How I Survived Spin Class

I deserve a sticker. Or a shirt that says “I survived…” Or something shiny or yummy.  I went to my first spin class!!
Ridiculous and over-dramatic, probably. But in all honesty, my third largest fear is group fitness classes at fancy gyms. I’m 100% serious; and when you figure out how to convince a small child that there is nothing under the bed, you can come back to me and my irrational fear of group fitness.

If I were analyzing myself, I would say that I probably am still suffering from some trauma(s) in a group fitness class in middle school or high school–teenage girls are mean. Something about even if you start on a level playing field in fitness, you’re still going to have lots of different abilities and levels… And because I’ve always been tall, people assume I’m athletic or want to be. Nope.  Always have had my muffin top, though.

Anyway, my Anum Cara, my soul-friend, has in the last year, transitioned his career towards group fitness-which I support 153.76%. However, I personally DON’T like working out when it feels like exercise. Take me on a hike, ice skating, swimming–no complaints. Group fitness–unless it’s seniors water ballet–count me OUT. There is something about the pressure to be “enough” in a class that my brain hates and tosses out the flight response, forget the fight–something in my past has told me fighting isn’t worth it.  I avoid group fitness classes like they’re a disease.
However, I love my friend dearly and he is amazing at supporting me, so I knew it wasn’t a choice when he turned my words against me one day and basically made it a “friend assignment” to attend one of his classes. And stay for the whole thing.


I tried to cheat. I tried to take it back. I tried to turn his words around. But, I knew I would feel guilty for the rest of my life if I didn’t TRY a spin class. And no one has died (yet) from taking one. “Yet” being the operative word I hoped didn’t pertain to me.

Here’s my timeline.
A month before: I accidentally say I’ll go to a class.
I recount the conversation to my mother, my friends, my boss, LL…none of who have the appropriate response: to pity me or to tell me that I shouldn’t go–in fact the opposite happened. Everyone told me to go; most told me I would probably die.

Two weeks before: I commit to taking a class, sending a confirmation text to my friend on Sunday. Class is Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday are brutal at work. I have not had a response text that I can take the class. In the middle of my happy dance that I was off the hook, my friend texts and says he can’t wait to see me in class the next day. Ugh. DOUBLE GUILT. I beg off promising I’ll come the week after the holiday break. Thinking I’ll go off to the beach, swim a lot, be more fit which equals less chance I’ll die. He says ok.  I breathe a huge sigh.  Maybe bad weather will ground me in the Dominican Republic and I’ll never make it home.


A day before:
I made it home a day ago. I realize I’m an idiot for promising to go this week. I didn’t get as fit as I would have liked, was on a bit of a detox, and mom was leaving at 3am the morning I was taking class…so I had two 4 hour naps.

Day of:
At 3am I help mom down the 4 flights of stairs to my apartment and into a car to the airport. When my second alarm goes off at 8, I limit myself to one cup of coffee because the less awake I am, the less I will feel pain. And my impending death-by-stationary-bike. I try on two different workout outfits–why? Because I was going to a fancy gym and I didn’t want to look out of place. I can fake a lot of things, and I’ve learned a good costume will get you far.
I wait in the lobby, hands shaking (I’m not being sarcastic or funny, my hands were shaking) while texting my friend to get further instructions. I felt like a needy jerk at this point, and was terrified. He texted back to sign in and make my way to the classroom. I think I hid my terror pretty well when I signed in and handed my coat to coat check.
Trying to take deep breaths and not panic while I was descending the stairs, and also wondering when life would start to flash by my eyes.
I got to the room to find it almost full-I hate being late. Luckily a bike was reserved for me. But my panic starts to overwhelm me.  I turn into a giant needy baby, just trying to control the shaking in my hands.  Looking back at that moment, my friend the instructor, was lovely, and adjusted my bike and talked me through putting my feet in the straps–seriously, he had to give me step by step instructions on how to put my feet in stirrups. The struggle was real.

5 minutes in: Head down, listening to the music, I pedal.  Hands are still shaking.  I’m sure everyone is judging me.  If I don’t make eye contact with any of them, I can pretend they’re not judging.

10 minutes in: Life is still not flashing before my eyes, and my hands have stopped shaking. I’m not happy, but I’m surviving.


20 minutes in:  The older ladies who are at least twice my age are doing better than I am.  I can’t stand on the bike for more than 15 seconds.  I want to cry.  No, worse: I want to jump off the bike and run out of the room.  I seriously contemplate leaving.  The only thing stopping me is that I KNOW it would be upsetting to my friend.  So, I woman up, and keep pedaling.

35 minutes in: I’ve slowed way down.  I’m still trying not to make eye contact with anyone, especially my instructor friend.  I’m telling myself that if I don’t cry I can have a donut after class.  (SERIOUSLY who puts a donut shop next to a gym?!?–someone who knew I was coming apparently.)

38 minutes in: for the last 3 minutes we are told to go as far as we can.  I pedal.  With a minute left, I’m not far from a mile… so I push, and right as 3 minutes ends, I hit a mile.  WOOOHOO!


We cool down.  I stretch. I feel like my legs are tied to cement pylons.  The pain in my legs and the pride that I did a mile at the end make me forget about all of my insecurities.  Shaking has moved to my legs now, but I’m sure that is healthy muscle stuff.  I walk up to my friend, when my legs allow me.  My lack of coffee leads me to answer way too bluntly when he asks if I had fun in class with: “NOPE.  But I’m sure I’ll remember it fondly.” Whoops.

After class I get my donut and coffee and head back across town to my apartment to meet up with LL to take pictures for the blog.  I suddenly become happy because I now have a whole different realm of conversation to have with my instructor friend AND LL!  My badge of honor is the ability to complain about the pains of working out for AT LEAST the next 48 hours.  Everyone tells me they’re proud of me.  No one is surprised that my toosh hurts.  For two days.

Somewhere in the following week, I somehow get talked into taking a second class… from a few people, several offer to go WITH me.  I never thought THAT would happen.  UGH.  Here we are again.  The cycle (no pun intended) starts over–I think to myself. Hopefully, my hands won’t shake when I enter the class.

Last week, as it happens… I went again.  This time, I got there early.  I adjusted the bike myself.  The instructor friend had to put my pedals on for me, though.  And I’m happy to say I made it to 32 minutes before wanting to cry, and at no time did I want to jump off the bike and run out of class.  AND, bonus, my toosh didn’t hurt at all this time.

My fear of group fitness classes is far from being quelled, but I’m no longer afraid of my friend’s spin class.  I might even go again.  (But, maybe don’t tell him…it will be our secret for now.)

That night, I went home and made myself a deluxe grilled cheese with lots of butter AND bacon grease.  YUM.  And I don’t feel guilty one bit, because as Michael says at the end of every class: he doesn’t like good choices, he likes fun ones, so make some fun choices.


–Clare

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