Kick it! Footbikes great for fun, fitness

Published: Thursday, Aug. 13 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Ryan Spencer, left, and Dusty Terwilliger ride footbikes. The two, who work at Mountain Land Rehabilitation, say footbikes are great therapy.

Brendan Sullivan, Deseret News

BOUNTIFUL — A kid's ugly scooter.

That was Chris Cox's first thought when he finished putting together the footbike a friend had sent him.

"When he first showed it to me two years earlier, we were living in Colorado and I just said, 'I don't have time for this,' " said Cox, the 35-year-old father of four. "After we moved back to Utah, he sent me two of them and said he wanted some feedback."

Chris and his wife, Sarah, put the footbikes together and then went out for a ride.

"First and foremost, it is just really fun," said Cox. Within a month, the couple set up Kick-it Marketing (www.kickitmarketing.blogspot.com) so they could sell the bikes in Idaho and Utah.

"It was a new product, a new concept, something I hadn't experienced. I'd always had a passion for mountain biking and the outdoors."

The one thing footbiking offered Chris, the 35-year-old father of four young children, was the chance to work out with his wife, who had just delivered twins.

"This was something we could do together," he said. "We do it with our whole family."

The West Bountiful couple each strap a baby on their back and their other children ride their bikes, while Sarah and Chris kick it.

"It was funky, which caused a lot of raised eyebrows in the neighborhood," he said. "I like that there is a fitness aspect to it where you can get a really good workout, or you can just go out and feel the wind in your face and have a good time with your family."

Sarah's first reaction to the footbike was similar to her husband's.

"I thought it was kind of a strange looking thing," said the 32-year-old mom who blogs about her footbike workouts on their Web site. Once she started riding it, she realized it could also help her lose that baby weight. "I thought, 'Wow, this is an awesome workout!' I like it to be both — for fun and for fitness."

Sarah and a friend decided to ride the footbikes in the Utah Valley Marathon, the first local race to allow the odd-looking devices into a race. With that goal in mind, Sarah said her focus really shifted from having fun and losing a little weight to training to ride 26.2 miles.

"We were really working toward something, but even then, we still wanted to have fun," Sarah said. "I've gained a lot of muscle and tone and I've dropped two clothing sizes since spring. I can tell a difference. I feel stronger; I feel healthier."

When they lined up for the marathon start in June, she said she felt a rush of emotions.

"It was really fun to be in the event," she said. "It was exciting to be involved in a marathon in a way I can. I don't run 26 miles. This was a goal I could accomplish."

She said the first time she rode 26 miles in training she was exhausted, aching and ecstatic.

"I remember having a mental struggle to get through to the end," she said. "It was a big accomplishment for me."

Cox not only achieved her goal of completing the marathon, she set a U.S. women's record with a time of 1:56:54. She knows the sport is in infancy here in the U.S. so she's not bragging about the record too much, but it helps her assess where she'll go next with the sport.

"It gave me a starting point," she said. "It gave me a place to work from. Now I know I can just bet better from there. It gives me new goals."

The couple is currently training for the 2010 Footbike World Championship in Italy. They are also finding local races that have welcomed them, including the upcoming Wasatch Woman Love Your Body 5K and 10K races on Sept. 6.

And while both Chris and Sarah train and transform their own lives, they also hope to continue to introduce Utah and Idaho to the footbike. Dr. Nylin Johnson of Mountain Land Rehabilitation in Kaysville is actually using footbikes with some of his patients.

"It's useful and it's very fun," Johnson said. "It's a good workout for runners who can't run. It's a lot harder than biking, but it's easier than running."

Others in his office have also given the footbikes a spin.

"It's really quite a lot of fun," said Dusty Terwilliger, 37, a physical therapy assistant. "It's also a pretty good workout. It's very unique. It's very user friendly."

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com

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