If I had to guess the first time L invited me to take one of his spin classes, I’d say it was back in April. This was the first opportunity that I had to take him up on his offer. I hoped that L’s motivation style would not be like the HEY-HO version that came bellowing out the fitness room at MY gym’s spin class. If I knew him as well as I thought I did, I was pretty sure that his class would not have this quality; it just didn’t seem his style. Still, I held my criticism until after class…just in case.
Now, if I wasn’t a blogger, my review would go something like this:
Just before sun rise, and somewhere in the local city, men and women alike are lining up their bikes (spin cycles) for a little motivational jump on the day. One would ask: what is all the hype about? Surely, the class had better be good to justify getting out of bed and leaving the house a o’dark thirty. I had to find out. On Monday morning, I too joined the line up. I was NOT disappointed.
First off, the music is comprised of a rather unique mix of old school rock to afro celt (or anything else with a quick beat). I am told that the play list is NEVER the same. “I like to keep it fresh,” the instructor insists. Not only does he serve up a nice helping of fresh music, this instructor also provides a refreshing change from the typical cheerleader-style communication that has lead me to avoid group lead classes all together. Don’t get me wrong, his enthusiasm comes through loud and clear; from the moment he greets his class to the very end when he talks about what is in store down the road, one cannot deny how much this instructor loves cycling. It is clear that his goal is less about making a buck, and more about motivating others to grow to love it too. It is less about exercise; although he will make you sweat, it is more about lifestyle. His objective is to bring you back for more.
I tell you with certainty, if this class was any measure of this instructor’s typical spin class, he does deliver on his promised objectives. Sadly, just as I had feared, I left class wanting more — but, since I am not a member of any of the gyms where he currently teaches, am left unsatisfied. Perhaps he’ll come to my gym and replace the girl who has the class yelling “HEY” and “HO.” In spite of possibly getting a great cardiovascular workout, I am not willing to do it. I can’t stand to walk by the room, let alone enter and spend an hour in there.
This about sums up the class. I am a blogger, however, so of course there is a much LONGER and more PERSONAL story to be told…
As I enjoy the ever so subtle leg fatigue, I reflect back to this morning’s activity and smile. It was o’dark thirty when left the house. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to be able to leave at will: a luxury which I previously took for granted. The sun was just waking up from a long slumber (the longest of the year). The air was crisp with the post-rainfall cleanness.
We arrived at the gym, where L signed me in as his guest and headed to the spin room where a couple of people had already staked out their spots. Although I did work out on a spin cycle in the fitness center at my last company, it has been a very long time since I took a spin class – at least 5 years when I worked out at an all-women’s gym. I began setting up, trying to remember the specifics of the bike adjustments.
This spin cycle was different that the others I’d been on. It took several tries to get the bike adjusted within a reasonable fit to my geometry and, even then, it wasn’t quite right. I purposely placed myself off-center a bit. I wanted to be able to enjoy the class from my little world, remain focused on my form and participation in the class and, most importantly, easily avoid eye contact with my Instructor & Friend (aka “L”).
The bulk of the people were now trickling in, finding their spots, setting up their bikes, and starting their warm up. I climbed on and joined up with those who were already on their way down the road. One by one, people got set up and began warming up. A familiar song from Tom Petty (L’s favorite artist) was playing in the background. Another blast from the past followed right behind.
L hoped on his bike, starting the class off with a warm up to light resistance. He officially began the class with a sincere but friendly greeting (not the overly cheery, loud style I’d been accustomed to). It was refreshing; 6 AM is too early for a rah-rah session. After this, came the black box warning (aka “objectives” of the workout). It went something like this [not his exact wording], “Today, we are going to continue working on fat metabolism. We’ll stay in the aerobic zone (70-80% max) and then I’ll give you a couple of opportunities to take it up to 90% in the final two profiles.”
As the warm up continued, we were instructed to “add some gear.” I gave the knob a twist and kept on moving. Soon we were out of the saddle for the first of several rolling hills. My legs were warming up quickly. Each time we crested our imaginary hills, we were instructed to back off the gear as we rolled down the other side, and then add a bit of the gear back as the road flattened out. It was easy for me to look through the mirror ahead and see the road ahead as L described a short climb with a couple of young riders ahead in need being passed.
I immediately imagined Big Sis and Big-Bro-In-Law and celebrated passing them – something that just wouldn’t happen in real life. I smiled as we returned to the flat road for short rest between hills. On the next hill, I passed Cindy and her husband Peter. Again, these are cyclists whom I would not be capable of passing on the road. This hill went a little longer than the previous ones. I hung on and kept the imagery that L started going in my mind; it was working for me. Riding up ahead of me was Mark and none other than L himself. In my mind, L kept looking back, smiling in his encouraging way, and urging me to pass Mark. Mark peddled hard, but I did the same. Soon, I passed him too, leaving L as the only remaining rider to go up against. He smiled. “Pick up a notch. We’re almost there,” I heard him say. Then, the L on my imaginary road picked up the pace – pushing me but staying just within reach. We reached the top of the hill together. He let me get close, but he didn’t let me pass. Of course not: I’m going to have to work to get him.
Class continued with a few faster tempo profiles. L urged the class to pick up the cadence. I tried, but my legs just wouldn’t go. Attempting to gauge how I was doing, I looked around the class. I didn’t dare look at L. At this point, he was off his back and moving around the room to turn on the various fans. It was indeed heating up.
It was my hope that I’d have an excellent spin given the fact that I had “fresh legs.” Surely there must be some benefit to my lack of exercise during the past two-week period. Sadly, my legs would not turn over as fast as I willed them to go. I closed my eyes, looking internally for some other form of motivation. Imagery had worked before; I was confident that I could make it work for me again. I began searching the images in my mind. I continued to listen to the cues as L’s voice intermittently urging us to pedal even faster. I was trying..
Though I rarely looked in L’s direction, I was acutely aware of his attention on me. Similar to the post Thanksgiving bike ride, I badly wanted to hold my own. I wanted to please him. “Stay with me,” he urged as the song continued on. This was when the all-too-familiar image came into view. There he was, his brown eyes staring into mine, creating the most intense feeling of connectedness I have ever felt. *gulp*
Coming into my awareness at the oddest time, this image has stayed with me ever since the first time we made love. I wondered, could I make this image work for me today? I opened my eyes. L was across the room on his cycle (fully dressed) now telling us to add more resistance and increase the speed a little more. My legs hurt. I closed my eyes again. The image remained. “… almost there,” came the L’s voice. I focused on his voice, which came at moderate intervals (enough to keep the class engaged but with plenty of room for the participants to wrestle with the battles in their own minds – or, in my case, fantasies. The image in my mind was beautiful, and as much as I wanted to please and be pleased (similar but very different from the way that I wanted then)…I wouldn’t use the image today. Not with all the uncertainty. Today, I would find my way alone. With any luck, some other time I can enjoy that connected feeling again.
I opened my eyes and looked in the mirror at the clock behind me – 40 more minutes of the painful reality. No problem. What’s a little pain?
The music changed tune as we shifted gears once again, now traveling at a cadence I could stay with. My legs began to feel the burn, but that was nothing compared to what came next.
I’m not sure what you call the butt hovering over the saddle, glute and quad burner that followed. The change in pain was similar to the way the fatigue changes with the running up and down rolling hills. I still hurt, but the change was good.
Then came something familiar… The music started up as L provided a little intro: “The next song was suggested by a friend of mine who said that she could ‘see the open road’ when she listened to this song…” I smiled, knowing it was me who had mentioned this song to him a couple of weeks back. It was a nice touch for him to have added it to his play list for today. I’d only told him that I was coming late last night. He used the song, and the imaginary flat desert road to pick up the intensity to 85% max. I turned up the volume in my head, sang along in my mind, and I used my familiarity with the song to my advantage.
Riding on just a bit of success, I didn’t even mind the final climb followed by a few more rollers and then the grand finale into the anaerobic zone.
Class ended on a high note as he began his plugs for upcoming classes, describing the road ahead (more intensity, more strength, and more fun). His enthusiasm for cycling really came through as he began talking about the upcoming Tour de California, and how he was planning to simulate a few of the stages in his classes during that time frame.
A few quick stretches then, we were parking our bikes and heading into another day. Outside, the sun was shining bright.