On a warm summer Thursday evening, I made my way to the Binghamton branch of the YMCA of Broome to try the 6:30 p.m. Cycling Class. I found the Cycling Studio tucked in a corner of the Wellness Center. I brought along a hand towel and a water bottle in anticipation of trying the cardio-pumped workout. The first participant to arrive, Maria, carried a mega water bottle and a bike helmet! Both left me wondering what I was in for during the next hour. I chatted briefly with her and quickly learned she had taken cycling classes with nearly all the YMCA instructors. She greeted Billy, the Y-Fit instructor, when he stopped by the Wellness Center before his class. Found out she had taken this intense cardio/functional fitness class as well. The next attendee to arrive was a friend of Maria’s she met through their volunteer efforts with VINES, a local group tending community gardens. Maria introduced Chris and explained she invited him and he was also a first-timer. I breathed a silent sigh of relief…until I learned Chris’ YMCA workouts included Wellness Center cardio work-outs and lap swimming. He had also recently joined a Triathlon Club and biked outdoors. He said he was working toward running a half marathon when he injured his meniscus. Even with his injury, I felt uncertain of my ability to keep up in a class with such highly trained athletes. in fact, I almost convinced myself I’d take a seat in the back of the room as an observer, when Jen, the instructor, arrived. I knew Jen as a fellow Aquatics Staffer. Though I had never taken one her classes, I appreciated her reputation; she taught with enthusiam, professionalism and excellent cuing.
Jen quickly put me at ease as she set up for class. She greeted the participants as they arrived. The regulars adjusted their cycles to accomodate their height, leg and arm length. Jen helped Chris and I to comfortably “fit” ourselves to ours. She carefully explained how the cycles operated as she loaded her music. She warned us the workout would get intense at times but we were free to choose whether to gear-up (changing the tension as we pedaled to produce more resistance on the chain by turning a knob clockwise), stay at the same level or gear down (turning the knob counter-clockwise). She said part of the class we would sit to pedal and part of it we would stand. She warned that standing, especially when paired with a gear-up would quickly raise the cardio effects. She said we could keep the tension even and/or opt out by maintaining a seated position or returning to a seated position if necessary.
I chose to stay on the cycle the entire class. My machine required multiple adjustments because of my short stature…but I had just enough leg length to pedal. Jen took us through a short warm-up with a variety of stretches, then gradually increased the intensity. When we reached a steady level, she switched from the bright overhead lights to colored lights. The room temperature seemed to immediately drop a few more degrees in the already cool room. As we progressed in our stands with gear-ups simulating travel uphill and through sand, we appreciated the brisk air as we grabbed our hand towels to wipe the sweat beading on our foreheads. The most intense sets included a short series of “jumps” accomplished by switching beween standing and sitting. Jen threw in a more moderate set and finished up with an “ominious” song that pushed everyone to exert all their energy in one final set. Then she cued for a transition into a gradual cool down.
Each paticipant left the class feeling challenged by the class. Though I modified my work-out by sitting while others stood or by not gearing up, I definitely reached my sustained cardio level. And I enjoyed the class! Chris appreciated the ability to modify his extreme outdoor activities with a more controlled class on a stationary cycle as his meniscus recovers. One member added this class to her Boot Camp routine. Twenty-seven year old, Elizabeth, liked the flexibilty of the class. She said, “it provides the opportunity to make it as hard as I am up to that night.” Maria called Jen “a very capable instructor, who ensures we all have good form.” And added,” Jen’s class provides a great cardio workout!”
The climate-controlled enviroment of the cycling studio allows a safe and consistent workout year-round. One class participant said the class encouraged her to push herself harder than she would exercising on her own. The classes are offered at convenient times in the early morning and evening, with capable instructors. Child Watch is available during the evening classes. Check the YMCA website for more information about the Fall Schedule.
I would recommend using a gel seat if you have not ridden a bike in a long time. I was so relieved to discover no bike helmet was needed during the entire class. I smiled as I left the facility and spotted Maria buckling on her helmet before climbing on her bike parked by the YMCA entrance. What a great “Ah ha” moment! Maria’s last workout for the pleasant evening was pedaling home.