Helping break the cycle

Westminster YMCA offers cool exercise classes to get teens in gear to keep them slim and fit

August 13, 2006|By GINA DAVIS | GINA DAVIS,SUN REPORTER

With the pulsating beats of techno music filling the exercise studio, the cyclists - a group made up mostly of teens - pedaled faster, then slower, then faster again as they worked up a sweat for nearly an hour.

Motivated by the upbeat pace of songs with titles such as "Movin' Around," "Lose Control," and "Boom, Boom, Boom," the participants in the Teen Cycle class dabbed perspiration from their faces and chugged water as their instructor changed the tension and speed of the ride every few minutes to increase the workout.

"A little bit faster now," Misti Myers said as she prodded the cyclists and turned up the volume to get them to crank out more energy.

Myers, the YMCA's health and wellness director, said she started the Teen Cycle class two years ago to give younger people fun alternatives to the typical exercise options offered at a fitness facility. The Teen Cycle class meets twice a week at the YMCA in Westminster.

Another reason for developing activities for teens was the growing incidence of childhood obesity, Myers said.

By creating interesting classes for youth and using music they like to hear, they'll develop healthier, exercise-conscious attitudes, she said.

Mira Foote, a fitness instructor, said she started bringing her daughter Elizabeth, 13, to the Teen Cycle class for that reason.

"You want them to have healthy lifestyles," said Foote, who added that while she is an athlete, her daughter is not.

"She's not into sports. So when I first heard about the teen classes, I thought it would be perfect," she said. "It's a whole different vibe in a class like that."

Other teen-oriented classes - which are offered year-round and are open to members and nonmembers - include Teen Tone, a muscle conditioning class, and Youth Circuit Training, an eight-week program that teaches proper use of circuit training equipment.

"I wanted to provide more activities in a fun setting," said Myers, 24, who has worked at the Westminster center for seven years. She earned a master's degree in exercise science this year from McDaniel College.

She said the 45-minute Teen Cycle classes are well attended, especially on Sundays, when families are invited to join the teens.

Nearly two dozen teens pack some of the sessions, she said.

The only difference between the teen class and the adult version is the music, Myers said. She favors techno music - a form of electronic dance music - for the teens, while she leans toward classic rock for the older set.

"The [adults] in my morning class would probably walk out," she said, only half in jest.

Westminster's teen fitness program is part of the YMCA USA's health initiative, Activate America, she said.

"They've challenged [local branches] to come up with new programs" to draw in the community, Myers said. "I try to make sure that anyone who walks through our doors, there's something here for them, no matter how young or old you are."

Through the Activate America initiative, Myers said, the Westminster facility has doubled the number of programs available for people from 3 years old to senior citizens.

Biting her bottom lip as she concentrated on the intensity of the workout, Maria Andrion, 18, pedaled on a stationary bike near her mother, Marge, 47.

Maria, a recent Westminster High School graduate, said she enjoys the class because being in a group keeps her motivated. An athlete who has played basketball and run cross-country and track, Maria has long been interested in staying active.

"It's fun when you're with other people," said Maria, who has worked as a camp counselor and soccer coach at the YMCA. "I also like these classes because I have injuries from playing sports, and these classes put less impact on my body."

Foote - who praised Myers as a dynamic instructor who works well with teens - said the first time she brought Elizabeth to the cycling class, her daughter resisted.

"I told her go one time and if she didn't like it, she didn't have to go back," Foote said.

Now, her daughter attends the class every Sunday and Thursday.

"We're planting the seeds for a healthy lifestyle," Foote said.

gina.davis@baltsun.com

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