It’s easy to understand the allure of spinning, with the mood lighting, high-energy beats, and motivating instructors (A friend of mine in Phoenix even took me to a class that had an actual in-resident DJ). I’m definitely a spin devotee, but I’m also always on the hunt for ways to shake up my fitness routine.

So when I heard about AQUA here in NYC, I knew I had to get over my fear of cycling in a swimsuit and give it a try. (Anyway, the atmosphere is totally laid back, and no one pays attention to what you wear. I sported a rash guard over my suit, and all remained neatly in place.)

Water Cycling: A New Wave of Fitness

For AQUA founder Esther Gauthier, a relationship with underwater cycling was love at first spin. After taking a similar class in Paris, where she was born and raised, she left her job in the fashion industry to open NYC’s first aqua cycling studio.

“Aqua cycling is one of the most effective workouts there is,” says Gauthier. “It offers all of the benefits of traditional indoor cycling, but the added water pressure and resistance also increase blood flow and endurance.”

While you’re sure to build muscles, aqua spin is really a full-body workout. One 45-minute session burns up to 600 calories. Moreover, the water forces you to engage your core. It also keeps your body temperature at a comfortable level, allowing you the freedom to push yourself without the fear of overheating.

“This is why professional athletes, in particular, love underwater fitness,” adds Gauthier.

Working out in the pool also makes it possible to add on exercises that wouldn’t be feasible on a stationary bike – like 4th Position, where you grip the seat and pedal from behind the saddle for a kind of floating ghost ride.

In addition to boosting the burn, water means protection for your joints. Aqua cycling is a zero-impact sport, so you can take back-to-back classes, as many of Gauthier’s clients do. It’s also a good cross-training exercise if you’re in need of an active recovery day.

You may not get the same high-flying euphoric sensation with aqua cycling as you do in traditional class, but that’s not the point. While other workouts are designed to get your heart working overtime, underwater spin – especially at AQUA – is about sustainable fitness.

There’s mood-enhancing music, but it’s not turned up to nightclub decibel levels. Instead of disco balls and leaderboards, you’re surrounded by cozy, exposed-brick walls and candles. Instructors are encouraging but not over-the-top. Plus, for us city dwellers, the pool is a total novelty.

And really, what’s not to love about a workout that ends with a refreshing plunge?

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Katarina is a freelance writer specializing in travel, spa, and beauty and wellness. She’s the author of The Food Lovers’ Guide To Phoenix & Scottsdale and founder/editor of Style Jaunt, a blog about interesting destinations and fashionable travel. Her work has appeared in publications like American Spa, The New York Post, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Travel + Leisure online and more.