Aqua cycling is the newest way to experience the Tillsonburg Community Centre's 'liquid gym,' also known as the Kinsmen indoor pool.
"I'm really excited about our new aqua bikes," said Julie Dawley, Aquatics Supervisor at the Tillsonburg Community Centre, who recently introduced The Tidal Wave, stationary bikes that rest on the bottom of the pool at the shallow end, and use the properties of the water to give an 'enhanced, full-body, calorie-burning experience.'
"We have 20 bikes - and one of them is for the instructor - so we have 19 spots. So to try to make sure the most people get the opportunity, we have classes that you can sign up for by the session. It guarantees your bike spot for eight weeks."
If you can't commit to a weekly program, you can join 'drop-in' classes on Tuesday or Thursday evenings.
"Those, you pay as you go, but you have to call in advance," Dawley noted. "You can reserve a bike with a credit card, or come in and pay. There will be 19 spots available both nights (Tuesdays and Thursdays)."
A third alternative, for those who can't fit either of those options into their schedule, is for people who have memberships - or pay for a one-time adult swim - to rent a bike ($4.25) for up to 90 minutes. However only five bikes will be rented during an adult swim - they need to leave room in the shallow end.
"The guards get them out, the guards fit you, and the guards put them in the water. They get the foot straps right and the seat level right - we do all of that on the deck - then we put it in the water and you're ready to go."
Ten people are now certified to teach aqua cycling in Tillsonburg.
Dawley said they learned the hard way during instructor training to make adjustments before the bike goes in the water - it's not easy diving to adjust straps. They had to pull the bikes back out and adjust, not something they want to do on a regular basis.
"Everybody who has tried them has said they are fun. Even myself. I was thinking 'I'm not sure if that's what I want to do... I wasn't sure I wanted to teach that.' Then I got on one and I absolutely love it - it's a lot fun. I loved it because it's so different."
Dawley does not expect aqua cycling to take away from the Community Centre's aqua fit programs, available in both shallow and deep water.
"People are looking for variety. We try to evolve and change our classes to keep them interesting, but it's always nice to try something new."
And it should be popular for both women and men, Dawley added.
"I think men might find this class quite enjoyable because it's not 'dancy.' Some people think it's just pedaling, but there's a lot of things we can do with the bike. An arm workout is totally different because you have water resistance."
The bike handlebars are only partially under water - the water comes to point just below the rib cage, said Dawley.
"When you put your arms down, the water is at your elbows.
"It can be a really, really low key workout - so it can fit the needs of someone just getting back into the exercise route and wants something fairly gentle. It can be that... or it can be truly intense because of the ability to switch and add resistance.
"It's just so relaxing, but I found I could get my heart rate up pretty quick."
Workouts are designed similar to land cycling classes, but some people feel they are more effective in water.
"When you're immersed in the water," said Dawley, who did some research before applying for a grant to purchase the bikes, "fluid and blood are moved from the feet towards the shoulder area. So it helps circulation, very much. The shift in fluid is opposite what happens on land when bodily fluids are pulled toward the feet by gravity. So it adds that circulatory affect, which is such a benefit.
"Really, I can't see anybody coming in and being disappointed with the workout, I really can't."
Aqua cycling classes start January 9 at the Tillsonburg Community Centre pool.
"We have early morning classes that run 7:30-8:30 a.m. (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), so people will be able to do it before they go to work, hopefully. Evening sessions are Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6-7 p.m."
If you missed the 'See it - Try it' introductory sessions, Dawley suggests trying it during an adult swim.
"Before you commit to eight weeks, right? Come in, try it."
"The most exciting part of this whole thing is that we received a 100 per cent funding grant from the Ontario Sport and Recreation Communities Fund. Funds for the training and bikes was fully recovered through this grant, and we are so, so grateful."
Dawley said the aqua bikes will also be useful for physiotherapy, and the grant application was supported by local physiotherapy businesses.
"We also have our own rehab program here, too, that's run by a licensed kinesiologist," said Dawley noting that program is almost one year old at the centre. "She will probably use the bikes as well."
Tension in the bikes can be adjusted to modify workouts.
"It's great for the person rehabilitating who doesn't want any resistance. But you can also crank it up. So there is a real difference in the type of workout that can be achieved on the same piece of equipment.
"Some people are so excited because they haven't rode a bike for years... and here, all of a sudden, they get to enjoy that activity again in a really non-body effective away."
Different bike seats were ordered, adding to its versatility, including three 'recumbent' seats which offer back support.
"We weren't sure how they would be received, we wanted to try them out," said Dawley.
There is a 'sport' seat for the "more serious bikers."
And the 'regular' seat.
"You don't have to wear shoes on these bikes. You can, if you want to, purchase water shoes. I didn't think I needed them, but then after I had been on it for a while... I am going to wear water socks. You can purchase special shoes that are meant for aqua cycling, but I don't think it's really necessary."
They had 27 people for the first 'Try It' night.
"We didn't have enough bikes, but we partnered them up and tried to shift and share."
It's important to note, said Dawley, The Tidal Wave brand bikes are stationary.
"When we first announced it, some people thought these were bikes that you'd pedal around the pool. But no... it's stationary."
The Tidal Wave bike model is the first of its kind in Ontario, said Dawley.
"There was a brand made by this company before, but this one's brand new. And they're beautiful. We needed something that would be good for storage and that's why we went with the fold-up model. And the seat and handlebar adjustments are great.
"As far as programs go... even London does not have in-water cycling. I think the closest program is Kitchener. It's just coming on the market."
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