YMCA Spin Class Helps Cozad Teacher Lose 60 Pounds

Being involved in the Orthman Community YMCA has been life-changing for three area men who have found friendship and better health through their connection at YMCA spinning class.

It started with Paul Pack, a Lexington photographer who has been teaching group cycling/spinning at the Orthman YMCA since it opened in 2010 (at the old library building.)

Paul started road racing and competing in triathlons during his college days at Wayne State College in 1990. He now teaches spinning at the YMCA on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:30 a.m.

“I teach segments like we are on a bike ride… hills, sprints, long climbs, even being chased by dogs… I encourage feedback from my members on favorite segments, songs and workouts,” Paul said.

This past year, Paul’s wife surprised him with a Johnson Lake group ride for his 50th birthday with many spinning class members showing up for the ride and lunch.

During the warmer months, he connects with his cycling friends for weekly outdoor rides and competitive triathlons.

Paul said he appreciates YMCA spinning because it gives him a good cardio workout and that translates well to “real world” bike rides. He’s also endured several foot surgeries in the past nine years, and spin class allows him to work out since he can no longer run on treadmills or do contact-based foot workouts.

Woody Blackmore

Cozad High School English Teacher Woody Blackmore joined the YMCA spin classes about seven years ago. He realized he wasn’t happy, and he knew the change had to come from within. He grew up in California, where he swam in his backyard pool and on the local swim team.

“So my first change was to join a boot camp style class at the Y and to start lap swimming again at the city pool,” Woody said.

He wanted to set goals for himself at swim events but since he couldn’t find many swim events in central Nebraska, he switched to 5Ks and local triathlons.

“I signed up for an April triathlon and started going to spinning classes at the YMCA about six months before the event,” he said. “That was more than five years ago. I now routinely do running, cycling, and triathlon races from April to October and spend the winter months training. I do some form of cycling, running, swimming, or cross-training at least six days a week, two times a day.”

Woody said that spinning at the Y isn’t just about building endurance and getting a cardiovascular workout.

“It’s more about a community, a group of people who share common interests and have common habits,” he said. “I know Peloton has become popular in the last few years but I don’t enjoy a recorded or remote instructor. That’s how I ended up teaching spinning.”

After a few instances of a YMCA instructor not being available and having to substitute with a YouTube video, Woody stepped up to become a substitute spinning teacher. He now teaches a weekly class and often fills in for morning or evening instructors.

He said spinning class in the winter is more about keeping in shape for the summer months when he joins YMCA spinners and other cyclists for group road rides at distances ranging from 30-100 miles. And, he hopes to encourage more bicyclers to be part of the group.

“The county roads around this part of Nebraska can’t be appreciated in the same way from behind the wheel of the car,” Woody said. “There’s no breeze on your face, no smell of summer grass or wet earth on a dewy morning. No sense of the sun warming your body as it comes up on an early morning ride. You can’t hear – let alone see – the meadowlarks and warblers in the old roadside thatches of chokecherry and wild plumb. Our pace is closer to the way those coming across the plains on the Oregon and Mormon Trails first experienced this country, and to my mind, it’s the best way.”

Mark Messner

Woody invited his co-worker Cozad Band Teacher Mark Messner to spinning class in November 2020.

Mark said he was seeking better health and an accountability group for his health, and he felt like the spinning class “was going to be a good group.”

Now, Mark drives 15 miles each way from his home in Cozad three mornings a week to participate in the 5:30 a.m. spinning class.

He has gained friendship, health and accountability and has shed 60 pounds!

“I feel more in shape,” Mark said. “I feel healthier throughout the day, and I’ve noticed when I have that morning class I feel more awake throughout my morning. On the mornings I don’t have it, I feel sluggish and tired.”

The spin class was just part of his weight-loss journey. Mark also changed his eating habits, exercised outside of spinning class and has accepted invitations from his spinning friends to challenge himself in other ways: completing the Calamus Half Century 50-mile bike ride, a triathlon in McCook and the Market-to-Market relay from Omaha to Lincoln.

His goals this year are to do another triathlon, participate in more community 5Ks, complete a longer bike ride and shed a few more pounds.

Messner said the YMCA has played a big part in improving his health and connecting him to others with similar health goals to stay accountable.

“The Orthman YMCA is a very fortunate place,” he said. “There’s a lot of high-quality equipment. There’s a lot of high-quality staff. The hours are even more conducive. It’s a great place, and it’s a great facility to help you reach any goals you have.”