NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — On sunny, summer days when the beach is beckoning, I find that my normal gym workouts can start to feel a little dry.
Activities like cycling and yoga, traditionally done only on solid ground, are making their way to the water. Not only are the workouts fun and picturesque, they add a new dimension of resistance and balance.
I invited my friend and fitness instructor, Ruth Bain, to join me for 90 minutes of hydrobiking in Newport Beach, Calif., in addition to a 75-minute paddleboard yoga class at Lake Mission Viejo. Bain teaches cycling and yoga, and I thought she would be perfect to weigh in on the benefits of these versions on the water.
First we pedaled around Lido Isle. I was barefoot, Bain wore athletic shoes. We waved at boats, admired architecture and spotted jumping fish. My heart rate went up, especially when pushing through water chopped in a boat’s wake. At Bain’s suggestion, we also tried a sprint.
A sea breeze dried the sweat that I would normally mop with a gym towel.
“It’s like riding a fixie bike,” Bain said. “If you stop pedaling, you stop.”
Veronica Rodriguez, owner of Pacific Coast Hydrobikes, said the devices provide a deceptive workout. While they can go up to 10 mph, most people ride at 2 or 3 mph.
“They’re working out, but at the same time they don’t feel like they’re working out,” she said. “They’re enjoying the view. Sometimes sea lions pass by. It’s more therapeutic than sitting at a stationary bike.”
The floating bikes are already balanced for you. But there’s no such thing as coasting.
“When you’re going against the current, you really work out your quads,” Rodriguez said.
Dina Khoury, 21, brought her cousin, visiting from Canada, to try the bikes. She said she could feel the work in her thighs as they pedaled around the boats and homes of Newport Island.
“It’s fun,” Khoury said. “I don’t exercise, so I do get something out of it.”
When we stepped onto the dock after our rides, it took a moment to recover our land legs. The next day, my glutes were sore from the saddle. I asked Bain what she thought of the workout.
“It doesn’t require a lot of skill,” she said. “You can make it as challenging or easy as you like. It doesn’t require a lot of training. I think any activity that gets you out of the gym is therapeutic.”
A few days later, we met up with Erin Nealy, a former professional snowboarder, who started Sunset Standup Paddle last summer. We joined her in the placid waters of Lake Mission Viejo, where she teaches yoga and CrossFit style workouts on a paddleboard.
“You’re literally immersed in nature,” Nealy said. “That backdrop gives people a better ability to plug into themselves, their body, their environment.”
We started with a lesson in paddle technique and how to engage our hips, along with our arms, shoulders and core, for the best mobility. The boards are outfitted with a thick mat to provide softness and grip for the yoga postures.
“You can attempt any yoga pose on a paddleboard,” Nealy said. “Every pose is going to be harder because of the balance component. You can’t be in a down dog thinking about going to shop at Whole Foods. You have to be really present and use all your facilities to stay on your board.”
We began with a series of squats and abdominal exercises, including burpees, where we moved from a push-up to standing. I was too unsteady to jump as I would on solid ground, but Bain achieved the hop.
The first time we moved into the downward dog pose, I was in awe of my upside down view — blue water behind me, puffy white clouds above. The hardest positions were lunges and the warrior stance, when I would feel the gentle wobble of the board in the water.
Still, we managed sun salutations, the triangle pose and the pigeon. Each pose required intense concentration to work with the dynamics of a floating mat.
Regulars can get really advanced on the water. Sarah Willett, 27, of Dana Point, Calif., first met Nealy in a traditional yoga studio but has loved the transition to the outdoors. She has mastered headstands on a paddleboard.
“I really like the adventure of it, something really new,” she said. “If you fall, you’re in the water. It’s not a big deal.”
We ended our class with the most tranquil final relaxation ever. We sprawled on our backs on the boards, eyes closed, fingertips trailing in the water.
“That sense of being rocked by the motion of the water was very soothing,” Bain said. “I loved that.”
It was a magical pause before we climbed back on our boards and paddled our way to shore.
Distributed by MCT Information Services