Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My first "spin"

Even though I go through phases, I consider myself to be in good shape. I cried laughed that thought away this week when I finally had my first “spin” adventure.

I use quotes because – this was news to me but probably not to anyone who knows a thing or two – Spin, like Zumba, is a registered trademark name, so gyms without a Spin license can’t call their similar classes spinning classes. My gym calls it cycle, so I officially took my first cycle class, but from what I’ve heard, it’s basically the same thing. 

Whatever you call it, it has never appealed to me for one pretty big reason: the bike. I strongly dislike riding a bike because not only can I not balance enough to stay upright very long, but the lack of control I feel on one freaks me out. Yes, these are stationary bikes, but if there’s anything I dislike more than trying to stay on a bike, it’s sitting – on anything – but especially on a tiny, uncomfortable “seat.” 

However, my curiosity tends to get the best of me sometimes, and when something is so popular among so many different people, I want to know what all the fuss is about. I’m fascinated by the number of cycle fanatics we get at the gym. The strategies people come up with to make sure they snag a spot in class amaze me.  I was also intrigued by this article responding to claims that too much Spinning gives you bulky thighs. To me, bulky = muscle, and since my legs were not made to be slim to begin with, I’ll take bulky muscle over bulky jello. 

For a few months now, I’ve been wanting to try a class, and my schedule only allows for early morning options. I have even impressed myself by the number of different ways I’ve been able to talk myself out of going, but last weekend I finally gave in.

What I expected
First and foremost, I expected to leave the class a soggy, shaking mess. I also expected a fired-up instructor shouting out commands – and not in the endearing way Jillian does it (in her DVDs at least). I wanted to make sure to grab a bike in the back corner – obviously – because I had a feeling I’d be sitting while everyone was standing and sitting still while everyone else was pedaling up a storm. I was especially nervous about getting the bike situated just right because the last thing I wanted after getting up early to do two of my least favorite things was to not get as much as possible out of my workout. Plus, I don’t have the fancy, clippy spin/cycle shoes so I wanted to figure out the pedal situation. I also assumed capris to be a better option than shorts as to keep the thigh flappage to a minimum.

What happened
What happened is what usually happens on the rare occasion I venture out of my comfort zone: I regretted not doing it sooner. I was so happy to arrive with enough time to choose the perfect spot – middle left, back row. The girl a few bikes down was a newbie too (accompanied by a workout buddy, of course – a foreign concept to me), so I felt less nervous right away. The instructor recognized me from working the front desk and helped me adjust the seat, handle bars and pedals. I don’t know how official Spin bikes are set up, but these pedals were made to accommodate both cycle shoes that clip onto one side of the pedal and regular athletic shoes you stick into a little cage-like contraption with an adjustable strap to tighten around the front of your shoe. 

Before going around the room to help a few other non-experts, she also took the time to explain the screen that displays the time, speed and mileage and how to change gears. Two of my biggest worries were immediately solved – success!

I had heard the seats would be painful, and I have never wished so badly that I had been lied to. 

I’ve got plenty of cushion, but after just 15 minutes sitting in the softest, most comfortable seat imaginable, I get extremely sore, so you can imagine how awesome I was feeling after just one minute on the bike. As people started trickling in, I pedaled along with the rest of the group warming up, desperately trying to fit in and somehow hide the ridiculous amount of squirming I had to do to keep myself from running away and calling it quits. What helped was sitting in the back; it's not only a great spot for hiding – it’s a great spot for people watching, and I was able to keep my mind off the pain a little by being entertained by the rest of the participants, from the super serious to the oddly indifferent.

As luck would have it, five minutes into the class, as I reached down to tighten the shoe straps, I pulled the right one all the way off. Instead of doing the smart thing – switching to the empty bike right next to me –  I tried to just tuck the broken strap under my foot, hoping for the best. It was manageable, but my foot and ankle definitely paid for it later that day and into the next. For the next 55 minutes we climbed hills and did sprint intervals, alternating a lot between pedaling using just the right or left leg, which I hadn't expected or thought of but liked.

Two things surprised me the most: 1. How out of breath I got! I realize it’s a cardio class, but I didn’t expect it be so aerobic, I guess. It was awesome. 2. How sweaty everyone else was. I build up a pretty good sweat just walking across the street (I’m just lucky that way), so seeing how much of a workout it was for everyone else was less embarrassing.

OK, I guess three things surprised me, with the third being how much I loved it. I can’t quite explain the feeling I got when I was standing and pedaling as fast as I possibly could, with music at just the right volume with just the right beat. Even though I was surrounded by others, I felt like I was alone and racing the wind, as corny as that sounds (and there was no wind). It was just very freeing.

The instructor was awesome . She explained things very well and perfectly balanced words of encouragement with just staying silent and letting us do our own thing.  I really like that you’re able to control your own pace and resistance. Of course I was a creep and tried to do exactly what the ripped girl in front of me was doing, but I had no problem switching down gears when the burn was just too much. 

Overall, the only thing I wish I would have done differently (besides not staying on a bike with a broken pedal strap), was how much I pushed myself. I kept trying to save my energy since I didn't know what to expect next, but this resulted in me not getting the best workout I probably could have. My legs still felt it the next day, but not as much as they should have. 

The good news is I can incorporate this lesson into my next class because I will definitely be making this a regular part of my workout routine, and I strongly recommend it to you too if you haven't tried it yet (although, most people probably have since it's been around for quite awhile - but better late than never seems to be my life motto)!

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