I'm an exercise-class junkie. Yoga, Pilates, TRX, Zumba - if there's a group of people doing it, I will join in.
Perusing the schedule at the downtown Tellepsen YMCA one morning, I spotted an unfamiliar class: Aqua Cycle. That's how I ended up riding a bike in a swimming pool.
The underwater trend started in Europe. Tim Fletcher, who leads the classes in Houston, went to France to be certified as an Aqua Cycle instructor. On my first visit, he told our small class how to put the shiny stationary bikes in the 4-foot-deep pool, then adjust them. A few minutes later, we were pedaling. It felt both awkward and good. I had to learn how to pedal and not make so many waves. "Don't make waves, don't splash," I thought, water lapping at my hips.
After an eight-minute warm-up, I was sweating and my heart rate was already climbing. Then came the workout.
We pedaled standing, we raced, we squatted low into the bike and worked our quads. We hooked our legs onto the bike handles and floated on our backs. Fletcher demonstrated a sit-up, and we followed, bringing our upper bodies out of the water to meet our knees and back down again. We got off the bike, used it for a brace and did pushups. With funny, very light foam weights we worked our biceps, triceps and shoulders, using the water for resistance. There's no tension adjuster on the sleek bike; it's not necessary in water. I'm not sure I was even able to sprint when Fletcher commanded. I was having trouble enough pedaling; after a while it felt like I was pushing through mud.
My quads were burning and pink. I briefly got out of the pool for a drink of water, and my legs felt like noodles.
The workout is similar to a regular spin class in that you use the same form and the instructor sets the pace, but Fletcher says it's better because there is no impact on bones and joints.
Cycling in water also results in an increase in circulation, which in turn means less lactic acid forms, he says."That makes it so you can push through the burn, instead of pulling back or stopping when you feel the burn in a land-based class."
Other benefits? Aqua Cycling can burn up to 800 calories per hour and help eliminate cellulite, he says.
And it's fun.
I will go again.