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March 16, 2009

Bikaraoke steps up to the fitness mike

San Francisco Chronicle (CA):

The expectation of Bikaraoke, an unholy mix of stationary biking and karaoke at In-Shape Health Clubs, was perhaps best summed up by Antioch resident Judy Donohue as she adjusted the seat on her bike. "Do I do karaoke normally? Not unless I'm intoxicated," said Donohue. A row of women at the weekly 5:30 p.m. class chuckled and bobbed their heads in agreement.

But there's definitely an allure to belting it out while biking, as the packed classes have proven. "This is absolutely the highlight of my week," said Suzanne Evoniuk of Antioch. "I've never done a cycling class before this one, but the whole singing thing really makes the time fly by."

Class instructor Michelle Sargent said that even she has been surprised by the Bikaraoke experience, calling it the "most fun thing I've taught in 20 years."

In-Shape Health Clubs, a Bay Area fitness chain, introduced Bikaraoke in January and plans to start classes at other In-Shape locations around the Bay Area and Southern California. Sargent said that from the first session on, classes have been packed. "There were 25 people in the first class," she says, "And the next class was just as big, but with a different crowd."

Sargent goes to great lengths to make the class comfortable for those like Donohue who don't sing outside karaoke bars. A microphone sits next to Sargent, on a dais in the center of the room, but the emphasis is on group singing. Two screens display song lyrics while Sargent talks her way through the class on a microphone headset. Bike instructions ("Race me! Faster!") are mixed with exhortations to sing louder.

For this class before Valentine's Day, Sargent chose a "love" theme: Madonna's "Like a Virgin." "I do not hear you," she told the class. "You burn more calories when you sing!"

The class, tentative at first, picked up both the pace and volume by the second repetition of the chorus. The second song, "Every Breath You Take," by the Police, brought out more voices, but it wasn't until the third tune, Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," that the room really came alive. Sargent went out on a limb with the next one, Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again," which had people giggling as they panted their way through increased resistance.

As the class went on, it was clear that Bikaraoke was a hit. But it was also clear, as Sargent prodded and praised and cajoled the class into singing and pedaling hard, that a great instructor is what makes a great class. "San Francisco and L.A. have nothing on Antioch," Sargent bellowed, as the opening bars of "Addicted to Love" came on. "Now, anybody want the mike?"

Posted by acapnews at March 16, 2009 8:41 PM


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