Spin® Life Blog

We take a look at aqua-cycling, answer a few questions, and see if this new format is effective for ourselves and our students.

Hey, it’s summer!

It sure is!

What are some workouts I can do to take advantage of the season?

Well, Spinning® offers a great workout regardless of season! There’s the awesome riding experience, killer music, a fun group environment, and of course, the instructor who keeps you motivated through the entire ride. You can enjoy a class indoors in the safety of an air-conditioned room, or move your bikes outside to take advantage of the summer sun. Just don’t forget your water bottle and towel!

What about aqua-cycling? That looks like fun!

It certainly does look appealing. Aqua-cycling is a indoor cycling class format that takes place in a pool1. Students get on stationary bikes that are submerged in 3-4 feet of water, and they’re required to pedal against the resistance of the water.On the surface (no pun intended), it appears to be an effective workout. Water-based training sessions have proven to be effective for many types of exercisers, particularly those with limited mobility or recovering from injury. The water’s buoyancy helps provide support to working muscles and joints, and the moisture in the pool draws heat away from the body and help regulate body temperature. There is also the added resistance of the water, which makes some movements and exercises more challenging than on dry land2.

So it works!

Well, not quite. There are a number of factors that challenge the effectiveness of aqua-cycling.

Like what?

First of all, you need access to a pool.

Oh.

A clean one.

Right.

So unless every fitness facility or studio installs a pool, it will not be as accessible as your local Spinning class.

Okay, what else is there?

Then there’s the riding experience. It’s obviously challenging to pedal underwater. But as some effective water-based workouts demonstrate, the buoyancy of the water does support the muscles and lessen the impact of gravity on the joints. However, cycling already is a low-impact activity. There should not be any stress on the joints with proper pedaling technique, which is demonstrated and coached with the help of a Certified Spinning Instructor. So although there is a greater challenge to pedaling while submerged in 3-4 feet of water, the advantage of supporting your joints is almost negligible.

Okay, but there’s still more of a challenge in aqua-cycling, right?

It is indeed more challenging to pedal underwater. But the best workouts require more than just pedaling hard. Bouts of work should be followed by adequate recovery, and it may be difficult to properly recover when you’re always overcoming the forces of water sloshing over your legs3. Students should have the option to back off and recover as needed, and sometimes that isn’t possible in aqua-cycling without stopping.That’s why Spinner® bikes come with an infinitely precise resistance knob so that riders can dial in the exact amount of resistance they need that day. They also have computers to track their wattage, heart rate and cadence so that they know when to push harder and when to back off.

Yeah, but my aqua-cycling instructor can help me with that.

Technically they can. But you’ll want to make sure they are certified by a reputable fitness organization. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of organizations that specialize in aqua-cycling. The Spinning program has been developed and honed for the last 25 years, and Certified Spinning Instructors receive instruction on proper bike setup, heart rate training and class building. They also have credits from organizations like A.C.E. and R.E.P.S.

So what’s the verdict? Does aqua-cycling work?

The answer is simply that it’s not as effective as regular Spinning classes. You’ll have a certified instructor leading classes with the option to control your resistance on the Spinner bike. You’ll also be able to track your effort with the Spinning Computer, all while enjoying a workout that is as safe and fun! So while riding in a pool does look fun and energetic, you won’t get the same benefits as completing a good ol’ Spinning class.

Okay. But I can still go to the pool right?

Of course! Just don’t forget your towel!

This article was contributed by Greg Mantell, Director of Content Management – Mad Dogg Athletics

Aqua cycling: A fun, soothing underwater workout

I love spinning but it doesn’t always love me back.

So when I decided to try aqua cycling, an underwater spin class at the Motion Plus Aquatic & Therapy Center in Lawndale, it was more about giving my knees a break than getting my heart rate up.

The workout, originally designed as a therapy class for patients, is described as “a fine line between fitness and rehab” by instructor Criselda Esguerra, who is also a physical therapy aid at the center.

“It is low impact so anyone can do it,” says Esguerra. “And while it is a cycling class, I don’t focus on spinning alone but upper body, back and core work as well as breathing and stretching.”

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Class takes place in 4 feet of water on about eight bikes that are attached to the bottom of the therapy pool with suction cups.

Pedaling against the water inside the heated pool left me feeling relaxed and sleepy; not exhausted or sore. That might explain why Esguerra’s most popular classes are in the evening. “The class is popular with insomniacs,” Esguerra says. Another reason why aqua cycling is growing in popularity? Simple: It’s fun.

Motion Plus Aquatic & Therapy Center, 14708 Hawthorne Blvd. Lawndale. (310) 863-2533; aquacyclingcorp.com

Aura

This is a humble physical therapy office, not a boutique gym. The class was a mix of women of various ages and sizes and abilities. Some were recovering from injury; others were taking the class to balance out other high-intensity workouts. One woman next to me, devoted to HIT classes, said the class had improved her flexibility, enabling her to do squats for the first time in years.

Advertisement Aqua cycling class at Motion Plus Aquatic & Therapy Center. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Effort

The class feels like a restorative version of spinning rather than Soul Cycle underwater. It doesn’t feel like you’re working out, but you are. The buoyancy of the water makes difficult things easy and easy things difficult. Crunches, for example, done with your feet tucked underneath the bike’s handle bars, are a breeze while simple leg movements are reduced to slow motion. The support of the water feels amazing and helps with flexibility, especially when it comes to stretching. “It’s great for strengthening and toning because you are doing cardio but strengthening your muscles at the same time,” says Esguerra. “A lot of clients have seen major results in the thigh area.”

The aqua cycling workout at Motion Plus Aquatic & Therapy Center takes 40 minutes. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Style

Class takes place to music in a 4-feet-deep pool that is heated to 86 degrees. Esguerra, who teaches 15 to 20 classes per week, jumps in and out of the pool, and on and off the bike. The workout is 45 minutes and includes band work, traditional stand up spinning in third position, crunches and stretching. It took me awhile to get my pedal stroke down in the water, but once I got the hang of it I could feel myself working my muscles without any joint pain.

Band work is part of the aqua cycling class. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Cost

$20 for your first class; $30 per regular class. Monthly discounts available. Free parking behind the studio. Be sure to bring your bathing suit, a towel and a bag to carry your wet swimsuit after class. There are two bare-bones showers and a bathroom for changing. Swimming shoes are recommended but not required.

Stretches are key at an underwater spin class. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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Twitter: @lisaboone19

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