By Christopher Cudworth
The idea to start the year in a Spin Class at a local health club was not my own. My gal friend dreamed that into being. She got me into a pool two weeks ago and I’ve already purchased new swim goggles, so she knew I’d be game on. So we grabbed our cycling stuff and drove through the gathering snow to join a spin class in the dark, with the fans on, and a fit little Spin Princess to guide us through the pain.
Certainly all of you who are regulars in spin classes will think nothing novel of getting to the club for a one-hour spin. But it was new territory to me. And it hurt. In that spinnie sort of way.
It hurt because we cyclists are prone to fall into riding habits that do not necessarily test our bodies or our souls. We ride in our comfort zones.
All last summer I climbed hills with less than a fervor. My quads felt weak, and they were. For a variety of reasons I never went to the hills and actually worked at it to build my climbing ability. But you know, even a session a week makes a huge difference in your hill-riding capabilities.
So the moment the Spin Princess called into her microphone over loud tunes that we were about to start climbing hills, a little alarm bell went off in my head that said, “This is not going to be easy.”
Then we stood up on the pedals, and we stood up some more, and some more. For 10 minutes or so this went on while the spin princess in her short little shorts and legs shaped like muscular pistons kept pumping along and the last thing I could do was to keep looking at her because my own thighs were dissolving into something of a consistency between oatmeal and soggy raisin brand. In fact I couldn’t actually keep raisin my body. So I quit. Sat down. Went into high cadence and spun through some thoughts about the year ahead.
(Hint: when you stand up on the pedals, you need to gear up enough resistance so that you can use your body weight to pedal. Doh!)
Rationalization and Salvation
It’s okay, I told myself. First time here. Learning how to use the spin cycle. Ha ha. A dryer joke. Didn’t even intend to think that one up. That’s how the brain works when it is fighting fatigue.
It was also a Come To Jesus moment. A confession of sin in that athletic sort of sense that we all engage in when trying to plot our futures through oxygen debt and pain. Ultimately, fitness is our salvation. But it hurts to get there.
Aerobics and anaerobics
But that’s been the story for too many summers. My cycling has not improved in one key category, and that’s climbing. Hills. Inclines. Steep grades. False flats.
So it’s time to be a standup guy (as you’ve noticed from the casual humor in this blog, standup is not my Day Job) and work the thighs until they are productively strong.
I’ve been there. A few years back, grant you. That spring I hit the hills early and often, and discovered a secret about my climbing ability that needs to be accentuated. I have a weird tendency when I’m fit to actually climb better as I go along. The first few hills may be tough, but the synapses get awakened and I find myself out-climbing the riders I’m with the rest of the ride.
But you have to do some work to bring out that type of ability. The strength has to be there.
So, humbling as it was, Spin Class taught me something in the New Year already, that’s it’s worth working hard and working early in the season if you want to climb better later on.
What spin class did inspire was additional time on the mountain bike this winter. It needs a tuneup, but in past years I have ridden the mountain bike during the winter months. I read recently that mountain biking is excellent prep for road riding because you tend to use the entire spin of the pedals to move yourself along.
So there’s that.
The entire experience delivered a life lesson in there somewhere. But I can’t tell it to you right now because my thighs aren’t talking to me. But they’ll come around. It’s what they do.