes, it’s the actual “work out” emote! Since this is a long emote, I’m breaking it into two separate movements. For the first movement, stretch your arms out horizontally. Lean to the left and touch your left knee with your left hand, then swing up and around to the right and touch your right knee with your right hand. Touch each knee five times, with the goal of maintaining fluid movement and getting a good back stretch.

Step 3: back stretches!

 

For the second movement, stretch both arms and your entire body down toward your left food without bending your knees. Get as close to your left toes as you can – it’s okay if you can’t! Once you’ve gotten close, don’t hold the stretch – that’s called static stretching, and it can cause injury if done before a workout. Instead, come back up to standing height and then lean back down and aim for your right toes. Like the previous movement, focus on fluidity and leaning into the stretch. Reach for each foot five times.

Step three: back stretches!

Now hit the water!

You can dive in, wade, or even tiptoe. It doesn’t matter how fast you go as long as you make it there eventually.

Hit the water!

The Main Workout

Breaststroke – 2 laps

Breaststroke is an actual stroke used by professional and amateur swimmers alike. It’s a slower and easier-to-learn stroke that’s still very powerful when done correctly. Once you’re in the water, kick off the ground or the wall with your feet and put your arms out in front of you. Turn your palms out so that the backs of your hands are touching, then literally pull the water away from you with your hands. Circle your hands in front of your chest and bring them back to their starting position. While doing this, kick your legs in a similar motion. One pull and one circular kick is one full motion of the stroke. Complete two laps like this and try to avoid touching the ground or the bottom of the pool.

If you’re in a pool, laps are easy to mark. If you’re in a lake or the ocean, it’s a little bit harder, so just go with what you’re comfortable with (Watch out for rip currents if you’re in the ocean!).

Step five: breaststroke!

Deep Dive – 10 reps

Once you’ve gotten the hang of breaststroke, pick an area of the water where you can stand easily, and preferably where you can see the bottom. Take a deep breath and dive straight down, touching the ground or bottom of the pool. Come back up once you’ve done so and take a second to breathe and straighten your head. Don’t worry about doing this one too quickly – you don’t want to hit your head or make yourself dizzy.

Step six: dive!

Bottom Swim – 2 laps

Find a shallow area of the pool, lake, or ocean. Dive under the water like you did in the previous movement, but stay there. Swim as close to the bottom as you can, using whatever stroke or swim style that you’re most comfortable with. If you need to breathe, go straight up to take a breath, then come straight back down – keep most of your momentum under the water. For a bonus challenge, have a friend throw toys into the water for you to collect and deliver while swimming on the bottom. Sure, it might be a kids’ game, but it’s also a good workout!

Step seven: bottom swim!

Streamline kick – 2 laps

Your arms have been the stars of the show for most of this workout, so let’s get a little leg love in there! While standing in the water, put your arms behind your ears. Form a triangle with your hands touching above your head while keeping your elbows straight. Dip your head into the water, push off the ground, and start kicking! Go as far as you can with just kicking, keeping your body flat in the water with your momentum. When you need to breathe, turn your head to the side and take a single stroke with your dominant arm, putting your hands back together after you put your head back in the water.

Step eight: streamline kick!

Cool Down

Sideline kick – 3 minutes

Find an area to grab on to, whether that’s the shore, the edge of the pool, or a big rock in the ocean. Keep a firm grip while you kick your legs and feet back and forth at the knee. Since you’re cooling down at this point, you don’t have to kick as hard or as fast as you can, but try to keep a steady pace and get a good stretch. You can also push your body out toward the open water and kick toward the wall while holding on to it, but that requires more upper-body strength.

Step eight: sideline kick!

Tread Water – 1 minute

Head for an open area of the water where you can still touch the ground. Lift your feet off the ground and allow the water to buoy you. Move your arms in outward circles, keeping your feet from touching the ground and gently bobbing up and down. Do this for as long as you can before you need to touch the ground again. For extra good vibes, find a nice patch of shore or a pretty horizon to watch while you float.

Step nine: tread water!

Take a nice rest in the sun

You earned it!

That’s all there is to it! Feel free to complete these movements in any order or for any amount of reps that you feel comfortable with. It’s a great way to cool off while still getting your sweat on, summer-style. Now that COVID-19 restrictions are lifting a little and people are getting out and about again, getting some fresh air and sunshine between marathon Animal Crossing sessions is a great way to stay limber and elevate your mood. Happy exercising!