InSync Cycle Studio pedals fitness in Hunt Valley

For a reasonable fee, someone can enter the InSync Cycle Studio with a ton of energy and leave a sweaty mess of worn out humanity an hour later.

At least, that's what happened to me Aug. 2 after I joined an organized cycling class for the first time in my 65 years and was put through what amounted to torture with upbeat music.

The method to my madness was to discover what actually happens to an old guy (I don't look a day over 85) in reasonable shape who thinks he can withstand the rigors of pedaling a stationary cycle to the whims of an instructor, in this case Parkton resident Kim Elser, a 41-year-old mother of three with the endurance of a Himalayan Sherpa.

InSync, owned by Charlie "Spook" Hilgartner — not to be confused with Spook Hill, near Prettyboy Reservoir — and located in Hunt Valley, is a couple of years old now and has its fair share of devotees.

I am now one of them.

Yes, the workout was tough. Yes, the all-women participants in the class took pity on me. No, they didn't laugh at me more than a couple of times.

Yet in the end, after managing to survive Elser's frenetic drills, I knew I had been through something more challenging than humiliating.

Others in the class had a similar reaction.

Lexi Lippy, a Fashion Institute of Technolgy student in New York City, said she regularly makes the trip to InSync when visiting her parents in Shrewsbury.

"I take a lot of spin classes in New York," she said. "So when I'm home, I was looking for something around here. I come a couple of times a month," she said, adding that she has bought a package of classes. "I love it."

She's not the only one.

Margaret Bryant, an all-around athlete from White Hall who often bikes 100 miles per week, plays tennis and rides horses, has found a home at InSync.

"It's a nice facility, there are a lot of class choices and the instructors are great," she said. "All the instructors have different strengths, and that's a good thing."

In the beginning, as she prepped me for what was ahead, Elser said that setting a base resistance level on the cycle was the key to the workout.

The base level, she said, coupled with speed (or rpm of the pedals), would be displayed on a small screen about the size of a smart phone attached to the handlebars.

As I found out from the first pedal pump, following Elser's commands while watching the screen kept me busy until I looked at my watch the first time and noted there were still 35 grueling minutes to go.

Even so, I had little time to mull over my fate as the instructor's crisp commands to pump up our collective heart rates kept streams of sweat pouring down my face.

It didn't get any easier from there, considering we went from sitting while pedaling furiously to standing on the pedals for a simulated hill climbing event that seemed to never end.

One other nasty little trick Elser had up her sleeve was to make us stand and pedal without "bouncing," or moving up and down, in 20-second intervals with 10 seconds of rest in between.

That one did a number on my legs, although I persevered until Elser mercifully told us we were finished.

And not a moment too soon, because I was wiped out, yet elated.

Elser said afterward that the first class is always the most difficult.

"The more you come, the better you get," she said. "It's amazing how fast your learning curve is the second time."

If that was meant as motivation for me to sign up for another class, it worked.

Just give me a couple of months to catch my breath first.

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