Eighteen years ago, on her doctor’s recommendation, Cynthia Osborne tried her first water fitness class. With a bad back and aching knees, she figured she had nothing to lose by trying the no-impact exercise. It didn’t take long before she started to see changes: her pants fit better, her joints hurt less and she even lost 40 pounds. But more importantly, the Charlotte, N.C., resident was having a blast.
Cynthia made the move from student to teacher around 2009, when she retired from her longtime clerical job and became a certified instructor. Recalling often-repeated advice to do something you love, she decided to open a water fitness business, CJOSmiles (http://www.cjosmiles.org). These days, her schedule is jam-packed with lessons — she teaches 15 classes or more a week, five days a week.
But Cynthia does more than just lead classes. She also educates a community that’s at times reticent about getting in the water. “We’ve had to overcome a lot of obstacles,” she says. “Body awareness, for one. Getting hair wet is a big issue for a lot of women in our community. And some people say, ‘I don’t know how to swim.’ They’re afraid of the water.”
But where some may see dead ends, the tenacious 60-year-old sees opportunity. She recently teamed up with a local sorority to offer a swim clinic for kids and adults. The event touched on water safety and basic swimming strokes; of the 50 who attended, 38 got into the water. “It was a success,” she says.
Besides fear, some would-be students have told Cynthia they can’t afford a swimsuit. So, for the past three years, she’s carried a supply of new and gently used suits and water shoes in her bag and hands them out to anyone who needs them. So far, she’s donated 10 suits and just as many pairs of water shoes.
When it came time to replenish her supply of suits, luck intervened: Cynthia won a dozen of our swimsuits at an industry event. Initially, the prize was a new suit every month for a year. But after telling us how she planned to use the swimwear, we happily sent her a year’s worth. In fact, the five suits from the first batch have already found homes.
Since Cynthia is in the water so often, she knows from a quality suit. Some of her favorites are from our very own Chlorine Resistant and Longitude collections. “I like the variety that Swimsuits For All has,” she says. “I think it’s stitched very well.”
Plus, being able to outfit students in well-constructed, flattering swimwear is a great incentive to get them attend class. “Not having a swimsuit is one of the excuses people use to not take a class,” Cynthia explains. “‘Swimsuits are too expensive,’ they’ll say. So I wanted a way for them to get one, even if I had to pay for it. Exercise is so important.”