At each of its 31 area locations, the YMCA of Greater Houston pursues a mission to bring health, wellness, and personal growth to communities. Kids leap into activities ranging from swim lessons and youth sports to a teen Youth & Government program that stirs up confidence and leadership abilities in students, preparing them for mudslinging student-council campaigns.
Zumba, ballroom dance, and Les Mills group exercise classes shake up adult workout routines, as complimentary childcare frees up parents to pursue fitness goals. Meanwhile, adult sport leagues such as basketball and racquetball result in friendly competition and hyper-literate team names inspired by obscure philosophers.
PADI instructor Bob Henry dove in the Caribbean, South America, and other tropical locales, but he always returned to his home base—B & W Dive Co., a scuba shop he founded in 1991. Since the ‘90s, his children Amber and Warren have taken the reins, carrying on their dad’s legacy by organizing dive trips and helping students earn their PADI certifications. The shop’s classes cover topics beyond open-water diving, though; they can introduce pupils to scuba basics, such as breathing underwater without trading in their ability to breathe on land, or focus on snorkeling and swimming. Visitors can also outfit themselves for solo underwater journeys with dependable aquatic gear, culled from makers such as Oceanic, Tusa, and Sealife.
It’s safe to say Catherine Fox knows her way around a pool. She won an Olympic gold medal for her ability to find her way from end to end. Partnering with Swim Jim owner Jim Spiers, a trainer for 2012 Olympics Bronze medalist Lia Neal, the pair transformed their expertise into a curriculum that helps others learn to love the water as they do. The resulting program, titled the Underwater Schoolhouse, forms the cornerstone of every class held at SwimJim.
Teachers take on students of all ages, focusing first on helping to cure land dwellers’ inherent nervousness around water. To do this, they use a combination of encouragement and humor, never pushing a student further than they’re willing to go. Once students take the plunge, the coaches focus on teaching the mechanics of a variety of strokes, such as how to kick during breaststroke or how to emerge gracefully from the chrysalis before butterfly stroke.
Some swim coaches can only tout their credentials and experiences, but director Susie Collins can prove the results of her labor. One of her pupils is working toward swimming in the Olympics, and a thrilled parent recently praised her ease and dedication in teaching their special-needs son how to swim. All the academy's instructors receive training in water safety, stroke curriculum, and child development directly from Collins, who also teaches games and techniques to motivate even the most stubborn inflatable alligator. Students learn at their own pace, following Collins's stage-by-stage method that leads toward individual swimming goals, whether students want to compete professionally or use their butterfly stroke to blend in at the local dolphin tank.
Trainer and fitness guru Justin Bradshaw modeled SGT. H20's CombatSwim after the rigorous training he received as an Army diver. His challenging exercises encourage full-body fitness, using workouts that build stamina, boost metabolism, improve swimming skills, and promote weight loss. Incorporating the best of land-based cross-training systems, CombatSwim includes plenty of high-intensity interval training and pulse-hiking calisthenics. In the pool, water adds extra resistance that amplifies the effects of the exercises, which include swimming sprints, endurance swimming, and treading water with weights. Designed to sharpen the mind as well as the body, CombatSwim leaves exercisers with the same confidence and conditioning as some of the world's elite military warriors.
As the indoor swimming arm of the Gigglin Marlin Divers and Swim School scuba-diving school—recently named Houston's best by the Houston Press—Gigglin Marlin Divers and Swim School entices water persons with a saltwater pool of titanic proportions. The facility's 75-foot long, up to 15-foot deep heated saltwater pool plays host to a crowded schedule of activities. The watery fun includes swim instruction for those less than 1 year old as well as adults. Regular times are also set aside for lap swimmers and indoor scuba sessions in which divers explore the saltwater pool's mysterious depths.