Exercise fads are faddier than ever these days, and SoulCycle is the faddiest of them all. While I've been known to partake in an exercise fad or two—from Jane Fonda's workout tapes in middle school to Core Fusion, still one of my favorite ways to burn calories—I've never tried SoulCycle. Mostly because I have lower back issues and riding a bike like that can really strain it. (There are other, more judgmental reasons, but I'll withhold those since they're bitchy and unsubstantiated and will offend half of Fashionista's readership and 82% of my friends.)
But over Memorial Day weekend I heard about a new cycling class that seemed tailored to my requirements. Aqua cycling, available at the Aqua Studio in TriBeCa, is a 45-minute workout where attendees go spinning in a pool. The bikes are fully submerged in water, and when you sit down on the seat you're under water from the waist down. Sounds goofy, but for me, the benefits outweigh the weirdness. Instead of turning up the resistance on the bike, the water serves that purpose, creating a workout that's way less stressful on your joints than normal cycling. I still had to be careful about the way I handled the bike—hunching over really hurts my back, so I made sure my spine stayed straight—but I got a great workout and definitely plan on trying it again.
Aqua cycling is definitely becoming a "thing" amongst the fashion crowd—one high-powered publicist said she doesn't want to tell anyone about it for fear that it will be overrun a la SoulCycle, and I sympathize with that. If you want to try it before the classes start selling out within minutes, here are the pros and cons as of Saturday, June 1, when I attended the 10 AM class.
Pros of Aqua Cycling:
The workout is great for people with joint problems and sports injuries. The "low impact thing" was key for me--not many classes offer that. Of course, if you have major physical problems, you should always discuss with your doctor before doing any sort of exercise.
- It's fun to be in the pool. I always say, "I hate the beach but I love the pool," so this is ideal. It's also nice to be able splash off with water when you get super hot or sweaty.
- The teacher was not aggravating or preachy. I know half of the reason people go to SoulCycle is for the teachers, but personally I hate when an instructor is overly dramatic or intense. My instructor, Julia, pushed us far without being annoying about it.
- It's a fantastic workout. My upper-body, core and legs were all sufficiently "targeted," as the gurus like to say.
Cons of Aqua Cycling:
You can't be late. I got there at 9:01 on Saturday morning and was told that it would be "awkward" if I came in five minutes late so I had to take the 10 am class. Personally, I think that if I'm paying $40 for a class, no one should be able to tell me whether or not I can skip the first five minutes. But maybe that's an accepted rule in these sorts of classes that I'll just have to get used to.
There are no plastic bags for your wet bathing suit. On the website, it says that cyclers need to bring their own plastic bags. I definitely didn't remember to do that, and was therefore carrying a wet bathing suit around TriBeCa until I found a store willing to give me a bag. If New York Sports Club can afford to offer plastic bags for sweaty gym clothes, this place needs to pony up. I am assuming this will be remedied after enough people complain.
As for the other stuff most people care about: the music was fine (not my main priority, so I wasn't paying much attention, but it definitely wasn't irritating) and the space is clean and pleasant. I'll definitely go back, and think a lot of other people will, too. While the concept might sound hokey, it's grounded in real results. And apparently it's super popular in Europe. So there.