What’s happening to me now is what I imagine hell must be like. I’m sitting on a bike going nowhere, doing ten seconds of intense peddling, ten seconds of rest, ten seconds of intense peddling, ten seconds of rest, to a modified version of Ke$ha’s “Timber” in which the already annoying refrain is being repeated over and over and over again. I’m sweating. I’m almost hyperventilating. I’m spinning.
When I first heard about spinning classes, I had a mental image of women pirouetting in a ballet room as some sort of latest-hype exercise. I had been going on the stationary bikes at my gym for a few months now and, after learning the truth about what spinning really is a few years prior, I figured that it would probably be a good idea to actually partake in some of the fitness classes that had tempted me enough into buying a gym membership in the first place.
I used to be really shy about being the new person in any type of fitness class. After practicing yoga in college, however, I learned the benefits of telling instructors when you were new. Pretending that you know the basics of yoga only to start off doing them completely wrong can build bad habits and even hurt your body. Equipped with that knowledge, I walked into the spinning room, sat down on a bike in the very back next to another girl, and immediately raised my hand when the instructor walked in.
I explained to the instructor that I was new to spinning and asked his recommendation on what height I should set my bike seat at. This man, after correctly guessing that I was 5’9, adjusted my seat so incredibly high that I was practically towering over the other bikers settling into the room. It felt pretty odd, but he insisted that it was the perfect height for my long legs. Whatever, not the first time that I’ve felt uncomfortable in a fitness situation (not sure what I mean? Talk to any person who was nerdy in high school).
I settled into my seat and immediately started scoping out the other attendees. The girl next to me was the only young person besides me there – everyone else was in their forties and fifties and seemed in very good shape. To my amazement, some people were actually already powering away on their bikes even though the class was ten minutes away from starting! I spent the next few minutes talking to the girl next to me, learning that this was her first class at the gym and her first spinning class since college. Good, I thought, we can completely suffer through this together.
Then the fun began. The lights dimmed, the fake traffic light in the room lit up, and the instructor put on a microphone and started up his playlist.
The first ten minutes or so were great. I was here biking, doing my thing, enjoying the upbeat music and mentally patting myself on the back for remembering to bring a bottle of Gatorade and a sweat towel.
“Okay everyone, the next minute is going to be thirty seconds standing up, thirty seconds sitting down. Let’s go!”
I realized this meant that I actually had to stand up on what was already an extremely elevated bike seat and continue peddling in a standing position. I instantly knew it was going to hurt very, very much.
So here I am, standing up and peddling, watching the pros do it like it wasn’t a big deal at all. After about five seconds, I realize that my legs can’t take it anymore. I try to sit back down, only to realize the true meaning of the word ‘spinning’ – the bike peddles will literally continue spinning because they are tied to weights. As I try to lower myself down, I feel my legs completely fly out of the grips, and I hold on for dear life as my body almost falls off the seat. The peddles are spinning at the speed of light, and I wait until they slow down to place my feet in them again.
This exact scenario repeats itself four more times, and I’m too terrified to even look at the instructor because I’m pretty sure he’s laughing.
Meanwhile, the pros in this class put my already embarrassed self to shame: they aren’t breaking a sweat, they are actually smiling, which is horrific given the situation, and one of the men is even clapping his hands in the air as he is riding like a steroid-pumped seal.
Thirty minutes go by and I realize that it’s probably best to just forget the whole standing up thing. Before I know it, the instructor has hopped down from his bike at the front of the room and is tightening the grips on my feet. The grips had adjustors. Instructors, these are probably things you should tell first-timers at spinning so we don’t find ourselves practically spread-eagle on a bike with the peddles spinning out of control. Just, you know, putting that out there.
The rest of the class is comprised of me staring at the clock and trying to remind myself that I’m not having a heart attack. My heart feels like it is beating so incredibly fast that it’s going to pop out of my chest. My mouth tastes like bile. My legs feel like they will never, ever walk again. I am never bitching about doing chair poses in yoga again, I said to myself. I’d take that pain over spinning any day.
Amazingly, I made it through the entire hour and biked a total of 15.50 miles – that’s two more miles than it takes for me to drive to work every morning. The instructor walked up to me and asked how I liked the class, and I told him that I both loved him and hated him at the same time for putting me through that, to which he nodded sagely.
All in all, my first spinning class was slightly nerve-wracking and, like most things I do, didn’t go exactly right. The whole experience was really enjoyable, though, because I realized how far I’ve come. I used to actually cry about embarrassing sports-related situations like that in gym classes when I was younger, and I never felt confident in my ability to challenge my body. Now, I know that I’m able to try new things that I would have probably had panic attacks over during my elementary school gym days.
I walked out of the gym sweat-soaked and completely exhausted. Walking right next to me was the girl in my class, and we spent a few minutes talking to each other about when we joined the gym, what we did for work, what schools we went to, etc. She asked if I would come back and do more classes and, despite everything that happened, I said yes. And that’s the best thing about gyms, really – for a girl who dreaded P.E. all her life, my gym has some of the nicest, most supportive people. I wish I could have told my fifth grade self that pushing your physical boundaries shouldn’t be embarrassing, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to be perfect . No matter how retarded you look, there will always be someone there to cheer you on. And that, to me, proves that this world really does spin in the right direction.