When it comes to spin, there's no shortage of variety: you can channel your inner American Idol while you ride at spin karaoke, sneak in some extra toning with resistance bands anchored above your bike in a SoulCycle class and even Zen out at fusion classes that offer yoga after you pedal.
I thought it wasn't possible to come up with anything else until I heard of aqua spinning, the newest trend that has participants ditch gym shorts for bathing suits with bikes located in a swimming pool. Yes, a pool. Both skeptical and intrigued, I decided to give it a shot at AQUA, NYC's first aqua spinning studio.
When I entered the studio, I thought I had the wrong building: there weren't any florescent lights and it lacked that weird gym smell of sweat and plastic mats. Instead I was greeted by exposed brick walls and a dimly candle lit space that reminded me of a spa, which was the look they were going for, says Aqua's owner and French expat, Esther Gauthier.
"I wanted it to look less like a gym and more like a place that is cozy and warm where you can not only workout but escape the fast pace of NYC life," she said. Though aqua cycling is a novelty in the States and just gaining traction, it's been a hit with our European friends since the 1990s, beginning in Italy and spreading to France and Germany. After she tried out a class in Paris, Gauthier decided to bring it back to the Big Apple.
After collecting my towel and clear jelly spinning shoes, I slipped on a sporty suit and squirmed into a rather chilly pool (I would thank this cool temperature later). The seven other aqua spinning virgins and I were looking around like we still couldn't believe we were on a bike IN A POOL.
The instructor helped adjust our bikes, which instead of the traditional resistance dials, have three pre-set levels you choose from before starting. Of course, the water makes it a little harder too.
Then we rode, or is it swam? The 45-minute class had many similar elements of "dry spin" incorporating interval sprints and in and out of saddle riding to a soundtrack of dance and hip hop music.
Several times during the ride I snuck a glance at my legs thinking they were flying like a Tour de France champion, only to see them ambling along in what seemed like slow motion. This was tougher than I thought! We paused twice during the workout to squeeze in upper body toning exercises like bicep curls and shoulder presses as well as some ab work by hooking our feet around the handle bars to do crunches and oblique twists. By the end of the sesh, I was panting (though oddly relaxed at the same time) and my not-so-in-shape tummy was already a little sore.
While it is unclear if this new workout can promise to slash 800 calories and nix cellulite just yet, water workouts are easy on the joints while providing the same cardio benefits as land and can boost mood, which may explain why I felt so zenned out after.
And though I wasn't drenched in sweat post-ride, I did feel like I worked my leg muscles deeper probably because water offers 12 times the resistance of air.
The $40 per class price tag may be a deterrent to some but if you're looking to shake up your gym routine, aqua spinning is worth diving into.