Spinning my wheels

I signed Axel and myself up for an introductory Spinning class. Axel might not have considered it but there is strength in numbers. I had always been a little intimidated when I walked by the dimly lit classroom with its cheek-to-jowl stationary bikes, the high pitched teacher exhorting the class to go for the gold and the thump-thump music.

The room was full on the appointed hour early on Saturday. There were others like us, intimidated and waiting for a gentle introduction. All but one of the room full of bikes were occupied. It took about 30 minutes to get us all to figure out the adjustments of the bikes to our bodies and set up and understand the electronics that would provide us with the data points during and after our ride (for monitoring and evaluation purposes).

We spent the remaining 30 minutes biking level, downhill, and uphill with our rides illustrated on an enormous screen (12 connected flat TV screens), showing where we were biking. Sometimes we cruised down or jogged up (standing on the pedals) a paved road in the French or Swiss Alps, sometimes we were on sandy or gravel paths in a national park someplace – scenes that looked vaguely familiar, reminiscent of the beaches at Cape Cod. One ride I thought I recognized, along the coastal path at Sea Ranch in California which we ambled two years ago with our two grandchildren, looking for seals. There are also paths through jungles, over narrow bridges or weaving along pedestrians or hikers. We never stayed consistently on one route which may have confused our well trained brains a bit. But I liked the variation because if you climb up to an Alpine summit it is not only exhausting but the scenery can get a bit boring.

In our artificial and electronic environment everything was possible: the teacher would switch easily from beach to jungle to dunes to daredevil rides down ski slopes, when the interval asked for a different effort. She adjusted the thump-thump music which made me adjust my RPMs. Sometimes there was neither path nor trail and we jumped several yards down rocky outcrops, me on my mountain bike. It helped with the distraction of staying in the green, yellow or red zone displayed on our small monitors. If you go really hard and expending more effort than you have in you, you get a ring of fire first and then you are sucked into a red tunnel – the graphic artists of the bike company had fun creating the screens.

The introductory class lowered my adoption-of-a-new-behavior threshold: this morning at 6AM I was ready for a full hour workout even though I was still a little intimidated for my ride in the big league. Thirty minutes is the most I ever do on the stationary bike in my (home) office. But there is no thump-thump music (I listen to books) and I don’t do any intervals, biking at a comfortable steady pace. I prepared the teacher for the possibility of sneaking out after 30 minutes who said, “no problem as long as you don’t forget to stretch!” But fitness teachers don’t give in to defeat that easily and told me to simply reduce my effort when it got too much. Giving up so easily simply didn’t seem an option anymore.

I am proud to say that I biked up a few steep sloped and reached one summit in the Alps, cruised along some lovely scenery, sometimes at a very high speed. I completed 18.4 miles. Now that I know I can I have made the 6AM Monday morning session a recurrent appointment with myself on my Google calendar.

What is quite an accomplishment for me is nothing for my 70+ year old brother who actually bikes across the Alps on a real bike, for many multiples of 18 miles daily. He has no qualms about bicycling from Holland to Slovenia (over the Alps) or the land of the Basques (over the Pyrenees) and is now dreaming of a trip from Holland to Athens.  I am usually better at long plane rides.

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