I signed up for the class because I thought it would be a good conversation starter.

“Your spin class is high intensity? Well mine requires water shoes.”

The studio was incredibly fancy and spa-like, with unfinished wood and bottles of cold pressed juice everywhere. It made the water shoes the woman at the desk handed me on the neatly folded towel seem even more comical. A cross between slip on sneakers and the jelly shoes that made the ’90s smell a little plastic-y, they were completely at odds with the vibe that someone could start massaging your face with rosewater at any moment.

My bathing suit is a navy blue shapeless one piece. Bought from a TJMaxx clearance rack the summer “Last Friday Night” was on an endless loop, it was the kind of suit you’d grab in 8th grade after your mother said no to a string of bikinis. Getting dressed in the locker room I realized just how thin the material had been worn from years of chlorine, and I worried some vigorous movements might make it disintegrate right there in the pool. I hoped it would become a tale of wonder instead of embarrassment.

“Did you hear about that girl in the morning class?” later spinners would whisper. “She was spinning so hard her suit just exploded!”

I had seen pictures of the bike pool, but it was even stranger in real life. The handlebars of a dozen stationary bikes poking out of the water still seemed to say-someone really messed up the gym layout. The room was dimly lit by a row of flickering candles on shelves in front of the pool. It felt like we were all going to get facials instead of a cardio workout.

But this was, in fact, a hard-core spin class. Although being submerged in water made is difficult to tell whether I was sweating, the pool did nothing for the burning in my limbs or the urge to inform the instructor I was going as fast as I could. Being in the water opens up a variety of positions for spinners. You can hang off the seat, and put your feet on the handlebars, all without the fear you’ll lose your balance, fall off and impale yourself on someone’s water bottle. My feet knocked around inside the too-big water shoes as I furiously pumped the pedals, looking at the churning surface of the water and thinking we had created a nice whirlpool, if anyone wanted to sit between the bikes and relax as we inched closer to ripping apart our thigh muscles.

When the class was over and I pulled myself out of the pool, I stared down at the parade of water shoe-clad feet heading towards the locker room and felt a little better about my ratty suit and untoned calves. Because no matter how perfect your bathing suit looks or how well you do in spin class, as water pours out of your slightly cloudy water shoes, you’re going to look ridiculous.

Photos via Greatist and Aqua Studio NY