Pippa Middleton in Band of Outsiders SS13 shirtdress + PF13 sweater in Vanity Fair, September issue.
“I’ve selected a few of my favourite recipes from HydroFit’s juice bar, located in their Fulham studio. These drinks are brilliant as a post-workout reward to detox and give the body a healthy boost. Whizz all ingredients together in a blender, drink up and feel good.”
Courgette and Apple Vitamin Smoothie
HydroFit, Chelsea Walk, 278 Fulham Road, SW10 9EW.
I like cycling. I really like Jacuzzis. But cycling in a Jacuzzi? It isn’t a combination I could see enhancing either activity, but it’s what I found myself doing last week. Hydro-spinning, the latest fitness sensation to hit London, involves exercising on stationary bikes while your lower half is submerged in water.
The idea was popularised in 2011 by a Frenchman, Alain Lellouche, who named his franchise “Waterbike” and sold it à vitesse to more than 80 spas and gyms across France, where hydrotherapy has always been popular.
Two years on and svelte mesdames and mesdemoiselles, who live in terror of cellulite (it was the French, after all, who gave us the word to describe that dreaded “orange peel” effect on thighs and derrières), swear by it, apparently. Now, les rosbifs finally have a chance to try the Waterbike, too.
So does it have potential as a real aid to fitness or is it just the fad of the moment, like Jane Fonda style aerobics, the Power Plate, the ab cradle and all those other routines and gadgets that were once the next big thing? I visited the HydroFit centre on Fulham Road, the first place in the UK to import hydro-bikes, to find out.
The centre opened in July and the owner and co-founder Delphine Riahi-Botbol delivered the PR spiel in perfect English with a charming French accent. One particular thing resonated: “HydroFit offers a unique biking experience in the comfort of individual cabins.” A far cry from crowded aqua-fit classes in a pool, usually full of jostling elbows and sweating with chlorine, then? She continued: “The bikes are immersed in a hydro-massage bathtub with water jets and the aim is to rejuvenate your wellbeing and combine three restorative elements: water, biking and hydro-massage.” I learnt that each cabin offers a choice of four chromo-therapeutic lights, 16 hydro-massage jets, a flat screen TV and Bluetooth (towel, drinking water and headphones also provided). It sounded less like a workout and more like a pampering spa treatment, so it’s no wonder that 80 per cent of Delphine’s clients are female.
Cycling shorts are recommended to avoid chafing but I made do with a swimsuit. I also declined the pedal-gripping “aqua shoes” (like slim Crocs), which are said to maximise the hydro-spinning experience: they looked a bit odd and I decided I wanted to feel the water between my toes instead. Delphine told me she has duo cubicles at the centre too, where couples can hydro-spin together if that’s their thing.
She and I then had a productive discussion about thighs. I have a pair of tight leather trousers that I’m hoping to squeeze into this Christmas party season but only if I think my legs pass the test. There is nothing worse than flabby thighs encased in wrinkled leather. Being an à la mode Frenchwoman, Delphine understood my concerns perfectly and recommended I use little or no extra resistance on the bike apart from what was provided by the water, which is 12 times stronger than resistance from air. Spinning fast in water while being blasted by hydro-massage jets helps reshape the fat tissue on calves, thighs and buttocks, replacing it with (I hope) lean and shapely leather-trouser appropriate muscles.
I climbed into the cabin, basically a fibreglass pod that was knee-deep in tepid water, and adjusted the saddle. It was chilly. You can vary the temperature of the water, but colder water is better for a more stimulating work out. Delphine closed the half door and my pod started to fill.
As the water rose around my calves, I began my warm-up pedalling. Once the water reached maximum height, just above my hips, the massage jets powered into action, all 16 of them, and at that point I started spinning – cycling hard – properly.
I could really feel the water resistance but soon got into a good rhythm, encouraged by thoughts of the 300-500 calories I’d be burning in my 45-minute slot and the massage jets pummelling my flesh, stimulating blood flow and lymphatic drainage. While you spin, you also benefit from a steady release of antibacterial ozone streaming through the water, which is apparently great for skin rejuvenation.
The first quarter of an hour flew by, largely because I was trying to work out the control panel in front of me to select my lighting scheme. Red promotes vitality (choose before a night out, perhaps); blue is calming (an early night?); yellow stimulates mental ability (working late) and green increases sensitivity and compassion (for a romantic dinner à deux, peut-être). It being Friday evening I opted for red, switched my Bluetooth headphones to Beyoncé and hit the pedals even harder.
Delphine told me to aim for about 12km (7.5 miles) – but I decided to set a personal goal of 15km (10 miles). I varied the routine between spinning at a high rate and then standing up in the saddle to reach 45km/hour for a few seconds to release lactic acid from my muscles.
As I got into it I found myself hitting a furious pace, causing water to slosh over the sides of the pod. But the hydro-bikes are in fact suitable for all physical abilities, as the cushioning effect of the water means less impact on feet and knees than you get in normal spinning classes. Indeed, early versions of these machines were designed specifically for post-injury rehabilitation. According to Delphine it’s an ideal activity for strengthening joints and muscles and is particularly good for boosting post-pregnancy muscle tone (from about four weeks after birth).
At £40 for 45 minutes hydro-spinning is not cheap, but it does seem like a genuinely good exercise proposition if done regularly (don’t expect a miraculous transformation in one session) and combined with other cardio and resistance work. I’ve experienced the dreaded “runner’s knee” from over-exercising on Tarmac and hydro-spinning allows you to avoid that, while also burning more calories than normal jogging or cycling because of the water resistance. Overall I think it’s good news that HydroFit is planning 10 more sites in London, with a view to expanding across the country. Delphine also tells me that the hydro-jogger (a running machine in water) isn’t far away either.
Post-workout, I sampled one of HydroFit’s special smoothies at the juice bar (see recipes below). My legs, usually heavy from spending most of the day under a desk, were tingling as the blood pumped through them and felt slightly wobbly but also wonderfully energised, as if I’d flushed out all toxins.
Another few sessions and those leather trousers will hold no fears. Now if only someone would invent hydro-skiing, I might be able to get my boyfriend interested. I rather fancy the idea of that duo pod.
Pippa Middleton headed to the Sugarplum gala in London on Wednesday with her boyfriend, Nico Jackson.