Or: My highly-anticipated return to spinning class

As I said back when I started the 30-Day Shred, I have been in training (term used loosely) for a couple of different reasons. The first was for overall health, but the second was the fact that I missed spinning classes and I wanted to not only get back to them, but really commit to them.

When I’d first gotten hooked on spinning as a concept, I’d paid special care to test out a number of the instructors whose classes would be available to my evening schedule. I learned about the crazy/scary one with the awesome music (that was Monday), the enjoyable fellow whose approach I enjoyed (Tuesday) and the sensational angel of a man who would not only work me hard, but encourage my fellow classmates and I and allow us to enjoy the experience of working ourselves drenched.

That was Wednesday. So when I made my return to spinning this week, I was smart. I went for the Sultan of Spin.

I’d arrived significantly earlier than I’d anticipated, so I decided that, rather than staring at my bike for 35 minutes or so, I would warm up on a machine and stretch out the muscles. As I was doing so, That Guy walked in.

You know That Guy. He’s the one who wears the t-shirt cut off just below the pecs. He’s the guy who walks with a purpose, but seems to carry himself as if he has an extra 45 pounds of muscle that the rest of us can’t see. He’s the guy whose expression seems to indicate that he could not only break you with his pinky finger, he would enjoy doing it.

I laughed to myself about That Guy before moving into the cycling studio, stretching a bit more and setting up my bike. I was feeling good, giddy about returning to my favorite instructor…and then That Guy walked in.

He was to lead my class. And, as I learned quickly, he was not the Sultan of Spin.Now, if you’ve never taken a spin class, here’s what you need to know: you’re sitting at a stationary bike, with the overhead lights mostly off, the black lights and loud music definitely on. You have a knob on your bike that increases the resistance. Essentially, the instructor guides you on a ride up hills, down hills, across flat surfaces where you’re focusing on speed; the music motivates and gives you a chance to match your pace to the beat and the typical rock/pop songs provide nice markers in terms of your progress.

You work your ass off. Literally. It’s hot and you keep going going going until your legs are burning and you can almost believe that you feel the individual muscles in your leg protesting. It’s not a kind workout. It’s savage. Panting and gripping handlebars and gritting your teeth while the hair sticks to the back of your neck. But for every imaginary hilltop you crest, there’s at least a few moments of comedown. A chance to breathe and bask in the glory of the endorphins. And then you’re right back at it. But it feels SO GOOD when you get through the whole class and realize that you’ve taken on a challenge that intimidates the hell out of many people. And the instructor’s manner of guiding you through an course you can see in your mind is a pretty trippy kind of cool.

That’s what I always thought spin was, anyway. Because That Guy gets up there and announces that there’s a waiting list and “if today is a light day, if you are not ready to work 110%, you should give up your bike and do something else. We. Will. WORK.” Then he cues up the first song…the theme from Star Wars. Into The Ride of the Valkyries. I suddenly realize that I will probably die before these 50 minutes have come to a close. I hope that everyone I care about knows that I do, given that I won’t have a chance to tell them in the future.

Here’s a sample of the motivation: TURN. WORK. WORK HARDER. DRINK. BREATHE. TURN. WORK HARDER.

That Guy doesn’t believe in downhill. It’s always turn, TURN, TURN. Apparently, we’re climbing the Swiss Alps. Or K2. And as I’m realizing that I’ve never worked so hard in an exercise class in my life, that I have never been so drenched with sweat from a trip to the gym in my life, I’m realizing that this dude, THAT GUY, is not going to beat me. I will beat him.

At the end of the class, after one last agonizing sequence, That Guy tells us that he’s known for sharing his opinion of class effort. On Sunday morning, his class phoned it in, he said. So he told them.

“The opposite is also true. The effort, the conditioning, the level of commitment this evening is at the top of the charts. I threw an extraordinarily difficult program at you and you did a great job.”

Suddenly, I was grinning like an idiot. An exhausted, sweat-soaked idiot who had lost her mind somewhere between K2 basecamp 1 and 2 25 minutes earlier. I felt fantastic…

…until I realized that I didn’t want to get off the bike. I couldn’t be sure that my legs were going to support me, and I wanted to keep this good vibe going.

Compared to that? Jillian is going to be the equivalent of lying on the couch, sipping wine.

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