I love Spinning®. I love swimming. So when I was invited by simplyhealth to attend a promotional Hydro Spin class (also known as Aqua Spin) at Edinburgh Leisure’s Royal Commonwealth Pool of course I said Yes! Simplyhealth is a healthcare provider that promotes creating ‘healthy habits’ such as healthy eating and routine exercise. In order to sustain a workout routine, it’s important to find something that suits your abilities, likes and current fitness levels. That’s why simplyhealth were so interested in getting us bloggers to find out more about Hydro Spin. Exercising in water can be very challenging but at the same time, it’s usually much easier on the joints so is great for anyone who is just getting started with exercise or recovering from illness or injury. Indoor cycling is already a low impact workout, but someone had the crazy brilliant idea that submerging the bikes in a pool would allow so many more people to experience the benefits. Simplyhealth did a great job summarising all the amazing benefits of Aqua/Hydro spin in this article, so it’s now up to me to let you know what a class is really like!
Although they can withstand a bucket load of sweat, you can’t submerge your typical indoor cycling bike in water; it takes a special pool and special bikes. Thanks to Edinburgh Leisure, we have both. The Hydro Spin classes are still quite new to the Royal Commonwealth Pool timetable. A few taster classes were run at the end of last year, to gauge public interest. I was unable to attend at the time but a few friends did manage to go and enjoyed the classes which must have been the general consensus as they have now have 7 classes on the weekly timetable!
So what was it like?
What to wear?
Special shoes are provided so that’s one less thing to worry about and one less thing to buy but I still had the swimsuit vs. cycling shorts debate. In the end, I wore my cycling shorts and lycra running top over my swimsuit. When I got to class, I was happy to see most people came to the same conclusion. I think if I was doing this as a regular class I would definitely invest in one of these swim suits with legs…
At around £30 (available at the Commie Pool or online – just search for aqua aerobics swimsuit) it’s not much different than buying sport specific shoes or a yoga mat. Having the right gear is worth every penny as you will feel more comfortable and confident – making the class much more enjoyable and increases the chances of you sticking with it!
The class is down as 60 minutes but 15 minutes is dedicated to the set up. I really didn’t know what to expect but when we got to the pool, I was surprised to see no water. This pool had a moving floor! Floor goes up…..and the bikes are brought in and set up for our class.
Bike set-up can’t be done under water so we walk across the dry, raised floor of the pool, pick out a bike and get help from our instructor. Fiona tells us how to adjust the seat and handle bar height – if you don’t get this right now, you’ll need scuba gear to sort it out later! Next, the resistance. I do a lot of Spinning® and those bikes have dials which can be adjusted during a class to simulate steep mountains, heavy headwinds and fast flat sprints. Not here! For Hydro Spin, the water provides the resistance however, there are 3 options for difficulty: 1-easy (for someone with an injury), 2-medium and 3-heavy. This is adjusted down by the pedal cranks so you have one chance to get it right! I played it safe and went with medium. We leave the pool area; the floor is lowered and warm water floods in. Before we leave the pool, Fiona reminds us to remember where our bikes are and to take note of the number. That’s odd, I thought. There’s not that many bikes, I’m sure we’ll know which is ours.
As we stood on the side, Fiona gave us more tips and checked our height (the shortest person dictates the depth they set the pool floor). Fiona’s Tips for the Class: Do what feels comfortable – you don’t need to do the arm movements or stand up.
I turned round and suddenly the bikes were being engulfed with water!
Within seconds the seats were disappearing. I did a bit of research before class and in some pictures, the handlebars were above water level. Not here. The bikes had completely disappeared! Now I know why Fiona wanted us to remember how to find our bike again.
We jumped into the 30 degree water and swam back to our bikes. This was deeper than I expected – water was up to my neck and the bike completely submerged.
I leaned over to strap my feet to the pedals. I could only just reach without sticking my face in the water. A few turns of the pedal and oops! Misjudged the resistance big time!! Medium just felt like there no extra resistance from the bike, only from the water. This was going to be a ride on flat roads, no mountains for me tonight. My tip: don’t be afraid, trust your fitness and if you do any other workouts level 3 will be fine. Actually I think more resistance would have been a bit easier as it would have stopped me feeling like I was slipping off the bike.
Fiona cranked up the music and we were off! Our journey started on the ‘road’. Fiona led the pack from her bike on the side of pool. This way we were able to see her and follow along as we sat and stood, sat and stood – varying the pace all the time.
Her cheery banter got our legs turning non-stop – using the water for resistance. The constant pedalling felt like the effort required to tread water for 45 minutes – you don’t get that in aqua aerobics!
At various points in the class, Fiona managed to sneak in sprints – pedalling at a high cadence. This is where ‘jellyfication of the legs’ takes place, with sprints starting at just 20 seconds, later increasing to 30; by the end of the class we had a final 2 minute sprint to finish. Our mega efforts were captured on the nifty underwater camera …
Fiona hopped off her bike and jumped into the water to guide us as we worked those pesky arm muscles; while still turning our pedals. These were exaggerated movements – playful, fun – creating huge splashes as we pushed against the force of the water.
The upper body workout continued with press ups; great for the biceps but everytime I leaned forward towards the handlebars I had to make sure I was on an exhale – as my nose dipped into the water, all part of the hydro spin experience!
The next move was definitely unique to hydro spin – recumbent ‘cycling’. This one was for the core! Again, this is only a move you could do with the support of the water. With our feet strapped in, we slipped off the back of the bike and moved our hands from the bars to the sides of the saddle; pedalling all the time. My core was working overtime trying to stabilise my upper body, keep my head afloat and send power to my legs to keep those pedals turning. Sounds challenging? Now try it with one hand!
Just in case our arms didn’t get enough of a workout, we put on special gloves – kind of like waterproof oven mitts.
Our gloved hands really upped the resistance when pushing down towards our knees, back towards the row behind us, making figure of 8 moves in the water: up, down, left, right, front, back; deltoids, biceps, triceps all getting a workout.
Overall this class was fun, unique and safe. The world-class facilities at the Commonwealtlh pools, enthusiastic, energetic instructors, upbeat music, continuous pedalling and co-ordinated arm movements make this perfect for anyone who loves working out in water (swimming, aqua aerobics) but wants to shake things up a bit and for those recovering from injury or returning to exercise. However, these elements made it feel more like aqua aerobics on a stationary bike rather than a ‘spin’ class in water. Not a bad thing – it was just too different from an indoor cycling class for the purposes of comparison. This could be a good thing if you never really got the Spinning® bug (I’ve definitely got it!!). True Spinning® tries to recreate road training indoors – you don’t do indoors what you wouldn’t do on a road bike. This is a principle that I firmly believe in when choosing an indoor cycling class, however because of the support of the water, Hydro spin can push the envelope by including the upper body and although it doesn’t provide typical cycling efforts it does provide a safe full-body workout.
Best bits….Fun, engaging, worked the whole body and Fiona’s energy made it seem easier and made the time fly by. Extra Bonus – we didn’t need to clean down the bikes 😀
Downside…..Long walk back to the changing rooms in soggy shorts…………