Some 50 Spinners turned out for the 3rd annual RIDEforLIFE fundraiser for the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia at Tony's Gym. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — The racers at Tony’s Gym on Westover Boulevard were spinning their wheels Saturday. But while they appeared to be stationary, they were well down the road to pursuing good health and helping to win the war on cancer.
Some 50 Spinners showed up bright and early for the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia’s 3rd annual RIDEforHOPE, a fundraising event to help power the coalition’s program of cancer education, screening and victim assistance.
While last year’s stationary riders pretended they were fighter pilots breaking the sound barrier and then landing on an aircraft carrier, Saturday’s experience transformed metal cycles into race horses and a Triple Crown adventure in the darkened room.
Both the rides — a two-hour jaunt beginning at 8 a.m. and a milder 60-minute trot an hour later — were enhanced by realistic video, combined with motivating music and encouragement from Josh Taylor, the “top gun” of Spinning instruction. It was Taylor’s third straight time in Albany as a Spinning representative.
“The theme for today’s visually-based rides is Secretariat, the thoroughbred racehorse, which in 1973 won the Triple Crown,” Taylor said. “That’s an inspirational story for me. (The horse) was won on a bet without even knowing what he would do. He came out as a champion and tore it up.”
Taylor said that in the visual program, riders have the opportunity to race Secretariat and his challengers, which makes the experience more intense.
“You get something of what a racehorse feels for about two minutes at a time — absolutely breathing through your eyeballs,” Taylor said.
According to Taylor, the Spinning program itself is easy, science-based training, with the exerciser in total control of the workout.
“Both of today’s Spinning opportunities are wonderful ways to exercise,” said Diane Fletcher, CEO of the Cancer Coalition. “Many of those participating are doing it in honor or in memory of someone they love who has been touched by cancer — either a survivor or someone who has passed away from the disease.”
Fletcher said that for Saturday’s two-hour racehorse ride, participants “ponied up” a minimum of $150, which could be from personal funds, or raised through donations by others. The one-hour trek required just $100 to join, Fletcher said.
New for 2014 was the simultaneous FITforHOPE aerobics session for non-Spinners, including, zumba and kickboxing , Fletcher said. According to Fletcher, since those exercisers were given little notice of the event, required donations were just $10 for each of the 40 or so participants.
Fletcher said that incidents of major types of cancer here are higher than the average in other parts of Georgia and throughout the country, with “too many people dying from the disease.”
“That’s really the mission of the Cancer Coalition,” Fletcher said. “To provide the education, provide the screenings and the navigation for individuals, to work with tobacco control and to encourage people to eat healthier. Our mission really resonates with people who live in southwest Georgia and all of the money we generate stays right here.”
According to Fletcher, while the reason for the area’s high cancer rate is unclear, it parallels the incidence of tobacco use and personal obesity, which often originates from improper diet and/or lack of exercise.
“We could prevent so many cancer deaths if people didn’t use tobacco,”Fletcher said. “The rate of smoking among young people is going up, while in most other parts of the country it’s going down.”
Early in the day, Fletcher had estimated total donations at around $9,000. That’s when gym owner, Tony Powell, presented Fletcher with a personal check for $1,000.
“We know that cancer touches almost everyone in some way,” Powell said, “and what better way to help the cause than in a fitness center environment where people are exercising and trying to take care of themselves? The more things you can do to fight cancer will certainly go a long way toward prevention in our lifetime.”