The Meyer Center at CoxHealth
3545 S. National Ave., Springfield, 417-269-3282, coxhealth.com
CoxHealth Fitness Center North
1423 North Jefferson Ave., Springfield, 417-269-8882, coxhealth.com
A couple of summers ago, I set a lofty goal for myself: I wanted to run 100 miles by July 31. In most cases this would be totally doable, but there was a little problem at the time: I didn’t set the goal until July 15. After a few sweat-drenched 5-mile jogs on some of the hottest days of the year, I decided to change my goal of running 100 miles to simply completing 100 miles by any means necessary, and I pulled my boyfriend’s old bike from the garage and started pedaling.
While riding a bike helped me move much faster than I moved on my own two feet, I also faced some new challenges. The seat wasn’t comfortable! My butt and quads were really sore. And have you ever tried riding a bike up a giant hill? Killer. I would rather jog a hill any day of the week. Needless to say, I learned I much prefer jogging to biking, and I’ve only hopped on a cycle a couple of times since those 100 miles.
My latest venture was last week, when I tried the Spinning With Marie class at The Meyer Center. Five minutes in, I was reminded of the sweat, tears and pain I felt that summer, but by the end of the hour, I was happily covered in sweat and ready to find that old bike and hit the road again. Read on to learn a bit more about the class.
I was a bit more excited to try out this class than usual, and that’s because of the instructor. The class is taught by Marie Pearl, who was a contestant on Season 15 of the popular reality weight loss show The Biggest Loser. But Pearl didn’t only appear on the show, she was a main contender. She made it to week 13 of 14 weeks, and she ended up losing a total of 111 pounds through the live finale. “After I left the ranch, I still had work to do at home before the live finale,” Pearl says. “When I came back, I started working out at The Meyer Center.” Pearl really liked The Meyer Center, and she eventually became certified to teach spinning and started teaching classes in eight-week sessions at both The Meyer Center and CoxHealth Fitness Center North.
Created by Pearl, the classes are set to upbeat, current music and are similar to classes she enjoyed while she was on the show. “The first couple of weeks is a lot of getting familiar with setting up the bike, the terminology and things like that,” Pearl says. “But the class gets progressively harder as the weeks go on.”
Because nothing in my life can ever work out easily, I happened to schedule my Spinning With Marie class on week 8. Yes, this was the final and most challenging class of the entire 8-week session, and it was the one I had to try. After a quick tutorial on how to adjust my bike, we got to work.
We started with a 10-minute warm up, and then we dove right in to 45 minutes of spinning. For the most part, the class was performed as most spinning classes are, designed to reflect a similar ride to biking outdoors. Sometimes we rode on a flat road and pedaled as fast as we could. Other times we upped the resistance on the bike to create a situation similar to climbing a hill. We also performed jumps, sprinted and even isolated our cores to work on our abs.
While the class was quite the challenge, it was also doable. First and foremost, Pearl was a fabulous instructor. She was encouraging the entire time, helping us push ourselves without overwhelming us. It was almost as if she sensed when I felt I couldn’t pedal a second more, and then she’d yell out something like “Five seconds, you got this!,” and it would help me power through. She was the positive driving force that made the class a motivating, uplifting experience, and I wished I could have her with me every time I went to the gym.
It was also doable because, although it’s a group class, every one of us were on our own bikes and could adjust our workout to our own personal level of difficulty. While I worked to up my resistance as high as I could handle, I’m sure those who had been to all eight sessions had their resistances set higher. I’m also pretty positive that my “sprint” wasn’t nearly as quick as the guy next to me. But that’s the beauty of the class: It’s open to everyone, and you can work as hard as you want. “I always like to say, ‘It’s your ride,’” Pearl says. “I’m just there to guide and show you the way.”
After the 60-minute class, I was covered in sweat. “You can burn anywhere from 500 to 700 calories per class, depending on effort,” Pearl says. And while it’s a great cardio workout, the class also works a variety of muscles, primarily the quads, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. But in addition to helping me melt off several hundred calories, this class was beneficial for my frame of mind. Seriously, I can’t say enough about how great Pearl was, and how welcome she made me feel. “I know how sometimes people feel intimidated,” Pearl says. “The first time I tried spinning was on the show. I have been 250 pounds sitting on a spin bike, feeling like I didn’t belong.” Thanks to her TV experience, she was extra fabulous at making everyone feel like they were just as worthy of being in the gym as that woman you see running on the treadmill for an hour, or the guy you see bench pressing 300 pounds. She helped me remember that I am fabulous, no matter what size or fitness level I am at, and she made me truly enjoy working out again. And most of all, she helped me realize that while it’s a challenge, biking is truly a great workout.
Next July, it’s 100 miles or bust.