What's New

Global spin-class star brings fitness focus local

Flagstaff Team

Sarah Ostergaard, a former top cyclist who became the face of an internationally popular bike-class programme, these days offers her fitness expertise closer to home. Helen Vause reports.

Face of fitness… Sarah Ostergaard went from fronting a global spin-class programme to launching a ‘Mum Squad’ exercise routine at Stanley Bay School, and the Devonport Community House. These days, she has classes for older women, too.

When Sarah Murdoch was growing up in Pakuranga, she loved riding her bike.
She discovered the love of freedom on two wheels, and where her bike could take her.
And once she joined the local cycling club in her early teens, she discovered a competitive streak that would put her on a pathway to a career in cycling, and later in fitness and wellbeing.
Not that her two-wheeler journey didn’t encounter a couple of hiccups.
In the late l980s, she was rising fast through the ranks of young cyclists, reaching the front of the pack for her age group nationally, with international competition in sight.
When the day came for the national secondary schools race, she was expected to win, but didn’t.
The impact of that disappointment was so profound, she walked away from the sport.
“I was just so totally gutted, but more importantly I had no idea how to deal with it. I had no tools for coping with the emotions I was experiencing.
“Back then, I had no one to guide me through and I just gave up on it. Now you’d be encouraged to learn from the experience and work with it.”
What she went through then, as a teenager, has ended up having a strong influence on the way she works today.
For a few years, however, she was lost to the sport.
She left school and completed a Bachelor of Health Sciences to become a nurse.
But health and fitness were still a big part of her life and, eventually, she started cycling again.
She also enjoyed her gym sessions, which came with an additional attraction in instructor Glen Ostergaard, who she’d taken a liking to. “I signed up to as many of his classes as I could.
“Eventually he asked me out.”
By the time the pair married, Sarah was well back into competitive road cycling, racing for New Zealand as Sarah Murdoch.
She raced internationally in the Northern Hemisphere, but in the back of her mind harboured a fear of having a bad accident during a race.
She wonders if that might have been a brake on her racing performance.
It didn’t stop her competing with the top riders. In the European summers of 2007 and 2008 she competed in all the big races in France, taking on the top female riders from across Europe and the world.
In her late 20s by now, she experienced long, hot days on the road in big packs of riders.
But in the south of France in 2008, that bad crash she worried about actually happened.
She had an accident she still blanches to recall or share the details of.
“It was pretty bad. I had to have a few surgeries when I got home,” she says pointing to various scars on her legs.
And that really was the end of her top-level road-racing career.
To this day, she’s not keen on riding on the roads, but with encouragement from her husband and family still gets out on her bike from time to time.
Family photos often frame them on their bikes together. “Roads to me seem like dangerous places but I do get out just locally sometimes with the kids.”
Back home in New Zealand after her accident, bikes still had a big part to play in her life, even if road-racing didn’t.
Husband Glen is widely known in the fitness industry as the director, developer and often the face of group-fitness programmes at Les Mills.
He had been fine-tuning an RPM workout in which participants ride fixed bikes hard and fast to a choreographed programme.
The result was what is widely regarded as a world-class, high-intensity programme, with the Les Mills approach sold to clubs all over the world.
The Ostergaards worked together to refresh and change up the RPM programmes regularly for the international market.
They shot videos, and Sarah became the face of the programme, pedalling up front on version after version
“I was the woman’s face of RPM to about 75,000 instructors around the world.”
With lights, makeup and control over filming technology, becoming something of a celebrity in the RPM world was a long way from sweating it out in road races.
“I loved the connection with people and I realised that was one of my strengths in the fitness business.”
Communicating with her 20,000 social-media followers was a big part of the job.
By the time she finished at Les Mills in 2021, the Ostergaards had a full-on family life in Stanley Bay, with their three children, Lily, now aged 12, Oliver, 9 and Ella 6.
Juggling work and family commitments, Sarah sensed the need for a change of direction, maybe closer to home.

“I could see a need in the community for a class that was accessible for mothers and somewhere they would feel comfortable.”

What happened next evolved from experimental forays into leading fitness and exercise classes with friends and family in Devonport.
At first it was just a couple of women in her street. She would take them through an exercise routine on the playground at Stanley Bay School. That went so well others wanted to join in.
“I didn’t know quite what was ahead for me but the idea of working with mothers in my own community appealed to me,” she says.
From small beginnings her ‘Mum Squad’ grew into classes twice a week both at the school where she’d started and at the Devonport Community House.
Some who turned up came by word of mouth. Many realised their good fortune in having an instructor of her calibre offering small-scale classes locally.
“I could see a need in the community for a class that was accessible for mothers and somewhere they would feel comfortable.
“Starting at the gym or getting back to it when you’ve had children can be intimidating.
“As women and mothers my age find ourselves heading into perimenopause, it’s important to be knowledgable about our bodies, healthy and physically fit.
“After having children women sometimes need to find themselves again. And self-care is something that’s talked about more these days.”
With the Mum Squad pumping, Sarah turned her sights on their mothers – older women and grandmothers into their 70s or older.
Once again, the idea grew from small beginnings.
“Mum and Dad had moved here, just down the road.
“As they aged, I felt they could be in better shape. I started working with them and it went from there.”
Now she has as many as 20 older women exercising – sometimes pretty vigorously – to music two mornings a week in the Community House, right after the younger mothers have done their classes.
“It’s been so rewarding to see these women getting the benefits of the class.
“I saw a gap in the market for this generation. I don’t think we are doing enough to keep our older people active and fit.
“It’s been a real connection for me and for everyone in the class too. We are all going from strength to strength together.”
An accredited provider of exercises designed to prevent falls, Sarah works these moves into her seniors classes.
And downstairs at home, she has a stationary bike set up, filming classes to post online for various audiences.
The bike-mad kid from Pakuranga still loves making those pedals spin.

Please consider supporting The Devonport Flagstaff by clicking here: