YMCA offers new group cycling, Pilates classes

WORTHINGTON -- No need to wait for New Year's resolutions to get fit; new group exercise classes at the Worthington Area YMCA have some members sweating in sync.

Wednesday afternoon workout
Worthington YMCA Health and Fitness Director Josh Anderson instructs Sara Ricker, Worthington, on one of the stationary bicycles used in the new cycling class Wednesday at the facility. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- No need to wait for New Year's resolutions to get fit; new group exercise classes at the Worthington Area YMCA have some members sweating in sync.

"I'm a believer in the group workout," said Josh Anderson, the YMCA's fitness director. "For some people, working out with others is an extra incentive and adds a social dimension to exercising.

"It's not a tea and crumpets kind of thing--they're there for a workout--but you can see that Karen or Bob is doing it and sweating, too."

With support from Lynn Olson, CEO of Sanford Regional Hospital Worthington (SRHW), Anderson has made good on one of the goals he set for the YMCA when he joined its staff last January: adding an indoor cycling class.

"We have seven bikes in the former daycare room," he said. "There's good ventilation, a nice bank of windows so you can view the outdoors instead of just staring at a wall and a full stereo system -- it's a perfect room for cycling."


Cycling classes started a few weeks ago, with certified cycling instructors Olson and Angela Echeverry energizing their students with upbeat tunes, encouraging words and technical advice.

"Cycling is a high calorie-burning workout that is something different than jumping on a treadmill or elliptical," said Anderson. "It's an excellent way of reproducing the feel of biking without being outdoors, so if someone wants to save time, limit gear, avoid weather extremes and still get a high-intensity, shorter-duration workout, this is ideal."

Longtime cycling enthusiasts ride side-by-side with beginners, and each is able to work at his/her own pace, thanks to adjustable tensions and heart-rate monitors provided by SRHW.

"Cycling can handle exercisers at all levels of ability," confirmed Olson, who has taken cycling classes in five different states and became certified while living in Ottumwa, Iowa, several years ago. "It's great for fat-burning and is something that people of all ages, sizes and shapes can participate in."

Olson came to cycling after a series of injuries sidelined him from his earlier pastime of running. Because he enjoys group workouts and now loves cycling, he is well equipped to share the activity.

"The instructors take time before class for stretching and a warmup, and show individuals all the basics of their bikes," assured Anderson. "You don't have to be an expert -- the instructors will help you be comfortable."

Lower body muscles like the quads and hamstrings get the most benefit from a cycling session, but it works the overall cardiovascular system well, said Anderson.

"This isn't like a casual pedal around the lake," laughed Anderson. "People come out of the class and they're dripping."


One recent convert to group cycling is Lynn Wilson of Round Lake, who, with her husband John, has been regularly attending the 5:45 a.m. classes on Tuesday and Thursday led by Echeverry. Other 45-minute classes are at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 4 and 5:30 p.m. Thursday and 9:15 a.m. Saturday.

"It's really a neat workout," said Wilson. "John and I also run, and cycling uses such different muscles."

Wilson laughs when recalling how daughter Rachel joined her for a cycling class one morning, thinking her experience as a runner and half-marathoner would make it easy for her.

"I told her to pick up a little hand towel to dry off the sweat, and she just looked at me -- she thought it would be a piece of cake," recalled Wilson. "By the end of the class, oh my gosh, was she sweating."

"(The instructor) Angela tells us to climb your own mountain, but you don't get to coast down it very often," admitted Wilson.

Besides the group cycling classes, Anderson is pleased that Echeverry -- a newcomer to Worthington like Olson -- is also teaching Pilates classes at the YMCA twice weekly, at 5:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday.

"Pilates focuses on core postural muscles, which help keep your body balanced and are essential for providing support to your spine," detailed Anderson. "The aim of Pilates is to strengthen the deep torso muscles."

The Pilates classes, like the group cycling sessions, are all part of Anderson's efforts to build the YMCA's fitness offerings.


"We want to give people as many options for staying fit and healthy as possible, and I'm very lucky to have such great staff as Lynn, Angela, Tina Nickel (a step- and water aerobics teacher), and Craig Stewart, who runs our active older adults group, working with us. They make my job a lot easier, and they contribute so much."

Olson, who has only been in Worthington since June 30, praises Anderson, in turn, for the speed with which he helped implement the group cycling classes.

"It's been a pleasant surprise that this was set up so rapidly," commended Olson. "I volunteer my time, and the Y has been very supportive.

"There's a great spirit of partnership around town, and the new Y and its city-supported aquatics center will be awesome assets for Worthington that should really encourage growth."

Meanwhile, at the end of the workday twice each week, Olson will travel a few blocks down 11th Street to don his bike shorts and lead another cycling workout to one of 25 different music routines he's designed.

"I try to use the music as a way to make the exercise a little less like work and a little more like fun," said Olson.

Added Anderson, "We're doing everything we can to get people involved and healthy."

For more information about YMCA membership or group cycling and pilates classes, contact Josh Anderson at the Worthington Area YMCA at 376-6197, or stop by at 211 11th St., Worthington.

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