Today I went to the gym with my good friend JC (no, not that JC; he doesn't really need the gym, and besides, the UCI is still up in the air about whether or not Divine Personages are eligible to race, even if they are 2,000-odd years old; I understand the Buddha is unperturbed, as his goal was always to escape the cycle in the first place...). He has a membership that includes a guest pass which allows him to take any one person with him to the gym pretty much as many times as they want to go. That's actually pretty cool.
Our goal was to participate in a spin class. 'Spinning' apparently, is very much like riding a bike on a trainer, only the bike in question weighs like a hundred pounds and it's really hard to stop pedaling, at least until the spin-structor comes in and tells you to push the little red button when you want to stop.
The class in question took place at Urban Active's spinning room. In case we were unsure about the purpose of all the stationary bikes, the room was conveniently labeled 'SPINNING' in a nifty modern font and had a schedule posted on the wall. It was housed in a big blue cylinder -- a little strange, but the whole concept seems a little strange at first.
JC and I nailed down a couple of bikes in the back of the room and set them up. I, thinking I knew a thing or two about bikes, set mine up just the way I like my road bike: high saddle, low bars, medium reach.
Oops. But more on that later.
We then proceeded to warm up.
Or perhaps I should say we proceeded to attempt to warm up.
I should've realized I'd done something wrong when my cleats kept popping out of the clips every time I tried to get out of the saddle. I did not, however, realize the error of my ways. I figured I was doin' it rong -- but what I figured i was doin' rong was something about technique; not so much about fit.
Soon, our instructor arrived. She looked innocuous enough -- appropriately long and lean for someone who teaches classes at a gym, but also hip and friendly. She told us she might not quite be her usual self because she'd spent the entire week so far teaching dance to a horde of little girls. She said, "But I get to sit on the bike tonight, so that's good," which won my confidence.
Then she turned down the lights, turned up the fans, and proceeded to punish us all for an hour.
Actually, the class was not quite as punishing as I expected. It was just punishing enough. Our instructor (whose name, unfortunately, I didn't catch) worked us hard -- I sweated my behind off -- but not so hard I thought I was going to die or puke (I have, in fact, been worked hard enough to make me puke, twice: in Muay Thai class, of course, though at the time I was also walking around with a yet-undiagnosed pneumonia).
In the opening minutes of class, my cleats continued to pop out of the clips, and finally I grumblingly pushed my little red button, hopped off the bike, and fixed my fit.
Then I proceeded to set the resistance all wrong. Specifically, I didn't want to kill myself, so I set it a little lower than I thought I could actually handle, cranking it up a bit or down a bit as our instructor, well, instructed.
That, too, turned out to be a mistake: as the class proceeded, I realized it was harder -- way, way harder -- to actually do what I was supposed to be doing while pedaling a lightish gear at about 100 RPM. I couldn't get out of the saddle; I was still spinning too fast a cadence during our first 'climb' -- in other words, I felt like the total n00b that I was.
So I cranked up the resistance. Bizarrely, at that point, things became easier.
In part, of course, that had something to do with the fact that I was by then officially well warmed-up ... but a lot of it had to do with getting the fit of my bike sorted.
Our instructor was profoundly helpful -- I was able to figure out what I was doing wrong when she gave us a 'cadence check' and told us what our cadence should be. Mine was initially way too high, so -- against every well-ingrained roadie instinct -- I geared up and cadenced down, and suddenly it was all good. I finally felt like I was participating. Suddenly I could stand for the standing climbs (as long as I rested my forearms on the bars, since my shoulder was mad at me by then), get out of the saddle for the 'jumps,' and generally 'do it rite.'
All told, spinning class was really essentially nothing at all like normal cycling -- totally different, even, then busting butt on the trainer. That said, I think it was a good experience, and I think it was good to work my bike muscles in a somewhat different way.
In addition to spin class, I rode from home to therapy to J&MC's house, then from their house to home.
So I think tomorrow is going to be a real, honest-to-goodness, don't-even-think-about-getting-on-the-bike rest day.
Next week I shall resume attendance at the Short Track Series.