“It’s so much fun, you forget you are exercising!”

An interview with Ginny Ramus, Water Volleyball Player

A fun full body, deep water workout designed to improve strength and cardiovascular fitness using a safe yet challenging mix of water walking/running and volleyball.

How did you hear about water volleyball? Why did you decide to join, and when?

I joined UVAC in 2015, at a time when I was recovering from a bout of chronic fatigue syndrome and some heart issues. I started out doing a water aerobics class in the warm pool and swimming a few slow laps, all of which felt very challenging at the time, because I was so deconditioned. But the music and laughter from a bunch of people batting beachballs around in the deep pool caught my attention. I figured it was far too vigorous for me at that point, but one of their group explained the game of Deep Water Volleyball and encouraged me to give it a try. I had to rest three times in the middle of the first game I played. But I was hooked! I soon began noticing improvements in my health, partly from the exercise and partly from the wonderful energy of the players. Now, thanks to volleyball, and several other of UVAC’s offerings, I’ve lost (and kept off) about 25 pounds and gained a tremendous amount of strength and flexibility.

What do you like about the sport?

I’ve always loved swimming, and I enjoyed a little bit of volleyball in my twenties and thirties, but I never did either competitively. Deep water volleyball combines the freedom and buoyancy of the water with the excitement of volleyball, minus the sting of hitting a real volleyball. I’ve never loved any kind of exercise as much as I do this game. It’s an incredible full-body workout, but it’s so much fun, you forget you’re exercising. It’s fast-moving, so you get plenty of cardio, and it involves lots of reaching, swimming, spinning around and hitting. We wear flotation belts, so we’re not spending a lot of energy just to stay afloat. The music keeps most of us moving between sets or when there’s a lull in the playing – which isn’t very often.

Unlike land volleyball, water volleyball (at least at UVAC) involves up to 6 or 8 beachballs in play at a time. The simple goal is to get all the balls on the opposite side at once. It might sound whacky or wimpy, but believe me, it keeps you moving. At the same time, we’re all different, and there’s no pressure to perform at top-speed or to hit the ball every time you take aim. I won’t mention any names, but some of us are notorious for sending balls out of bounds!

The camaraderie of your group extends beyond the pool. Can you give some examples?

The bond this eclectic group of people has formed is pretty amazing. We all love playing this goofy game. I feel like we turn into a bunch of kids the minute our fearless leader, Alan Hernandez, blows the whistle. We leave our troubles and responsibilities at the door, and we play our hearts out for 55 minutes. Even if I arrive tired, I leave energized, although I might want a nap later! Most of the regulars range in age from our 50’s into our 70’s. But before COVID hit, much younger friends and family members would join us when they were visiting from out of town or had time off from school or work. I look forward to a return to that, when the pandemic calms down and vaccines become ubiquitous. Just about everyone who tries deep water volleyball loves it.

We used to have many more people playing, before the lockdown, and we hosted potlucks a few times a year in the party room behind the splash park for ourselves and UVAC staff. This gave us all opportunities to get to know one another better.

Of course COVID stopped everything for a while. Some of us got together for a few socially distanced, outdoor lunches last spring. We truly missed seeing everybody! But a smaller core group has been coming to play since UVAC reopened in the summer. The plastic shields that cover our noses and mouths work quite well. And with fewer people playing now, it’s not difficult to stay a safe distance from each other. But we all miss those who haven’t been coming due to their risk status or personal comfort level.

Some of our players have been out from time to time with various health problems, surgeries, etc. We have one member who makes beautiful cards that we all sign and send to whoever is ailing. I was treated for cancer not too long ago. Receiving cards and emails from fellow players meant so much. A few of the volleyballers even brought delicious cooked meals to my door.

Sadly, one beloved member of our group passed away unexpectedly last summer. Several of us attended his memorial service—outdoors and masked. In fact, we set up the Andy Hiatt Friendship Fund at UVAC in remembrance of him. Donations to this fund pay for scholarships for people who want to join UVAC, but who may not have the financial resources for a membership.

Lest anyone reading this feel shy about joining a group that has become so closely knit, I want to stress that this is about the most welcoming group of folks you can imagine. We LOVE it when new people give it a try. Most never leave.

A little about me:

I’m a retired social worker and writer. I lived in five different states before moving to the Upper Valley in 1999, when my late husband took a job at Dartmouth. I know I’ll always be considered a “flat-lander” to some, but I can’t imagine ever choosing to leave Vermont. It’s felt like home since I got here. UVAC and Deep Water Volleyball help to make it even more so. I hope you’ll consider joining us. Go here to schedule your time with us!

Interview by Masters Swimmer, Liz Kelsey 

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