Since I started taking spin classes about two months ago, I’ve had a very mixed response ranging from, “I don’t get it. You’re just riding a bike, right? How do they make it so hard?” to “Ugh. I’ve always wanted to try but I’m terrified.” The second example is the correct one. You should be terrified. Spin class sucks. It sucks so much. But, according to my various trackers and gadgets, it burns between 400 and 500 calories an hour, so I keep going back. And I will grudgingly admit that yes, I feel great after the fact. AFTER. During the class, I want to take a hammer to everything around me.
So how is spin class? What do you actually do? Let me tell you.
I had no desire to ever take Spinning. I ride my bike all the time and I love it, but doing so for two straight years has yielded me exactly zero weight loss by itself, so I didn’t really see how it could benefit me that much. But one fateful Thursday, I was out of sorts. I didn’t feel like going to the gym, I didn’t feel like going for a run, I didn’t feel like lifting weights; just wasn’t in the mood for it. In fact, I texted my husband begging him to go out for a drink with me so I didn’t have to go. He refused, as he was already knee deep in a Blue Bloods marathon. So when I walked into the gym, I was dragging my feet and irritated. (And really wanting that beer, if I’m being honest.) I saw the signup sheet for something called “Live DJ Spin,” and thought, “Okay. Maybe let’s try something different. Switch it up.” So I signed my name for a bike at the back of the room and headed upstairs.
I sat down in front of the spin studio, petulantly pretending to stretch. There had been a class prior to mine, and it was just starting to let out. My first clue should have come at this point. Every single person that was walking out was literally beet-red and covered in sweat. But my brain doesn’t process information that quickly, and I headed in.
Let me preface this next part by stating that I have spent most of my adult life avoiding loud, neon flashing, bass-thumping clubs. Granted, it hasn’t been that difficult as I don’t get invited to them a whole lot, but still. I got drafted to plan my sister’s bachelorette party in Vegas (something about being a matron of honor, sister, etc.,) several years ago and the terror I felt at not only attending but planning a party in a “club,” was somewhere around the same level most people reserve for having an axe murderer in front of them. I was old before I was old. Loud music stresses me out and I have enough trouble walking in well-lit areas, thankyouverymuch. I don’t need flashing strobe lights to expedite the falling down process. I have booze for that.
To say I was concerned when I walked into spin class to find a dark room with thumping music, flashing strobe lights, and a DJ would be an understatement. The addition of three rows of stationary bicycles and 15 girls who were all young, fit, and tiny roaming about did nothing to assauge my fears. Super. Now I could have all of the club atmosphere that so terrified me, with none of the booze or fun. Plus, I had to ride a fucking bike for an hour. Yeah, this was a great idea.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately, I guess. Grudgingly.) my fear of clubs and falling off of bikes was superseded by my fear of everyone secretly judging me if I walked out, so I got on the bike. The instructor asked if anyone was brand new and needed help and I raised my hand, figuring it was relatively obvious as I hadn’t managed to get onto the stupid thing yet so I might as well ask for help. She came up, got me set up, and I started pedaling. Okay. Maybe this wouldn’t be so horrible. I’d missed riding my bike.
When we were ready to go, she put on her microphone and started yelling over the music. “Okay, so we’re going nice and slow, flat road, no wind, just cruising along.” Excellent. I can do this. I pedaled along happily for a few minutes, even beginning to enjoy the music and the lights. It was kind of nice to pretend I was somewhere else.
“Okay, and stand up!” the instructor shouted happily about five minutes later. I looked around as everyone stood up on the pedals almost simultaneously and continued pedaling at the same rate of speed. Okay, I thought. You can do this. I stood up.
And then immediately sat back down before completing one rotation. Hmph. I turned the resistance down and tried again. Too far, apparently, as now I lost complete control of my legs as they furiously pedaled out and I almost fell off the bike. Okay. Try, try, again and all that shit. You’re not stupid. You can ride a bike.
I finally figured out a decent resistance and was able to stand up and pedal. Feeling good, I tried to concentrate on the music instead of the burning that was starting in my quads. Within about thirty seconds, I was sweating harder than I have in years. This was worse than running. This was worse than burpees. This was worse than planks. Trying to wipe sweat out of my eyes, I dared look at the clock behind me. It had been exactly seven minutes. The class was fifty minutes long.
I would detail the rest of the experience, but I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a while there. The instructor helpfully came by at one point and confidentially whispering to me, “Don’t worry. This is really hard the first time. You’re doing great!” I tried to smile but instead pretty much growled at her. Great. Now not only was I clearly the newbie who couldn’t keep up, but was going to solidify myself as a crazy person on top of it.
It was so, so, hard. I started to get mad. I mean seriously, I’ve been working out consistently for almost a year. I ride a bike nearly twelve miles a day in the summer. How has that not increased my ability or stamina one little iota? So I kept going. When she said increase the resistance, I may have cried a little, but I did it. When she said stand up, I stood up. When she said, “Third position,” I looked up like a dog, hopeful that meant “sit back down and stop this fucking torture.” It did not. It meant stand up a different way, that hurts even more.
I’ve never been so happy to hear the words, “Okay, and we’re done!” in my entire life. She urged us to slowly decrease our speed but I couldn’t pedal anymore. I got off the bike and my legs completely buckled underneath me. I held onto the bike for dear life and pulled myself back to a standing position. I halfheartedly completed the stretches despite the instructor’s caution that the stretching was just as important as the workout. Whatever. I was out of water and wanted to be out of that room.
Here’s a tip. When the instructor of any class tells you something, you should listen. When I finally walked out the door, I got to the top of the stairs and thought, “Well, shit. I guess I live here now.” My brain was sending the message to my legs all, “Hey, assholes, we know how to do this, one in front of the other, down the stairs we go,” and my legs were all “FUCK YOU this was your stupid idea in the first place.” I had to walk backward down the stairs. (Remember my whole post awhile ago about people not judging or paying attention to me? Not true in this instance.) I walked the mile home, hoping I would stretch my muscles out enough that I could use them tomorrow.
I could not. I have never, ever been so sore in my life. You remember how you could manipulate a Barbie doll’s legs so her knees bent backwards? That’s what mine did every time I tried to walk. Every time I went to the bathroom, it was like a horrible game – I could lower myself a little bit, but the rest was pretty much a trust fall to the toilet. It took a full three days before I was able to walk normally again.
On day four, I went back for my second spin class. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger indeed.