Wisdom and spin bikes

Springtime, a time for games and play and adventures and dances. When flowers bloom, clouds rain, birds sing, and children scooter. To most, springtime means the time to emerge from our caves and partake in all kinds of activities.

For the injured skier, however, it usually means spin biking (or swimming if you’re not afraid of water).

Spin biking. Ough. The worst (right?). Let’s sit inside, staring at a wall, doing something that is simultaneously too easy and too hard, thinking about our injury and all of the things we would rather be doing.

One day, I whilst doing all of the above (minus swimming because, water), I realized that I didn’t have to spin alone in the Middlebury ski room, that there were people on campus who got together to stationary exercise for fun (I know. What?). A search, click and jump later, I found myself up early and surrounded by other eager stationary exercisers.

That's me in front there. Quick learner.
That’s me in front there. Quick learner.

Now, before I could get there, I had to overcome a mental block engineered by our sport. Nordic skiers have this thing about exercise classes. We’re athletic elitists. Whatever the class, it’s either too easy (pilates), not a real workout (Zumba), just a fad (TRX), or not real fitness (crossfit). In a nutshell, we believe classes are designed for regular people who exercise not train, for people who need to learn how to exercise. We obviously already know everything. (I will offer the exception of yoga. Apparently, the inevitability of the inflexible nordie has allowed us this one class.)

Well, folks. We have a lot to learn.

After 50 minutes of sweaty enlightenment, I can attest to the value of classes like spin classes. They foster an athletic spirit that most of us forget in the heat of competition season. Thus, below is my list of Things we can Learn from Spin Class:

1. You can dance doing pretty much anything.
Exercise is rhythmic. Whether it’s shimmying over your handle bars, shaking it over your skis or getting your Zumba grove on, fun and training are not mutually exclusive.

2. Sweating is a good thing.
There is something unequivocally beautiful about going hard for sake of going hard. Sometimes I feel like intensity workouts are a competition for who can best hide difficulty. “Oh, you thought that was hard? I was in perfect L3.”
Now, I have to be careful with what I say here, because Nordic skiers notoriously go too hard, but about 45 minutes into class I looked around me and saw a group of women, who I would ordinarily find clean and well dressed, drenched in sweat, abandoning vanities and enjoying the process, enjoying the difficulty. Yes, it was hard. And sweating was beautiful.


3. The stationary thing.
I love the wind. I love to feel it change with my pace, to let it roll across my arms and legs as I climb and descend hills. Its oscillations serve as positive reinforcement for my movement, proof that I’m going somewhere. In class, we made up for the wind we lacked with pure solidarity. The thing about stationary exercise is, when you can’t go anywhere, everyone stays together. There we were, twelve bikers on completely different athletic levels, pedaling, dancing and sweating together in complete unison. When one person started to drop her tempo, someone was there to notice and encourage the rest of the group to cheer for her and bring her back. That kind of dynamic is comforting because you know that, well, nobody’s going anywhere.

4. Cheering for yourself.
And when, inevitably, you’re the one who’s dropped the tempo and fallen behind the metaphorical pack, instead of sulking in embarrassment when someone notices, it’ll do some good to join in with them when they cheer for you. It happened to me, and when our instructor rallied the voices, I joined, and had no choice but to believe in the cheer, “Yeah, Annie!”

5. Remember why you came here.
After so many years of following training plans like doctrine and traipsing from venue to venue, it’s easy to simply follow routine and indulge in habit. Habits form quickly, and by the end of the class, I found myself pedaling mechanically, just trying to get to the end. With three minutes left, our instructor yelled over her disciples that we had one song to go, one last chance, to “remember why you came here.” That day, it was simply to exercise as an end in itself. I wasn’t there to stare bored at a wall, I was searching for encouragement, for motivation, and I found it. I wonder how my training would change if I thought, with three minutes left in the workout, or the race, or the recovery session when seconds pass slowly and the finish line seems out of reach, why did I come here? More often than not, the answer will have something to do with happiness, passion and adventure. More often than not, it will get me through those final three minutes.

Class after spinning. It will be better next time!
Class after spinning. It will be better next time!

With that, I wish you a happy new year and a happy kick off to the 2014-2015 training season! Over the next 11 months, I hope you dance, sweat, find teammates, cheer for yourself and never forget why you came here, wherever that is.


P.S. Thanks to Middlebury’s YouPower spin room for killing it.

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