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Latest Fitness Craze
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BY SAUL RUBIN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
hree days after arriving
from South Africa in 1979,
Johnny Goldberg got an
American welcome when he
was held up at gunpoint at a Los
He didn't turn back because of
a gun in his face. Instead, he
moved to Venice, Calif., and be-
gan weight training at World
Athletic discipline suited him.
He went on to become a person-
al trainer, an endurance bicycle
racer and a martial arts black belt.
Mr. Goldberg's dedication to fit-
ness may soon pay off in a big
He has spent the past 10 years
designing a stationary training
bike and shaping an accompany-
ing workout program that is fast
becoming the latest fitness craze.
It's called spinning. Addicted
followers say the 40-minute group
workouts on the specialized cycles
are brutal yet somehow medita-
tive, Zen-like but also sweat-filled.
A brochure says the workouts pro-
mote a "good kind of pain."
"You come out dripping with
sweat and your legs are tired and
shaking, but you have a good feel-
ing. You want more," says Toni
Brown, aerobics manager at
Sports - Club/LA in west Los
Although he's not as well
known as Jane Fonda in exercise
circles, Mr. Goldberg, whose trade
name is Johnny G., is poised to
make his mark.
Last year he joined up with bi-
cycle king Schwinn, which now
makes and distributes the spin-
ning exercise cycles and Mr. Gold-
berg's specialized training system.
Johnny G.'s spinning classes
are offered in 75 fitness centers in
the country, according to Schwinn.
Mr. Goldberg puts that figure at
125 but hey, hype is nothing new
to the fitness industry. Mean-
while, Mr. Goldberg is logging
thousands of miles to pitch the
system to other clubs in hopes
they will climb on board.
Mr. Goldberg sees himself as
much a personal motivator as a
"People ask, 'How can riding
a stationary bike change your life?'
" he says. "By facing a black hole
and wanting to quit, but then
pushing on and making it
through, that's the same relation
as wanting to quit in another part
of your life and pushing on."
Mr. Goldberg opened a spin-
ning center five years ago but the
classes never took off.
He later moved them into a
Voight fitness center in west
Hollywood, Calif., where they
Voight still offers spinning
classes but calls them "RPMs"
because Mr. Goldberg . has a
patent on the spinning name.
When fitness centers buy the
spinning bikes from Schwinn,
they also agree to enroll instruc-
tors in a training program run by
Mr. Goldberg's "spinning mas-
ters," experts taught by Goldberg
to best motivate and lead students
in the workouts.
Reflecting his martial arts
training, Mr. Goldberg has set up
the training program in three pro-
gressive stages. Because it's all
fairly new, no instructor has yet
to reach the final phase, level
"Spinning has filled an impor-
tant niche in the fitness market,"
says Sports Club/LA's Brown.
"People needed something new."
It's now the most popular ex-
ercise class offered at the club,
with members having to sign up
in advance to ensure their spot.
At a recent class, about two
dozen Sports Club members
showed up to climb aboard the
bikes, which have no electronic
gadgetry but feature adjustable
seats, handlebars and a front
wheel that Can be adjusted for ten-
sion by the user.
As blues-rock music with a
driving beat begins playing, a
rock-hard instructor faces the
group on her bike and coaxes
them through the initial pedaling
of the workout.
"Pick up the pace. A little
faster," she says. At different
times she has them stand up and
simulate either running or jog-
ging, and then tells them to tight-
en the tension knob to create the
sensation of pedaling up a hill.
"It's a long hill. Three songs
long. You love that," she says.
People in the class feed off each
other's energy, exerting them-
selves more than if they were
working out alone. The class also
benefits everyone, from the buff
to the beginner.
"The concept is that everyone
starts and finishes together," says
Tina Gini, assistant marketing
manager with Schwinn. "You can
be 50 pounds overweight sitting
next to a world class triathlete and
it doesn't matter. You are going
to finish at the same time."
Ms. Gini says that men who
might have stayed away from aer-
obics classes because they didn't
have a dance background or be-
cause they didn't feel coordinated
enough, have found a satisfying
group workout in the spinning
classes, which don't require any
special agility. ❑
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