HEALTH & WELLNESS

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.”

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.

Aqua cycling class at Motion Plus Aquatic & Therapy Center.
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.
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.
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.
Stretches are key at an underwater spin class. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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lisa.boone@latimes.com

Twitter: @lisaboone19

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