New spin on things

New spin on things

For their last workout before this past weekend’s Angel Invite meet in Kenosha, Wis., the Centennial High School girls' cross-country team wasn’t running on the trails or the track. The team wasn’t running at all. Instead, the runners spent an hour in a cycling studio last Thursday afternoon.

A weekly cycling class has been part of the team’s training since last year. Centennial’s girls' cross-country coach, Laura Koterba-Buss, had several runners with injuries such as shin splints in the last few years.

Blog PhotoShe was looking for an alternative workout for the team to do that would help with their fitness and avoid the pounding of running.

Koterba-Buss saw that the Refinery gym offered cycling classes and found out that another Centennial teacher, Robin Bedwell, was a cycling instructor at the Refinery. Koterba-Buss had worked with the Refinery in the past on a core training class and on TRX training for her runners.

Bedwell, who teaches business at Centennial, volunteers her time to teach the cycling class once a week for the cross-country team. The Refinery agreed to allow the team, for a nominal fee, to use the cycling studio when the room wasn’t in use for other classes.

“Philosophically for me as a coach and a former runner, I’m really interested in athletes staying healthy and developing an interest and a passion for exercise and fitness. I’m always looking for ways to minimize our injuries but increase exposure to (different activities),” Koterba-Buss said.

“It gives our knees and joints a little bit of a break from the pounding on the track or concrete,” said Katelyn Kaefring, a Centennial senior and cross-country runner.

“It’s a different way for us to work out and be together. We’re still getting a good workout and not slacking off,” said her teammate Emma Wise, also a senior. “It’s fun to switch it up every once in a while.”

The runners enjoy working out to music in the cycling studio.

“It’s a good atmosphere. The music kind of takes the edge off (the workout) and you’re having a lot of fun,” Wise said, who sometimes sings along as she is pedaling.

Blog PhotoBedwell asks the team for music recommendations for her playlist. During the class, the girls often ask each other who picked a particular song.

“A good playlist makes or breaks a workout,” said Molly Potter, another senior on the team. She said she likes that the pace of the workout varies with the music.

“The student-athletes absolutely love it. I honestly think they love cycling more than running,” Koterba-Buss said.

Bedwell runs the class the same way she does the regular classes she teaches at the Refinery. It starts with a warmup, and then progresses to climbs, sprints and some easy riding. She said the runners come to the class very fit, but she can see that by the end of the season, they have increased their endurance.

“They love it. I do too. I feel like, just as with my regular classes at the Refinery, I get a lot of energy from their energy,” Bedwell said. “I’m impressed with energy level of women and their openness with trying something new.”

Koterba-Buss believes cycling is beneficial to her runners in strengthening the leg muscles in different ways, although her main goal is to reduce injuries and expose the team to another form of exercise. At the end of last season, Koterba-Buss realized her runners had not had any injuries during the season.

“It’s more about helping them learn about exercise, learn about fitness and develop an interest and a passion. If they get exposed to things like cycling, they can find their area of interest and stay healthy for life,” she said.

She believes it helps her team mentally as well.

“To maintain the spinning when you’re being pushed a lot and have to maintain a lot of RPMs on the cycle, it would be so easy to just stop. I think it can build some mental toughness in that way,” Koterba-Buss said. “It’s helpful also to keep them mentally fresh, not just mentally tough. A lot of us need a day off here or there, especially high schoolers that are being pulled in so many directions.”

One other benefit is the time the team spends together in one place, rather than running on a course at different paces.

“I don’t have 14 athletes of all the same ability. When we do cycling, we’re just one team and everybody’s right there,” Koterba-Buss said. “We might have a different resistance (on the bikes). But we’re all working out and having fun together.

“It’s cool that we’re all right there and doing the exact same thing and enjoying each other’s company. It’s valuable to my group of athletes.”


Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at, or follow her at Her blog is at

 Photos: Top: Centennial girls' cross-country team members participate in a cycling class on Thursday at the Refinery in Champaign. Bottom: Centennial's Molly Potter works out at the Refinery. Photos by Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

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