"Clap like a seal! Feel the burn! You’re worth it!"
That's Emma Galland, a smiling, merciless spinning instructor, barking at resolute participants in Aqua’s underwater cycling class this week in Tribeca.
It wasn’t the most intense workout, but maybe that’s because I was laughing too hard to focus on squeezing my buttocks while pedaling a submerged spin bike and flailing my arms on command.
If you're at home right now doing a juice cleanse with Suzanne Somers’s tapes, don't tell anyone. Because in the world of New York's New Year's health trends, that's way too low-maintenance. To stay in style, you're going to have to open your mind, up the tempo and maybe take out a loan.
Seal clapping at $40 per 45-minute class, combined with Aqua's $180 January anti-sugar and processed-carbs detox, might well be worth it if you end up looking like them -- the lithe French beauties Galland and Esther Gauthier, Aqua’s owner, giddily splashing to pop music with the rest of us. If they eat cupcakes, they hide it well. And if they’re stressed out by Aqua’s competition, they hide that, too.
New spins on spinning classes have become as common as the corner Starbucks: Studio 360, Crank and Pedal NYC, to name a few. The question is, who can make New Year's resolutions turn into sleek, toned realities? There’s plenty of promising going on right next door for similar prices at the "best shape of your life" CrossFit gym. Around the corner, the "best workout in the world" can apparently be found at Barry's Bootcamp, which touts a celebrity-studded clientele. (Kim Kardashian? Bonus points for Aqua.)
"We joke that Franklin Street has become Wellness Alley. We're just missing a nail salon!" says Gauthier. "But I’m actually delighted to have CrossFit and Barry's nearby, because it's very convenient for our customers to supplement their aqua-cycling workouts and cross-train."
Like I said, high maintenance. And that's just the workouts. To keep up with demand, Aqua has started selling Love Grace’s raw veggie juices, one of 2014's biggest diet trends, according to wellandgoodnyc.com. (Loot recommends the Restore juice for a tasty, $9.80 dose of chlorophyll.) Comparable newcomers Suja and Heartbeet are also sprouting up in fancy gym cafés.
Naturally, juice is just the beginning of the New Year's health food fights. The Bootcamp sucker-punched Aqua’s juice with a new line of health food this month: Hu Kitchen 4 Barry's. Hu Kitchen is Union Square's gluten-free, Paleo-diet darling, serving gut-healthy fare smack in the middle of a wave of bacteria consciousness. Thank you, Doctors Robynne Chutkan and Frank Lipman.
Their argument is essentially that good bacteria in your intestines can help heal a plethora of ills, lead to weight loss and even improve your skin, and that bad bacteria can do just the opposite. As I peruse Hu Kitchen's menu for something that will balance my flora and fauna before my next interview, I wonder: Do all you health nuts know each other?
"I’ll have the Organic Green Nebula, please." Nadia Tarazi orders the kale-kiwi-cashew cream smoothie, her usual. An energetic 30-something, Tarazi founded and runs Micronutrient Solutions, a health care company whose supplements are designed to enhance nutrient and mineral absorption. Between green gulps, I learn she is just as obsessed with bacterial balance as her cosmopolitan customers. But she argues that food alone isn’t going to deliver it.
"We focus on gut health by supplementing trace nutrients that should have been in food in the first place," she says. "Just look at Department of Agriculture reports -- the mineral content of our food is at an 80-year low."
Energy and preparedness. What’s in her pills? Tarazi’s new micronutrient formula CORE Plus+ contains 16 minerals, 14 vitamins, 3 amino acids, 3 antioxidants and plant nutrients for $68 a bottle (the requisite New Year's kicker is free shipping in January).
But aren’t supplements a complete waste of money? That’s what the widely read December 2013 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine seemed to say (check this video).
"Absolutely," Tarazi says. "Most supplements are basically expensive pee. One-a-day multis pass through you like a coin, because the nutrients are in a form that your body doesn’t absorb. That's why we created Core Plus+, with nutrients your body actually absorbs."
As with many other dietary supplements in the "nutraceutical' family, there is no FDA evaluation of Tarazi's micronutrients. However, a number of peer-reviewed studies in prominent medical journals (Alternative and Complementary Medicine, CNS Spectrums, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the list goes on) link micronutrients to improvements in mental and physical health. Consumers are left to pick and choose.
"Um, can I get a quinoa almond butter cookie to go?" I ask the Hu Kitchen server. I feel healthier already. Even a bit lighter. Even a little poorer.