Barb, a supporting character in my novel Saving Jesus, is not taking her transition into her fifties lying down. She jogs, lifts weights, wears cool glasses, can complete the 50-yard dash in stilettos, and has become a devotee of the spin class.
May God have mercy on my soul
I don’t need to know a lot about spin classes to write about Barb’s latest fitness venture, but when my friend Ashley opened her 4:13 Fitness studio in Palatine, I accepted her invitation to the soft launch—all in the name of research. May God have mercy on my soul.
I also accepted because A) Ashley is my friend B) I believe in her fitness philosophy and C) I need to get more exercise because walking to and from my garage just isn’t cutting it. And think of the creative mileage I can get from the experience. But, I have to admit, I’m nervous. Make that terrified.
Spinning—It's not just for Wheel of Fortune
For couch potatoes who associate spinning with Wheel of Fortune, spin classes are a cardio workout where participants climb on stationary cycles, adjust the tension to challenge their fitness level, and bike as fast as possible, even though they’re going nowhere. Each class has an instructor who sits in the front of the room barking commands so riders will know what they’re supposed to be doing. Or not.
The music is loud, upbeat and pulsating, which only makes sense. Riding to a lullaby might be more my style, but it would defeat the purpose.
For the record, I am not unacquainted with spinning. I have walked by the spin class at the gym on my way to yoga 101 for BTLs (beginners, tense people and lazy butts). I noticed most of the people in the class were smiling—at least the people in the front row, so how bad could it be? I signed up to try out a class. It was a 45-minute class, so I assumed it was for beginners like me—people who couldn’t do a full hour.
I was so wrong. And I quickly learned not everyone smiles during the class—just the front row participants. The frowny faces sit in the back row.
Bicycle seats and oxygen tanks
I walked into spin studio and appropriately made my way to the back of the room. It’s where they keep the oxygen tanks.
None of the indoor cycles had seats. I found them piled high in the back corner like an altar. I sought out the instructor, who was about the size of Kristen Chenowith and had guns that would make Michelle Obama envious. I timidly approached and asked how to determine which seat to put on my bike. She smiled at me like a kindergarten teacher who has answered the question about when snack time is for the 50th time.
Adopting her best chipperness tone, she explained we would not be using the seats. Whaaa? We would be standing or hovering for the entire 45 minutes. In other words, if you know what’s good for you, you will not sit. She pointed out that without a bicycle seat, I wouldn’t have to worry about being saddle sore the next day. I would however have to worry about being dead. She offered a killer smile that told me I would be fine. I could go at my own pace. Even if my own pace is somewhere between glacier and disabled turtle.
I took the 45-minute, seat-less spin class designed for the S&M crowd, and managed to live through it. Barely. It was all I could do to keep from calling a medic to get me down a flight of stairs, through the lobby and back to my car. But I never went back to spin class. Yoga and Pilates, while not exactly paragons of cardio, are more my style. And I have a mean downward dog to show for it.
5 Rules of the Spin Game
I figured I should investigate the Rules of the Spin Game so I am prepared for Ashley’s upcoming class.
- Wear tight-fitting pants clothing doesn’t get caught in the spokes. This shouldn’t be a problem for me as all my pants are tight.
- Bring a bottle of water. A big bottle. Like a jug. (Use it to add some resistance training to the workout.)
- You’ll be sweating, so bring a towel. (Ha. I’m sweating just thinking about it. But it’s more of a cold sweat. I’ll bring a bath sheet.)
- Wear appropriate shoes. (Leave the flip-flops and the stilettos at home. Heelys, or sneakers will little wheels on the bottom are optional.)
- Get ready to have fun. Uh, would that be having a margarita before class, or after class when I can celebrate the fact that I AM STILL ALIVE!
The rules did not say whether I should bring my own oxygen and a paramedic. But perhaps I am overthinking it.
Running my own race
Now, I’m preparing to take the second spin class of my life. Ashley has echoed the words of the Kristen Chenowith spin instructor: You’ll be fine. Go at your own pace. She wisely said that we all have our own race to run. Plus she has assured me all her bikes have seats. That’s a step in the right direction.
But the next time a character tells me she wants to take a spin class, I’m going to suggest she try yoga. I may have to run my own race, but I don't have to run hers.