Valley Journal
Valley Journal

This Week’s e-Edition

Current Events

Latest Headlines

What's New?

Send us your news items.

NOTE: All submissions are subject to our Submission Guidelines.

Announcement Forms

Use these forms to send us announcements.

Birth Announcement

Swimming, exercise classes, more offered at aquatics center

Hey savvy news reader! Thanks for choosing local. You are now reading
1 of 3 free articles.

Subscribe now to stay in the know!

Already a subscriber? Login now

“I swim every day the pool is open,” says Mike Case as he takes a breather between laps at the Mission Valley Aquatics and Fitness Center in Polson. 

A retiree who recently moved to Polson, Case says swimming is a lifelong passion of his. He became a certified lifeguard at 12 and took swimming classes in college. “But I never had access to a pool until I moved up here,” he says. 

Swimming, especially in mid-winter when it’s hard to get outdoors, “is just the best thing to do.” 

Instructor Sharon Murphy shares his enthusiasm. She teaches six classes each week, primarily aqua therapy. 

“It’s a gentle place to exercise and you don’t have to worry about the risk of falling,” she says. Water, by its nature, counters gravity and enhances buoyancy, which makes it “very conducive to a good workout.” 

Indeed, on a blustery January day, the moist, humid air at the aquatic center is a balm to dry skin and the pool temperatures of 83 degrees in the big pool and 95 in the smaller saltwater plunge are definitely inviting. 

The center offers a surprising array of classes, from aqua therapy in the saltwater pool, to cardio fitness, aerobics, an after-school program, swim lessons and lap swimming in the large pool. In addition, a studio space called the Dryland Room is used for yoga, strength training, pilates, “Power Pump” and a new “Stretch, Flex and Balance” class. 

Murphy says many of her students are recovering from ankle, knee, hip or shoulder surgery or injuries, and find that water therapy enhances healing. “For any kind of issue involving limited movement, water relaxes your muscles, and everything feels so much better,” she says. 

 “Water therapy is very advantageous the older we get, especially as arthritis comes into play,” she adds, noting that cold weather also limits exercise options, making pool time a good indoor pursuit.

A cardiovascular workout is also an option. Murphy points to the dumbbells, noodles, and boards that instructors deploy in the aqua aerobics and fitness classes to enhance balance and build muscle strength. For more experienced swimmers, lap swimming also offers a whole-body workout. 

“The science behind it says you burn 25% more calories moving in the water because you’re displacing it,” she says. “It’s amazing how much more you can do in the pool than outside.”

Murphy is effusive about her eight colleagues who also teach classes in the pool and the Dryland Room. “Especially for a small town, we have amazing exercise instructors who really care about the people in their classes,” she says. 

Many have taken additional training that helps them serve “not only as a fitness instructor but someone who keeps you well, keeps you safe.”

The reward is “seeing what happens to people when they can exercise or move without pain. It just changes your mindset.”

The social aspect of classes is also a plus, especially for older people who have been isolated during the pandemic, and not able to move as much or engage with others. As classes resumed, people emerged from their cocoons, made friends, and learned new skills. 

“I think we have all learned that social interaction is part of being healthy.”

Murphy firmly believes the aquatic center offers something for all ages, from kids learning to swim to those seeking a low-impact sport or therapeutic results. “Pain is not just an older person’s issue anymore,” she says. 

At 90, her oldest student is proof that “age shouldn’t be a factor – it’s never too late, you’re never too old.”

Interim director helps steady ship

The center’s interim director, Polson native Mike Tryon, has a master’s in sport and fitness management and worked at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo for eight years before accepting a job with Kalispell Regional Hospital (now Logan Health). He continues to work for Logan and Mission Valley Aquatics while the two organizations try to negotiate a long-term maintenance and management agreement for the center. 

Tryon also supervises group fitness activities in Kalispell and at Logan Health Fitness in Polson, but spends the majority of time at the aquatics center. 

According to Tryon, the nonprofit pool has struggled financially since opening its doors in 2013. “Facilities like this are really expensive to run,” he says. 

Challenges include finding experienced personnel for maintenance, financing upkeep on the facility, paying competitive wages, and rallying enough community support from memberships and fundraising to pay the bills. 

The pool is partially funded by a countywide mill levy; memberships, fundraising and drop-in fees are the other revenue sources. By comparison, Logan Health Medical Fitness Center in Kalispell (formerly Summit) draws from a much larger population to support a pool, gym, courts for indoor sports such as tennis and racquetball, a climbing wall, and other amenities. 

The MVA board initially approached Logan for help with maintenance issues such as balancing pool chemicals and tending the aging H-VAC system. A management role was added to the list when the aquatic center’s previous director departed last summer. 

“We’re still sorting out how a future management arrangement could look,” says Tryon. 

Meanwhile, he’s impressed with the facility itself – an eight-lane 266,000-gallon pool, compared to the 166,000-gallon pool in Kalispell. “What we hear at swim meets is that this is a great pool for Montana.” 

The aquatic center is home to a competitive swim club, the Lake Monsters, and the Polson High swim team. 

He’s also struck by the array of classes offered both in the pool and the adjacent exercise studio. “I see a lot of younger generations coming through here, and some of the older population for therapy and classes,” he says. 

The pool currently has around 250 members, a number he hopes will grow as the pandemic subsides. 

“Whatever you’re looking for in terms of fitness, it’s a great spot,” says Tryon. 

 For more information on pool and fitness offerings, call 883-4567 or head to


Sponsored by: