Aptly Named, Glenn Mcwaters Devises the Wet Vest for Those Who Fear to Tread

updated 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Glenn McWaters, 40, maintains that the Wet Vest is the best thing afloat. The royal-blue neoprene-and-Lycra outfit allows a person to keep his head above water with the body inclined slightly forward in a running position while exercising. "Every cell of every muscle is subjected to increased resistance," says McWaters. "Water-running in the Wet Vest is the best aerobic activity."

McWaters claims that the item's biggest appeal is to runners. "Each year 60 to 70 percent of the approximately 30 million of them get an injury," he says. "Usually a runner must stop until the injury heals. The Wet Vest makes it possible for him to continue to train." McWaters learned the benefits of hydrotherapy after he received a slug in the left thigh while piloting a Marine helicopter in Vietnam. "The Navy surgeon told me the best thing I could do was start swimming." McWaters worked out in a YMCA pool for two weeks. "By the time I went back, I didn't need my crutches," he says. "The doctor was amazed."

Hooked on fitness, McWaters later set up the Sports Medicine and Fitness Institute at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. To treat track injuries, he turned again to water therapy. "Out of frustration," he says, he invented the Wet Vest with a back flotation panel, "because water-ski vests don't have enough buoyancy, and with a Mae West-type life jacket you're on your back."

Glenn's wife, Lynn, 37, heads their firm, Bioenergetics, Inc., which markets the Wet Vest. Since 1985 she has taken orders for more than 2,000 (they come in six sizes and cost $110); enthusiasts include champion marathoner Joan Benoit and runners Willie Smith and Mary Decker Slaney. The Miami Dolphins, Clemson, Auburn and UCLA endorse them.

Because water's resistance is 12 to 14 times greater than air's, pool workouts in a Wet Vest are ideal for weight losers. And because water workouts are gentle, they help the elderly, arthritics, cardiac patients and pregnant women. McWaters thinks everyone can benefit. "By running in water," he says, "you not only get superior cardiovascular exercise, you also get superb muscular strength."

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