Spinning up

Lifelong River Wards resident building community with cycling classes at rec centers, outdoor yard studio.

Ride on: Carrie Hunter runs a cycling class at Samuel Recreation Center with her two nieces. There are currently two more weekends of classes available at Bridesburg Recreation Center. PHOTO COURTESY OF CARRIE HUNTER

If trying out a cycling class has ever crossed your mind, but you don’t want the commitment of a membership at a gym or purchasing a package, you’re in luck.

Fishtown native and Bridesburg resident Carrie Hunter will be offering three levels of cycling classes on the tennis courts at Bridesburg Recreation Center this weekend and next. 

The classes are being funded by Riverfront North Partnership. 

“Carrie first came to us with the idea of outdoor fitness classes last year,” said Gina Craigo, community engagement manager at Riverfront North. “After almost a year of outdoor fitness under her belt … she once again reached out thinking the tennis courts would be a great, level spot for outdoor spinning. We agreed, and the classes were funded through this latest round of grants.”

Hunter hopes to offer riders a safe place to enjoy fitness.

“The goal is to introduce cycling to new riders … and to offer a chance for experienced riders to connect, learn and ride together in the community,” Hunter said. “Cycling is so much more fun in person. Another goal is to offer pop-up classes at the rec center in the future, weather permitting.”

And, while Hunter started teaching cycling classes outdoors just prior to the COVID pandemic hit, her own fitness journey began years ago.

“About 10 years ago, as my children became teenagers and started to venture much of life without me, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. I contemplated exercise often, as my husband and I had been members of Bally’s since 1994, but we hardly ever made time to go to the gym while our kids were little,” Hunter shared.

Fortunately, Hunter and her husband had kept those memberships, and after overcoming some initial intimidation, she decided to try cycling. 

“First, my husband started to tag along with me for classes and quickly got hooked. Second, I started to take classes with Melissa Gyruaki at Ciclo. And third, I discovered the MindBody App.”

For about seven years, Hunter worked out regularly.

And, then she decided to continue pedaling forward.

“With the desire to help others exercise, the encouragement from Melissa and the support of my husband, in 2018, I got certified in cycling and group fitness,” she said. “I began teaching cycling in 2018 at the Conditioning Studio in Port Richmond and at the YMCA in the Northeast.” 

Still, she decided to push on.

Hunter opened up Be5 Fitness, her own cycling storefront in Port Richmond in June 2019.

COVID began to unfold in March 2020, not a year into her business being open.

“COVID had a huge impact on Be5. However, for me personally, I’d say it was a blessing in disguise,” Hunter said. “In February 2020, Be5 had grown to 70 members and about 12 to 15 classes per week. It had required much more of my time and energy than I had imagined. I know I was doing a good job bringing affordable exercise to the community, but I was running myself into the ground.” 

Mayor Jim Kenney’s order in early summer for nonessential businesses to cease operations gave Hunter the mental and physical break she needed to regroup and rethink Be5’s future.

“In August, Be5 tried virtual cycling and we offered some bootcamp classes outdoors and on Facebook Live,” Hunter said. “We were able to keep connected and active and even give a little during some very tough times.” 

In March, Hunter offered classes outdoors at Samuel Rec Center in Port Richmond.

Be 5 made a donation to the children’s programs at the rec center.

“That’s a win-win in my eyes: adults doing well for themselves while contributing to the wellness of the neighborhood youth,” Hunter said. “The Fishtown Rec was a gigantic part of my childhood years. I played there, shot bottle caps there, danced there and participated in many team sports out of the Fishtown Rec.”

Giving is one of the five core foundations Be5 was built on.

“Be5 Fitness was founded on five principles: be connected, curious, mindful, giving and ACTIVE. This idea was built off of something I heard while watching Hoda Kotb about eight years ago on the Today Show,” Hunter explained. “Her advice included gratitude writing, positive reflection, exercise, mediation and acts of kindness.”

Hunter typed up the tips and hung them on her refrigerator, incorporating them into her daily routine until they became part of Be5.

“The goal is for riders to connect with each other, learn new ride profiles, reflect, give and move, each time they ride with Be5,” she said.

Those goals are what appealed to Riverfront North when it decided to fund the current series of cycling classes at the rec.

“While there are benefits to your physical wellness, there is also something to be said about your mental well being when you try something new in a safe environment and push yourself outside of your comfort zone,” Craigo said. “ [Carrie] was hoping to reach more newcomers to provide a safe space to try something new.”

The cycling classes and the overall Bridesburg Impact Grants are all part of Riverfront North’s effort to get the 19137 community excited about the riverfront park that will eventually call the intersection of Orthodox Street and Delaware Avenue home.

“Successful public spaces have engaged stewards and programming/amenities that represent the communities they serve,” Craigo said. “Riverfront North has been working in the leadup to this park’s opening to engage with the community to find out what is of interest and what will encourage people to show up and help steward this new park. We want as many people interested in trying to be able to participate.”

Hunter hopes her cycling classes might be part of programming that makes its way to the future neighborhood space.

“I am hoping the six weeks of cycling at the Bridesburg Rec will lead to additional classes at rec centers and parks,” Hunter said. “Eventually, I have a vision of cycling along the Delaware River at the new park opening on Orthodox Street in Bridesburg.” 

Outdoor, at-home studio: Carrie Hunter offers cycling classes in her yard in Bridesburg. PHOTO COURTESY OF CARRIE HUNTER

In addition to the series at the rec center, Hunter currently offers six classes per week in her yard featuring a fleet of eight bikes.

“We ride under a pavilion, in the shade and breeze of a beautiful tree. It has actually become my favorite place to cycle,” she said. “Since the pandemic, outdoor exercise has become my favorite.” 

For those still on the fence about hopping in the saddle, Hunter offered some friendly encouragement.

“Many people write it off because it looks too complicated or they try advanced-level classes,” she said. “I say, give a beginner’s class a try. Learn about the bike setup and the variables. Listen to your body once you are on the bike and do what works for you.” ••

Cycling classes will be held at the tennis courts at Bridesburg Recreation Center, 4601 Richmond St., on Saturdays, July 24 and 31, at 8, 8:45 and 9:30 a.m. Each class is 30 minutes in length. The first two classes are introductory and the third is an interval class. Bikes are limited and advanced registration is required. To sign up, visit https://riverfrontnorth.eventbrite.com

To sign up for a class at Hunter’s outdoor space, visit be5bewell.com.

 

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