Group exercise classes hold steady appeal for local fitness fans
“Faster, let’s go!”
Instructor Beth Klosowski shouted to her cyclists, motivating her Spinning class on a recent morning at the Riverfront Athletic Club.
“There’s Frosty Freeze at the end of the hill,” she encouraged.
While the ice cream never showed up, the enthusiasm and fun in a group Spinning class is what many participants say makes the classes so popular.
“I’m 62, and it keeps me going,” Bill Williams said as sweat dripped off his face while pedaling. “It lets me eat whatever I want and keeps my heart working.”
Health clubs across the country thought Spinning would be a fad, “but it’s actually turned out to be a pretty stable class among most health clubs,” said Gina Boutelle, Spinning director at the club.
The club started offering 12 classes in September, and they’ve taken off ever since. Eight instructors now teach 17 classes on the 22 Spinning brand bikes. Participants must sign up for classes on Saturday mornings for the next week, and many of them fill up within minutes of posting the sheets.
“Group exercise in general is increasing,” said Jessie Cutsinger, fitness director at the YMCA of Northern Rock County. “I think people are getting sick of working out alone.”
The YMCA has offered cycling classes for years and usually fills its 20 Spinning bikes in a variety of weekly classes, she said.
“It’s a class that you sweat a lot in, and I know a lot of people like that,” she said. “It makes you feel good when you sweat.”
The increase also is attributed to more people training for triathlons because a Spinning bike is more of a racing bike, Boutelle said.
For Kris Meier, who bikes in three classes a week, the workout is a way for her to—hopefully—keep up with her husband, Jim, on bike trails this summer.
“He can do hills with impunity. He can just go—glide right up,” she said. “If I can keep up, I’ll be happy.”
Spinning provides a great cardiovascular workout, as well as building leg strength, Boutelle said. An average person in a 45-minute class can burn 400 to 500 calories, she said.
The YMCA also has a 90-minute Saturday class, which many of the triathlon participants like, Cutsinger said.
Classes also are attractive to men, “just because it’s not a rhythm class,” she said. “You’re just biking the whole time.”
An instructor in a typical class will push you to pedal faster up hills and jumps, slow you down for water breaks and then jump off the seat again for an intense climb.
But don’t forget the fun.
Klosowski found a note from Williams—known as “Mr. Bill”—on the seat of her instructor’s bike one day: “This bike has a seat. Use it!”
Anyone can cycle, and no special equipment is required. Pedals on the Spinning bikes are equipped with clips and cages. Cyclists can wear tennis shoes, but instructors recommend the harder the sole, the better.
“With a softer sole, some of the absorption of power goes through into your shoes,” Boutelle said. “If you’re using flat bike shoes, all your power is going through to your pedals.”
A former cross country coach at Craig High School, Williams always encourages people to exercise. After he left the Army during the Vietnam era, he said he spent a lot of time in taverns.
“That was stupid,” he said, wiping the sweat from his face. “This is much better.”