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SplashCycle has riders spinning, not sweating

Matt Dynes | Hatchet Photographer
Cyclists in SplashCycle on the roof of the Embassy Row Hotel, located at 2015 Massachusetts Ave, unwind and watch the sunset at the 8 p.m. class.

Lacing up your sneakers and venturing out into D.C.’s sweltering summer heat for a workout is the last thing on most people’s agenda. Luckily, a new aqua cycling studio atop a Dupont Circle hotel lets you work out, without sweating it out, in a refreshing rooftop pool.

SplashCycle opened on the roof of the Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle last August but started up its first full season of workout sessions May 15. Classes run four times a day on Monday and Tuesday nights from 5 to 8 p.m. Each class is $25 and the underwater cycling studio currently offers a package of 5 classes for $100.

You’ll slip on a pair of water shoes before plunging into the heated pool and hopping on one of the 12 bikes that sit underwater. At the 8 p.m. sunset spin class, the air was cool so the water kept me warm but once we started peddling my body heated up and I didn’t even notice the cool breeze.

Our energetic instructor led us through a series of songs that ranged from Michael Jackson hits to Rihanna remixes and even a Billy Joel throwback was added to the mix.

At first pedal, I didn’t feel the resistance kick in but as we continued through the first song, my legs started to feel the burn. The instructor told us that the faster you pedal, the more you feel the resistance. During the sprint sessions, where riders pedalled as fast as they could, I found myself struggling to keep pace.

Unlike other spinning classes that usually have one track dedicated to an arm workout, SplashCycle incorporated the entire body into almost every song. Some tracks had riders using the water resistance as arm weights, while other times participants had to lean back and do crunches in the water.

The music, string lights around the pool and staff added to the party atmosphere. You could tell each member of the team was passionate about the workout and the benefits it provides – especially SplashCycle founder Sarah Gontijo.

Gontijo, who graduated from GW with a master’s degree in political management in 2007, can be found running around the deck dancing, yelling about her love for DJ Calvin Harris and inspiring the riders throughout the night.

Gontijo started SplashCycle last July after running into her childhood friend who manufactures the bikes for the class on a trip to her hometown in Brazil. She said the meeting was “serendipity” and within a few months she was getting the classes in motion.

Gontijo said her motivation to start the classes was a personal injury and her struggle to find a workout that fit her needs. Because of knee issues, Gontijo wasn’t able to do traditional gym exercises and aqua cycling was a way she could work out without feeling the pain of her injury.

“Working out in the water is actually better than working out on land,” she said. “I have bad knees and I’ve always tried to find a workout that works for me and aqua cycling is the only one that clicked for me.”

One downside to the beautiful hotel rooftop location is that SplashCycle is working with the amenities the hotel already has, so there isn’t a locker room like at other fitness studios. This left about 12 people in the class racing to the small bathroom to change.

Be sure to bring a plastic bag to house your wet clothes and change of dry clothes to put on after you peel off your wet swimsuit or spandex shorts.

After the sun went down and the 45 minutes that felt more like a dance party than a workout were over, I got a significant workout but didn’t feel the soreness that typically comes with other fitness classes. Gontijo said the lack of soreness is normal because working out in the water prevents microfractures to the muscle that cause soreness.

For a high energy workout that has you smiling the whole way through, SplashCycle is a treat to mix up your typical gym sessions with a gorgeous view overlooking the city – especially when the thermometer hits above 90 degrees.

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