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Shaping up Shelby: An exercise group on a roll

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A weekly cycling ride in Shelby County is providing opportunities to lose weight, get into better condition and – if you want – even become a competitive rider.

By Todd Martin

There are millions of ways to stay fit, trim and healthy and all include watching your diet and maintaining proper nutrition. However, there are very few exercises that are as accessible and easy on the body as bicycling.

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“It’s a low-impact, healthy and aerobic form of exercise,” said Tom Waggener, owner of Main Street Bikes in Shelbyville. “And it’s like running — you can step right outside your front door and do as long or short an exercise ride as you want or have time for. But the main thing is that it’s low impact, it’s much easier on your body than running.”

With nearly 40 million Americans ages 7-and-up participating in bicycling, according to the National Sporting Good Association, it’s one of the top 10 most popular recreational activities in the country, and Waggener, who opened his shop in Shelbyville five years ago, said he’s seen it growing in Shelbyville.

“It’s hard to put a number on it [the growth],” he said. “But I definitely feel like it’s more connected. I don’t want to claim that it was us that did that, but I feel like we’ve helped connect some people that want to ride.”

Waggener and Main Street Bikes have helped pull people together to ride in competition, for exercise and just for fun, and it’s spreading.

On Monday nights an open ride comes together at 6 p.m. This week there were only a few that showed because of the rainstorm that rolled through just before the ride and the threat of more through the evening, but normally there are several riders. But even with just six riders on this hot, humid evening, there was still a wide range of abilities.

Rusty Barrett, who has been riding for about a year-and-a-half, said he started because of a challenge from a former employee.

“We were going to ride the bypass and back,” he said. “I started to try to get ready for it, and it was the first time I’d been on a bike since 1991, but I just kept at it. After about six times on the Monday night ride, I was hooked.”

Pat Murphy only has been riding for about six weeks, but it doesn’t stop him from coming out to ride.

“I set a goal of running a five K earlier this year, and I did it, but this is a nice alternative to running and the wear and tear on your joints,” he said. “I love it. Running, to me, is so stressful while you’re doing it, but bicycling is a joy. You get that high while you’re doing it, not after like running.”

And then there is the more ambitious.

Al LauBach and her husband, Court, are both mostly runners, but they ride for cross training.

“I just finished my first half Ironman on Saturday,” Al LauBach said. “I’m mostly a runner, but after I had my kids, I wanted to get in shape and do a triathlon. That was about the time the bike shop opened here, and it’s been great. It’s really brought people together.”

Court LauBach said he likes to ride because it’s something he and his wife can do together.

“It’s actually date night for us,” she added.

Despite the motives, all said they feel better since they started riding and working out regularly.

“I was in my first race this year, and I think I finished thirteenth in my age group,” said Barrett. “I’ve lost 32 pounds, and I started talking to these guys on the racing team that are over 40. I’m watching protein.

“It’s really nothing hard, but when you ride sixteen to twenty miles, you’re burning natural proteins so you need to take something in. Then the next thing you know, I’m riding forty to sixty miles.”

Waggener said it’s not as hard as many think to get up to those levels.

“If you’re riding say three times a week for one hour, you’re going to burn about 900 calories,” he said. “If your diet isn’t increasing to replace those, you’ll lose about a pound a week.”

And mileage doesn’t matter; it’s just a way to track how long you ride.

“In terms of getting better on a bike, it’s just about time and it doesn’t have to be a ton of miles,” he said. “Just try to at least one long ride a week, and that can vary, but add some time to your ride. A long ride for me know is about forty to sixty miles. It used to be a century ride, one hundred, but I just don’t have that kind of time now. But it’s adding time for a long ride that matters, mileage is just secondary.”

There are a few good ways to chart how you’re riding.

“You can watch you’re heart rate or cadence, those are good ways to see how much you’re challenging yourself,” Waggener said. “Or you can try to watch your speed and keep it up in a range that’s challenging for you.”

And you can ride with a group, which can help amateur riders learn the ins-and-outs of how to ride.

“These community rides are really a lot of fun,” Barrett said. “Once you learn to ride in a group with these guys [like Waggener out front] you can get up to twenty-two miles an hour. With Tom out front, out on Cropper Road, we’ll get up twenty-seven miles an hour. It’s great.

“And we challenge one another, help each other get better and swap stories. It’s a great way to stay in shape and have fun.”