We Tried It: An underwater cycling class (yes, it's a thing!) at AQUA studio with Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte
Level of Difficulty: 6 (on a scale of 1 to 10). The class wasn’t as hard as we expected. But keeping up with a six-time Olympic gold medalist in the pool? That was exhausting.
Why opt for underwater cycling? You still get the cardio of a land-based class but without the soreness; exercising in the water reduces impact on joints, muscles and bones. Another perk? Underwater cycling torches up to 800 calories an hour, thanks to sped-up blood circulation and fat burn from the water’s support and pressure, according to AQUA’s site. The bikes at AQUA are submerged in 4 feet of water; the resistance simultaneously makes you work harder and gives you a massage.
“The power of water is amazing,” says AQUA’s owner, Esther Gauthier. “It’s therapeutic and makes you feel so happy. A lot of people come here for rehabilitation and relaxing exercise.”
When we were given the opportunity to try the class with Ryan Lochte at Gauthier’s TriBeCa studio in New York City, we grabbed our swimsuits and water shoes faster than you can say “Jeeaahhh!” It didn’t take much convincing to hop in the water alongside an Olympic gold medalist.
Lochte — who took a quick break from prepping for fatherhood to promote his new Clean Start partnership with Power Bar at AQUA — treated us to a private class. While the studio offers several water workouts, the class we took was an interval workout that alternated bursts of speed and power with recovery periods. For the speed intervals, we pedaled while moving our arms in variations of freestyle and backstroke motions for about a minute. The active recovery periods included restorative, slower-paced breaststroke-type movements. It was a lot of cardio, but what surprised us was the core work: You have to keep your abs tight in order to even just sit on the bike because of the pressure of the surrounding water!
Lochte was at ease during the workout, and it was clear from the start the movements were easy for him. Oh, and his wing-span basically took up the entirety of the small pool. For us, it was a little intimidating being in the water alongside an Olympic swimmer — but working out next to him was a major motivator.
Seated on a bike next to us and pedaling as fast as he could, Lochte looked over at our progress throughout the 45-minute class to cheer us on: “You got this!” or “Race ya!” By the time we climbed out of the water, we were sweating (which we didn’t realize was possible in a pool). Ryan, on the other hand, looked like he hadn’t lifted a finger.
We shook hands with him, took some pics and talked best workout practices. “You guys did great,” Lochte told us. “It actually was pretty hard, but you know, I compete in the Olympics.”
The verdict: This was a really cool workout to do with friends! It was definitely a piece of cake for Lochte (duh). While classes aren’t cheap — this first one was $35 — it’s worth it even a few times if you’re looking to switch up your fitness routine. And you get out of it what you put into it. So for a restorative experience mixed with shocks of cardio, give it a try!