Health & Fitness

Turlock retirees revel in bicycling, including ‘CyclePaths’ team

Jeannine Beltz participates in the Cybercycle competition at Covenant Village in Turlock.
Jeannine Beltz participates in the Cybercycle competition at Covenant Village in Turlock.

Some retirees keep on pedaling for their health, recreation or a sense of personal accomplishment.

Ray Houlihan, 84, of Turlock won two gold medals for cycling at the Bay Area Senior Games held May 14-15 at the former Fort Ord near Monterey. Houlihan said he rode on the same inclined roads on which he marched during Army boot camp in 1956.

The rules made him the only rider in the 85-to-90-year-old class, and Houlihan captured gold simply by completing the 5K and 10K events, he said. It was a personal best after earning lesser medals at previous Senior Games.

Houlihan, who was a special education teacher at Turlock High School, is a veteran of 11 organized 100-mile rides, has gone over Pacheco Pass four times and completed a 510-mile trip to Santa Monica in 1986, taking Highway 1 through Big Sur’s fabulous scenery.

He has a goal of riding 100 miles on his 85th birthday in December. By making four circuits on a 25-mile route in southeastern Stanislaus County, Houlihan would notch a 16th 100-miler to cap more than 40 years of cycling.

Houlihan has Type II diabetes and deals with neuropathic pain in his feet, but it does not stop the 144-pound senior from taking to the open road. He swears by the health benefits of cycling, which include a good cardiovascular workout and exercise for the muscles to build strength and stamina.

With cycling, people can travel at their own pace.

Some retirement centers are promoting Cybercycles, which combine exercise with computer-simulated environments, as a workout for the body and mind. Residents participating this week in the “Tour de CRC” at Covenant Village retirement center in Turlock agreed that a new $8,000 Cybercycle was much better than a dull ride on a stationary bike.

A team from the residential section of Covenant Village, calling themselves the CyclePaths, ages 70 to 89, competed this week with a sister facility in Santa Barbara, where the team was called the CyberSams. The two groups competed to see which could log the most mileage in a week; as of Wednesday, the Covenant Village team trailed by 50 miles.

People using the Cybercycle watch a screen programmed to offer 43 trails with hills and curves. On one simulated trail through the redwoods, birds flit about and squirrels and other animals jump into the path, requiring riders to evade them.

“It keeps your mind active and it makes exercise fun,” said Jeannine Beltz, who chose the beach trail for a 15-minute ride Wednesday for the CyclePaths. She said a health issue made it wise to limit her workout to 15 to 30 minutes.

Beltz and her husband, Vic, have lived at Covenant Village for eight years after retiring from managing the Wedgewood Inn in Jackson.

According to marketing literature, the video game features on the Cybercycle provide cognitive benefits for older adults. The recumbent bike is designed to keep their minds sharp and strengthen their legs so they are less prone to falling. The system monitors blood pressure and heart rate and flashes a warning if riders start overexerting themselves.

Kay Courter, a 72-year-old star for the CyclePaths, said she likes the game features that let her chase down dragons and pick up coins. When she is not in the fitness center, Courter leaves the village on North Olive Avenue to bicycle on the streets of Turlock.

The former nurse said she did not take the time for exercise when she worked as a health professional. “I am personally in better shape now than when I was in my 60s,” Courter said.

Adele Rosas, resident life director for Covenant Village, said the driven Southern California team led Thursday afternoon with a score of 375 miles to 315 miles for the Turlock riders. The CyclePaths were scheduling slots throughout Thursday night and early Friday to catch up, Rosas said.

“We have quite a few more residents involved than they do,” Rosas said. “They have some really strong riders, but our riders are giving them a run for their money.”

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321