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Obesity and exercise: Debbie Bumgardner drops the yo-yo diet, picks up a Trikke

The frustrated dieter bought the odd vehicle after seeing it on an infomercial. Now she's speeding down bike paths.

April 11, 2011|By Roy M. Wallack, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Debbie Bumgardner rides her Trikke, propelled by shifting body weight from side to side.
Debbie Bumgardner rides her Trikke, propelled by shifting body weight… (Christina House / For the…)

Debbie Bumgardner was an overworked 52-year-old legal secretary and frustrated yo-yo dieter from Tarzana who'd gradually cut back on tennis and biking over the years. By early 2010, she was 100 pounds overweight.

A year later, Bumgardner is still overworked and stressed-out. But she's 70 pounds lighter, which she attributes almost entirely to Trikking.

A Trikke (pronounced "trike") is a three-wheeled vehicle with foot platforms and upright handlebars that you propel in a standing position by shifting body weight from side-to-side, as if carving "S" turns while skiing. Priced from $200 to $500, depending on size and wheel type, the device was originally targeted at teenagers and twentysomethings who could use it for aerial acrobatics and extreme downhills when it came out in 2004. But most buyers turned out to be sedentary middle-agers attracted to the flowing, non-impact, all-body movement, according to John Simpson, president of Trikke Tech Inc. in Buellton, Calif.

Bumgardner fits the profile to a T. "I was tired of feeling uncomfortable and sluggish, and was ready to start exercising when I saw it on an infomercial," she says. The fact that it offered a full-body workout and didn't require her to bend over, as did a bicycle, prompted her to buy one for her birthday.

"I didn't know what I was getting into — like how to work it," she said. "But it didn't take long, and it is such a blast that it keeps me coming back every night."

She means that literally. When she returns home from work at 7 or 7:30 p.m., Bumgardner no longer plops on the couch in exhaustion but hops on her Trikke and heads for the well-lighted bike path next to the Orange Line busway. She usually rides an hour, even in the dark of winter.

"Little kids see me and say, 'That's cool,' but it's the older folks who say, 'That looks like a good workout.'" she said. "And it is a powerful workout — push it, pull it, lift it, lean it, spring it forward, all at once. But you don't notice your heart rate is through the roof because it's so much fun." On Saturdays, she often does a two-hour, 14-mile excursion to the Sepulveda Dam and back.

The Trikke has led to other lifestyle changes. She's overhauled her diet and reconnected with old passions. "Before the Trikke, my feet and my joints hurt even from walking. But now I'll go for a brisk walk on rainy days." She's also begun strength training at home and dusted off her old tennis racket.

Her social life has revved up too. Bumgardner recently acquired a local Trikking buddy and has joined the South Bay Trikkers for rides on beachfront bike paths. "Everyone has the same story: 'This is so fun that I want to keep doing it.'"

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