Making the Grade: Sue Stokes
The spinning never stops during instructor Sue Stokes’ indoor cycling class at the Breckenridge Recreation Center. Students of all ages, shapes and sizes sweat through a workout accompanied by loud music and punctuated by harangues and encouragement coming from the intense instructor on a bike in the corner.Stokes understands the burning pain that comes from a demanding bike workout. Last year she won the grueling state championship hill climb on Mt. Evans.”She’s committed, and that makes other people committed,” fellow fitness instructor Juli Rathke said of Stokes. “She’s tough as nails.”According to Rathke, Stokes’ classes are among the most popular at the rec center. A fitness instructor for more than 20 years, she currently teaches indoor cycling, body pump (an aerobic discipline that involves the use of weights) and yoga. She’s also a kickboxer and certified personal trainer.”I’ve taught just about every kind of fitness,” Stokes said, “but cycling is my passion. I spend a lot of time on my bike.” She races on the Valdoro Mountain Lodge cycling team and trains daily.
A native of Leicester, England, Stokes studied music and dance in college. While working as a professional dancer and musician in England, a piano accidentally fell and severely damaged her foot. She was told she would never dance again.”That’s when I got into fitness,” she said. She eventually returned to the dance floor, but the experience launched her teaching career. Stokes said she gets inspired by watching her students get excited about fitness.”It’s great to see them have results and have fun while they do it,” she said. She particularly enjoys the body pump and indoor cycling classes.”For a lot of the women, body pump is very empowering,” she said. “I love to be a part of it. And in a spinning class, you have athletes along with people who’ve never ridden a bike outside and they’re all getting the same workout.”
In addition to her talents as teacher and cyclist, Stokes has also been blessed with a rare musical ability. Piano was her principal instrument, but she’s competent on many others. In England, she played viola in an orchestra and saxophone and keyboards in a rock band.”It was fun when I was young,” she said, referring to her days in English rock and roll clubs. “But I don’t miss being up that late at night.”Stokes arrived in Summit County on an extended road trip 16 years ago. She came to ski and never left.”I love the mountains,” she said. “I love everything they have to offer.”She and her husband Simon live near Farmer’s Korner with their 13-year-old daughter, Samantha, and the family’s two dogs, Kali and Duffy. For a break from her teaching and training schedule, Stokes works full-time as an administrative assistant in the county planning department.
When asked where she finds her intensity and enthusiasm for life, she gives credit to her mother.”My mom is now battling incurable cancer,” Stokes said. “She’s always been a motivator. She’s an energetic, optimistic, try-anything person. When I’m in a real hard race – the kind where you want to give up – I think about my mom.” For Stokes, the pain and sacrifice of training are more than worth it. “I like the feeling of being the best I can be,” she said.
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