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Once weighing more than 400 pounds, Steve Hooks is now glad he stumbled across spinning class at the Galax Recreation Center.
Hooks, 50, of Galax, was considering gastric bypass surgery to shed the weight before he started spinning classes in January. He has since lost about 50 pounds through the help of Weight Watchers and Doris Spangler, his spinning instructor.
A casual bike rider, Hooks was tired of lugging the excess weight along the New River Trail. Now, he can go faster and farther than before.
“It’s still a challenge, but I’m making progress,” said Hooks.
The 69-year-old Spangler, who teaches spinning classes at the center, said it’s about making yourself healthier and happier.
Spangler is an avid runner, walker, swimmer and biker, and as a spinning instructor she hopes to inspire and motivate others, like Hooks, to get fit. Her spinning class mixes sprinting and climbing with pilates and stretches.
“You can’t get discouraged,” said Spangler. “But your workout has to fit you.”
Hooks said when he first rode his bike from the head of the New River Trail in Galax to Dannelly Park, it took him about a day. Now, he can make that trip in about an hour.
Spangler said students learn to climb hills, how to breathe and to hold their posture.
“When I first started, I knew I wanted to up my exercise routine and get fit,” said Hooks. “Doris is like a personal trainer. She keeps us honest and goes above and beyond to support us.”
Ever since graduating from the University of Oregon, Hooks has struggled with his diet.
“In college, I was pretty active, biking around campus,” said Hooks. “But I never learned to eat properly. Then, it caught up with me about 10 years ago when I passed 300, and then 400 about seven years ago.”
When he graduated from University of Georgia, he took a desk job editing for the Bristol Herald. Hooks said he tried for years to get into shape, but instead the pounds kept creeping up.
“I feel much happier with myself, and I have so much energy,” said Hooks. “It’s going to be a long road, though.”
Spangler said it took Hooks a little while to get adjusted, "but it doesn’t take long to see progress."
At the recreation center, there are morning and evening classes to make it convenient for all those who want to get in shape. All instructors are trained in CPR, Spangler noted.
“Some have bad knees,” said Spangler. “But it’s about adjusting your bike just right, so there’s low impact on the knees.
“Spinning burns a lot of calories and is especially good for the heart,” said Spangler. “Students have so much fun, they don’t want to miss a class, and it’s good for any age.”
Spangler receives re-certification each year with the Interactive Fitness Trainers of America.
• Classes are held Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30-10:30 a.m.; and Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Cost is $45 for six weeks, or $5 per class. For more information about classes or to sign up, call the center at 236-0401.