Spin Spin Spin

I went to another spin class at my gym the other day, triumphant and inspired after my first, successful spin class. I learned a lot in my first spin class. I learned that I wasn’t going to die, I learned how to size the bike, I learned the basics of the digital display, how to switch stages and where to monitor RPMs. Most importantly, I learned that I could have fun and get a good work out, all in a spin class.

My second spin class was a bit different. First of all, the class was packed, almost every bike was taken. I overheard one participant say, about the instructor, before the instructor arrived, “she terrifies me.” Now, I was a wee bit terrified, too. Moments later, in bounced the instructor, a tiny-framed woman, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. She was my age, I’d say, at least, but more fit that I’ve ever been in my life, at any age. She looked familiar, and though I have yet to verify it, I think I went to high school with her. She resembles someone, a year ahead of me, who was, even way back then, small-framed, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. We’re talking the front cover of a body building magazine muscle definition. She could stand at the front of a classroom and be put to good use as a visual aid in naming every muscle in the human body. And I truly mean this with the utmost admiration, respect and a touch of jealousy.

The instructor straddled her bike on the pedestal at the front of the classroom, cranked up the tunes and gave us explicit instructions. We were going “uphill” as soon as our “warm up” was over. If I had a dollar for every time she said, “add some gear”, I wouldn’t have to pay my gym fees for the next year! She knew many of the people in the class by name and even included songs in her playlist she knew they, specifically, would enjoy. Three minutes in and I was already dripping sweat onto the floor around my bike. Yikes. We were still going uphill. As a matter of fact, I think we went uphill pretty much the entire time. Who picked this ride?

Though, it seemed, much of the class consisted of regulars, the instructor seemed attuned to the fact that there was some “fresh meat” in with the veterans. Me, for example. With this in mind, she provided very precise, explicit and valuable information on the use of the digital display, every number being given a meaning, a use, and a measure. At the end of the class, I somehow survived, I felt far more informed and in mastery of the bike, the gearing of the bike and how it all related to the digital display and, ultimately, to the best workout I’ve had in a very long time.

As I understand it, this all translates to actual cycling, too. Having grown up in a “cycling” family, my dad being a cyclist for most of his youth, and owning a bicycle shop for most of my youth, I have some vague knowledge of the sport of cycling. I know that the goal is to maintain a steady cadence. There, that’s the depth of my cycling knowledge. You shift gears to maintain that desired cadence. Got it. What I learned in this spin class is how to “make room, add gear, gain power.” This makes sense and it works. As it was explained, several times throughout the class, you have a cadence range, between so many revolutions per minute and about ten more revolutions per minute. You pedal furiously and as you reach the upper end of that range, in other words, you make room, then you add gear, giving you more power. You continue to pedal furiously after adding gear, which, logically, causes your revolutions per minute to drop towards the lower end of the range. Pedal more, get closer to the upper end of the range, making more room, add more gear. The “power” is measured by the “watts” readout on the digital display. By the end of our mostly uphill ride, we were pedaling at about the same RPMs we started our ride with, but we were generating far more power. The watts I generated more than tripled, even though my cadence was the same, during the course of this exercise. I know this all translates to the street, to real riding, to real hills, and I find it fascinating. Power excites me!

I thought about this a lot throughout the day; making room, adding gear, more power and repeat. I think this method can also be applied to life; to our goals and to our evolution as an individual. Think about it.

We have a goal. Some folks never get past the setting of the goal. Others of us plink away at our goals a little bit, here and there, kind of like pedaling the old Schwinn Varsity around the block. And for some of us, that’s it. The seat makes our butt hurt, we get winded, the chain falls off, the tire goes flat and the old Schwinn Varsity reclaims its dusty post at the back of the garage with the car washing towels draped over it, perpetually drying. Am I right?

pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.
pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.

Others of us work a little harder at our goals. We sit on that spin cycle in class and just pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal. We pay no attention to the numbers on the display. We show up, we pedal and pedal and pedal and you know what? We end up right where we started. We could attend spin class and pedal mindlessly and never increase our effort, never stand to pedal, never add gear, never gain any power, assuming we are making a difference, but we find that we never make any progress. That goal is always there, in the same exact position, never changing, never closer, truly like trying to reach it by riding a stationary bicycle.

Perhaps if we set a “cadence” for our work towards our goal, some kind of measure of achievement, of progress, and, as we work towards the first measure, we “add a little gear”, maybe some intermediate or clarifying goals towards the bigger goal, making it, initially harder, but through which we gain some energy, some power, making reaching the next level not only possible, but, in fact, a bit easier. We add more gear, gain more power, make more progress, and so forth. You see?

So, yes, I encourage you to check out a spin class because it’s hecka fun and a real sweat fest. And, I also encourage you to apply some of the principles of spinning, or cycling, to the goals you’ve set for yourself. Keep up a good pace, make some room by setting intermediate goals or meaningful measures of progress towards the ultimate goal. As you approach each of those intermediate goals or measures, increase your effort and use the power to propel you towards the next intermediate goal or measure. Watch as you quickly and powerfully crest that hill and reach your goal!

Grab your yellow jersey, wave it over your head triumphantly, bask in the glory, and enter another race!

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