Rushing from work, I came ill prepared for my first ever aquacycling class. Wearing an entirely cotton outfit, I entered the Tribeca studio, Aqua (located at 78 Franklin Street), thinking that only my lower legs would be submerged as I participated in the workout. I had taken too literally an image sent by one of the women organizing the class, which pictured someone pedaling that cut off at the knees. After filling out forms attesting to the fact that I was not too ill or old to partake in the class (indeed I was neither, though I did ponder with some trepidation my irregular and minimal exercise regime), I received my aquacycling shoes. Rubbery and tight fitting, they resembled something one might wear in a hospital and flippers without the part that actually helps you swim.
As I entered the room where our class of six, young women would cycle for half an hour, I realized my mistake. I clearly hadn’t done my research, and the seats of the bikes sat at least an inch below the pool’s water level while the shiny, silver handles jutted out just above. I immediately regretted my choice of clothing as I stood chest-deep in chlorinated water, struggling to adjust a seat with knobs that appeared distorted thanks to the rippling blue. To jump right in, just as I did into the water under the pleasantly dim lighting of the aquacycling studio, the class was a challenge. I was repeatedly instructed to make impossible figure eights with my arms, and I almost floated away while attempting underwater pushups. My seat never seemed to be in the right place and, at one point, my left pedal strap came undone. Nonetheless, I flapped my arms and peddled my legs with the best of them (who were, encouragingly, beginners, as well—but in your head, you’re always the only one doing it wrong when it’s your first time in aquacycling class; trust me). Yet, against all odds, I had a blast. Aquacycling was unlike anything I had ever experienced, yoga and kickboxing being the only organized fitness classes I’d previously attended. Our aquacycling instructor, a spin class teacher and veteran swimmer, had clearly found a calling in leading this class. With equal parts firmness and encouragement, she counted down the length of our “sprints,” showed us how to “fly” on a submerged stationary bike (by getting off of the seat but keeping your feet in the pedals while making water treading motions with your arms behind the bike), and made sure we always sucked in our stomachs, which turned out to be necessary if you didn’t want to float away while you “flew.” At no point during the class did I remotely fear drowning. When the class ended and I emerged from the pool, my legs all of a sudden turned to lead. Our instructor assured us that we would not be sore the next day from this workout, since it took place in the water. Though naturally dubious at the time, I have to admit she was right. It’s two days later, and I have yet to feel that usual post-exercise pain. I just feel very self-satisfied for trying something new that required above average movement. The instructor also warned us that we would be more dehydrated than we imagined back on land. As it turns out, sweating in water doesn’t feel like sweating, and to my surprise, I gulped up the remains of my water bottle in record time back in the locker room. Right about then, a nightmarish thought occurred to me. I had made a greater mistake than simply wearing the wrong clothes to class—they were also my only clothes in the building. I was soaking wet in cotton and hadn’t brought a change. Regressing to high school-level mortification, I laughed quietly to myself while blow-drying my shorts and contemplating a run back to my apartment. Yes, I felt that energized that I wanted to run after half an hour of cycling through the weight of water. This was rendered impossible by the large gift bags we walked home with thanks to Dove® Men+Care™, the aquacycling class’s sponsor. I took the free stuff with a smile, nodded approvingly at the scent of the shampoo (which I decided to use myself in spite of it’s “manly” designation), and hugged my fellow aquacyclers goodbye. Something about going through the unfamiliar but exhilarating activity served as a bonding agent, supplying me, too, with all the endorphins necessary to walk twenty blocks home soaking wet.
Aqua Studio NY is located at 78 Franklin Street in Tribeca. The first NYC cycling studio to hold classes in a pool, it’s open seven days a week and offers a variety of classes ranging from beginner to way more intense. On the pricey side, trial classes cost $34 while single classes go for $40 and packages including 5 to 30 classes range from $190 to $990 (respectively), with options falling in between, as well. For more information, call the studio at 212-966-6784, or visit the website.