At the grand opening of Aqua Studio on Monday, seven swimsuit-clad women slipped into a pool full of bikes and tried not to splash.
The luxurious ladies-only Tribeca studio isn’t your typical cycling class setting, of course. Surrounded by warm, brick walls and soothing white candles, the pristine Aqua Studio pool just happens to contain 15 state-of-the-art indoor cycling bikes, their shiny handlebars peeking out just above the four-foot water.
But before we could fall into a spa-induced coma, our instructor Joe cranked up the tunes (and his waterproof mic pack), and helped us acclimate to our new surroundings. With our shoulders, heads, and hair well above water, we adjusted the seat and handlebars, along with the bike’s resistance (there are three pre-set levels to choose from). Next, we slid our feet, protected by sleek rubber shoes (completely reminiscent of Jellies) into the cage-style bike pedals. So far, so good.
Then came the pedaling.
The 45-minute class included a familiar mix of in- and out-of-the-saddle sprints — but with the added resistance of a whole lot of H2O. At one point I looked down at the choppy water, expecting to see my legs moving like mad. Truth was: they were going no faster than the Laundromat’s slow cycle — and I could already feel the burn.
The idea to bring the European fad stateside came from Esther Gauthier, a former fashion photography producer from France, who fell in love with the unique high-intensity workout while visiting Paris. The water workout was developed just three years ago by an Italian physical therapist to help injured athletes get back in the saddle — quite literally.
While it’s by no means easy to pedal in a pool, proponents of the workout insist the low- to no-impact exercise is ideal for those with injuries, or anyone looking to improve cardiovascular endurance without all the stress on their joints. The buoyancy of the water also naturally supports the spine, which in my case, was a huge relief from the usual aches and pains caused by hunching over a bike.
The wet cycle wasn’t without its challenges, though. While the goal, as with “dry” cycling, is to create a smooth, circular motion with each push, it was surprisingly difficult to find our flow — especially while ignoring the gushes of water that greeted us each time we raised out of the saddle, or sat back down. (TMI, we know.)
It’s also unclear if aqua cycling achieves the many benefits touted on the company’s website, including reduced cellulite, zero soreness, and better sleep. To our knowledge, there isn’t scientific evidence to back up these claims — at least not yet.
Another downer for some: The luxe workout has a premium price tag to match, starting at $34 per class, plus a $2 rental fee for the special rubber footwear.
It might not be for everyone, but for those who don’t mind getting wet in the name of impact-free adventure, this could be an outside-the-box experience worth giving a whirl.
What’s the wackiest fitness class you’ve ever tried? Tell us in the comments below or tweet the author at @jshakeshaft.