Health & Fitness

How riding a bike that goes nowhere changed their lives

Instructor Mari Espinoza gets in a workout at Albert Ghitis' indoor cycling studio, Red Bike, on Thursday, December 22, 2016. Red Bike is a family owned business in Brickell.
Instructor Mari Espinoza gets in a workout at Albert Ghitis' indoor cycling studio, Red Bike, on Thursday, December 22, 2016. Red Bike is a family owned business in Brickell. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

Stephanie Shames remembers the first time she rode a stationary bike. After battling an eating disorder, she turned to cycling to ease her depression.

“Those 45-minute classes helped me forget about the issues I was struggling with,” she says. “They allowed me to start my days off on a positive note, and I was able stop my eating disorder from becoming a more serious and life-threatening problem.”

It’s been 10 years since Shames’ first class. Today, she cycles five days a week. About four years ago, she transitioned from rider to instructor.

“Cycling is what saved my life,” she says. “Now being on the other side, I want to use my platform to speak about it.”

Shames teaches at RedBike, a Brickell-based cycling studio founded in July 2014. It offers high-intensity workouts in a family-style environment.

“It’s more than just a studio with cardio cycling classes,” says founder/owner Albert Ghitis. “It’s about bringing five-star quality to fitness and wellness.”

Ghitis’ goal is to change the perception of cycling studios while transforming people’s minds, bodies and lives. As a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, he applies customer service, care and well-being to cyclists in and out of the studio.

Inside RedBike, Schwinn stationary bikes line dark rooms filled with dim, red lights. For about 45 minutes, cyclists experience a full-body, rhythm-based cardio session mixed with music, lighting and choreography.

“The music is what keeps me going,” says Mary Farah, a cyclist at RedBike. “I love the energy.”

Aesthetics aside, RedBike offers a judgment-free approach to group fitness. Unlike other studios, a participant’s ride details, including distance traveled and calories burned, are kept private.

“We offer the same kind of cycling class like other studios in Miami,” Ghitis says. “But we do it in a noncompetitive way. With us, you only compete against yourself.”

The cyclists appreciate that.

“I’ve gone to other studios in Miami,” says Fatima Lalani, a frequent rider at RedBike. “But this is the first place I’ve found that really feels like home. Other places feel like a biker-gang. You’re either in or you’re out.”

RedBike focuses on cycling, which incorporates one’s upper and lower body during a routine by adding weights and specialized arm and core movements.

But jazzing up a traditional bike ride comes with increased risk of injuries, according to Michelle Kasparian, assistant director of group exercise at the Patti and Herbert Wellness Center at the University of Miami.

“People might think they’re getting a total body workout, but they don’t realize they’re compromising the effectiveness of a workout when they try to do too many things at once,” she says. “People might think they’re getting more out of their time, but from an exercise science perspective, it doesn’t make sense.”

As of now, RedBike is injury-free.

“Of course these things have the ability to be dangerous,” Ghitis says. “But we encourage riders to go at a slow pace. And if you’re not ready for specific moves, there are easier modifications.”

Similar to RedBike, Soul Cycle and Flywheel, national cycling chains with outposts in Coral Gables, South Beach and North Miami, also incorporate upper body movements into sessions.

They are RedBike’s leading competitors but Ghitis remains unfazed.

“When we first opened [in 2014], the cycling craze hadn’t really hit Miami,” he says. “Now, as I plan for more studios, it’s definitely become a race to see who can capture the market first.’’

In January, Ghitis will open RedBike’s second location in Aventura (18725 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 350).

To Ghitis, RedBike’s concept is more than just a trendy, boutique fitness studio. He wants to nurture and grow an environment for fitness enthusiasts and novices.

“People at RedBike come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds,” Shames says. “Coming here isn’t just about getting to a size 0. It’s about getting stronger, more fit and becoming comfortable in every way.”

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