Marissa Montgomery dips her toe into the latest fitness craze to hit New York
The latest fitness phenomenon to make a splash is Aqua Spin. Just when you thought regular spinning was hard enough, they take it one step further by submerging the bikes in water.
The thought of putting a bathing suit on and doing a workout was not enticing to me. Especially as I was pretty sure that even in my vast bikini drawer I didn’t own one suit that was supportive enough or appropriate for taking an exercise class in.
I managed to find a classic old Melissa Odabash one-piece somewhere in the bottom of a drawer and prayed it would not be too low cut and humiliate me in front of all the other spinners. My only saving grace was knowing it’s a women’s only class, as of yet they don’t allow men in (unless it’s the instructor).
As always, I start to get my pre-new class workout anxiety, thinking I can’t easily escape this class like I could a normal class. I will be half naked in a pool. So making a swift exit would be hard and messy. The only thing keeping me going is that I learned you can burn up to 800 calories or more in a class and it helps to get rid of cellulite - naturally, I was intrigued.
I arrive at a chic space in Tribeca and the lady at the front desk instantly puts my mind to rest. The vibe is relaxed and friendly; she asks me my shoe size and hands over a pair of jelly shoes and a fresh folded towel.
The space is very NYC cool - that very undone-yet-done look with lots of wood, exposed brick and candles. I walk downstairs into the changing room where I’m confronted by dark black walls. I’m not sure if this is done for design or so people feel a little more comfortable changing in the moodily lit room. I put my bag in a locker and head to the pool.
There are already four ladies seated on their bikes chatting to each other - it’s very relaxed and informal. I get in the pool and join them. The temperature is just right; I get in without a problem.
The instructor Luke comes straight over to me and talks me through everything. He sets up my bike, which is a little more challenging than a normal set up as we are submerged in four feet of water. He helps me slip my jelly cycling shoes-clad feet into the pedal straps before jumping out of the pool onto a bike that is out of the water in front of us, and talks us through the different hand positions we are going to use on the bike, which are more or less the same as a regular spin class.
He tells us to ride in time to the great soundtrack and we start the pedal. There is heavy emphasis on breathing, and most of the ride is done in the saddle, shifting out of it only sometimes.
We are constantly doing arm exercises in the water, pushing our hands and arms back and forward using the water for resistance. There is no dial for resistance on the actual bike. It’s all done using the water which makes it super low impact and much softer on the joints.
I was really enjoying the class. It surprised me as I thought the water would make the resistance of cycling harder, but it actually made it more comfortable and put less pressure on my back and legs.
To start with, it’s a strange sensation - but after a few minutes you get used to it and focus on your breathing and the intense burn you start to feel in your thighs.
A lot of the moves were similar to a standard spin class, such as push-ups on the bike while cycling. These are exercises I usually find quite challenging but in the water it was much easier; that said, it was by no means an easy ride - the class lasts 45 minutes and I don’t think I could have done a minute more as it’s so intense, so you really appreciate the long guided stretch at the end of class.
As I inhaled and exhaled with the rest of the 10 riders in the pool, I felt calm and worked out. The water has a more peaceful effect on you, so much so that that afternoon I had to go home and take a nap. They say one of the benefits of Aqua Spin is it makes you sleep much better; I can certainly attest to this.
The next morning I was expecting to feel the burn and not be able to walk or lift my arms as I have done in the past with other intense classes, but actually I felt no pain - just energised.
I was hooked and went back two days later for another class. It’s a great way to mix your exercise regime up as it’s fun and has the novelty factor. Part of the experience that I loved so much was the studio itself, as it was so clean and welcoming.
I met Esther Gauthier, the owner - a beautiful and elegant French lady who was previously in the fashion/photography world in Paris - after class. I asked her a few questions on everything from the pool temperature to what it’s like doing a career 360...
Why did you choose to open Aqua Spin in NYC?
I decided to open AQUA when I took my first aqua cycling class in Paris and thought it was the most brilliant workout I had ever done. Living in NY for five years already at the time, I had never heard of it and thought of it as destiny. I had to bring this concept to the New Yorkers. I started working on the business plan that same night.
How does Aqua spin differ from regular spin?
The main component of aqua cycling in comparison to regular indoor cycling is all the benefits that you get from water. No impact, natural massage of the water that stimulates the entire lymphatic system and burns cellulite. The water keeps your body temperature cool which means that you can push yourself more and build your endurance more as your heart rate is lower than on land. Water is also very therapeutic and gives you this amazing feeling of relaxation after a class.
What's your health and fitness life philosophy?
My fitness philosophy is very holistic. It's all about finding the right balance in your life, not only by practising a physical activity but also by eating right, using clean products, getting good sleep, but also knowing how to enjoy quality moments with friends, family, laughing, sharing, breathing. AQUA aims to bring all of this, creating a community of people who share these same values.
Any tips for first time riders?
My main tip for first time riders would definitely be to always try to engage their cores during the class. The position on the bike is key to get efficient and smooth pedaling and fully enjoy the AQUA ride. Shoulders down, neck aligned with spine, flat back, round up lumbar region, belly tucked in, flat feet.
How important is it to find the right instructors to teach and how do you go about auditioning them?
The instructors are key to a good workout, especially their personality. I choose them from the feeling I get when I meet them and then they go through auditions. They build a class and need to perform in front of my managing team and myself before they get selected.
What was it that hooked you on it?
I love swimming and running. One is very good for me: swimming. But it’s also very difficult to swim in New York (not many nice pools, or not enough time to go swimming) and running started to hurt my knees. To me, aqua cycling was the perfect compromise. Getting all the benefits of the water without the inconvenience.
How many times a week do you spin personally?
I would like to aqua cycle everyday but, when you start a business this size on your own, there is not much time left unfortunately. I really work 24/7 at the moment.
How important is temperature in the pool and the room?
Pool temperature is at 84. It is important to maintain it at this level to keep the comfort of our guests.
How was it making a career change from the Fashion Photography world to fitness world?
Making this career change was absolutely fantastic. Starting this business has been a beautiful adventure, a very fulfilling journey. I still have a very big interest in fashion, clothes, design, esthetic in general and I intend to bring all of it to this new world I am now part of; making my studio the chic studio of NYC where you can buy the most fashionable swimsuit, read some fashion magazines while drinking a healthy juice...where the fashion world meets the fitness world. Why not?
What inspired you to do this?
I love a challenge and bringing the aqua cycling concept to NYC, and be the first to do it, was a challenge I had to take on! I am very happy I did. It's been an incredible adventure and it is only the beginning.
To find a class, log on to www.aquastudiony.com. Classes are 40 USD.