Teacher takes class for a spin

PE: Instructor says cycling makes students more alert in school, more confident, stronger

February 14, 2011 

TUMWATER - The lights were dim.

The Black Eyed Peas’ “Time of My Life” was thumping from the stereo.

And about 25 students from Black Hills High School were warming up for one of the hottest fitness activities in the nation: spinning class.

“We all enjoy it,” said senior Aurora Beck, 17. “This is something the whole class actually participates in.”

P.E. teacher Greg Bert held a timer and pedaled a stationary bike at the front of the class, leading the students along a 30-minute imaginary route to “Mama’s house.”

On Bert’s command, they turned knobs on their bikes to add or decrease resistance. They stood up for hills. They sat down for flat roads. They took their pulses several times. And because there were more students than bikes in this particular class, those who wanted to could switch during intervals with a handful of students who kept pace with the music by stepping on and off of elevated platforms – the type that are used in step aerobics.

“If you actually try, you can really get something out of it,” said sophomore Alexandra Van Hook, 16.

Most of the students clapped along with the music. Several sang along.

“It’s fun,” said sophomore Hayley Beesley, 16. “It gets everybody to be active.”

The school began offering spinning in September, thanks to a partnership with the Valley Athletic Club in Tumwater and an anonymous donor, Bert said.

The fitness club recently upgraded its cycling equipment and sold about 20 of its old bikes to the high school program for about $150 each. Used gym-rated spinning bikes run $300 to $500 and up, according to various websites.

The club usually marks down its used equipment for members, but because the bikes were going to a school, they lowered the price even more, said fitness and promotions director Kari Murphy.

“They could have got a lot more money for them,” Bert said.

Valley Athletic Club also sent two of its instructors to Black Hills High School to help train the school’s PE teachers on how to teach indoor cycling classes.

“The music you heard is all from them (the club’s instructors) because I don’t know how to download stuff,” Bert said, laughing.

He offers spinning once or twice a week in his “In the Den” fitness class. Because students won’t always have school sports or required PE classes to help them stay in shape, the class was created to help them learn what an athletic club is like, with offerings such as yoga, cardio, Pilates and strength training. They’re also taught gym etiquette, such as how to clean exercise equipment after using it.

“It’s more realistic fitness – not like a PE class,” said sophomore Olivia Studebaker, 15.

Beck said spinning is harder than it looks.

“The first time I tried it, my legs were sore for days,” she said.

Bert encouraged the students to keep pace with the music.

“You’re almost there,” he told them. “Mama’s calling. … Your brain gets tired before your legs do.”

As they wrapped up the class, Bert congratulated the students and explained that the rigorous physical routine would help them stay alert for the rest of the school day.

“Your brains are going to be more conducive to learning because you’re calm,” he said. “And you have self-confidence because you feel good about yourself.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

lpemberton@theolympian.com

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