Friday, June 25

Are You Supposed to Cry in Cycling Class?

Once, about three years ago my sister talked me in to taking a cycling class at her gym. Twenty minutes in, sweat dripping off me, and gasping for air, I found myself performing the Lamaze breathing technique to calm myself. Without a thought to the impression I was giving my fellow cyclists, I got up and walked out. I couldn’t take it.

Now it’s my friend Suzanne that’s trying to coax me in to a class. “You’ll love it,” she insisted. “It’s a great workout and half of our neighbors are in there. It’s like happy hour.”

Still stinging from my initial experience, I evaded her overtures. “Um, yeah, I don’t know. I’ll think about it,” I hedged.

But she kept pushing and since I have trouble saying “no” to peer pressure, I caved.

Joining Suzanne in the back of the class, I asked the instructor for help in setting up my bike. Thankfully she was no “John the Jerk” and cheerfully welcomed me and showed me how to adjust the bike. (See John, that’s how it’s done. It’s called KINDNESS.)

Nervous and honestly, dreading the class, I saddled up and began to peddle. The instructor began shouting something about gears and RPM. I looked over at Suzanne and said, “What’s she talking about?”

Suzanne pointed out the numbers on my digital display. “Just watch the top number,” she said, “That’s your RPM.”

Shaking my head in the affirmative, I focused on the display.

“I want everyone at 80 RPM,” the instructor shouted. “Let’s go!”

The music began pulsating and I peddled ferociously.

“Add a gear!” the instructor screamed over the music. “And don’t let your RPM drop, kick it up to 98.”

As I struggled to peddle fast enough to get my RPM at 98, the instructor’s voice cut through the music once more. “Add a gear!” she shouted.

Are you kidding me? I thought. Another one? Already?

Adding gears on the bike increases the resistance, making it harder to peddle. In 1st gear the bike peddles spin freely, by the time you’re in 20th gear it feels like your cycling through wet sand.  Maintaining a constant speed in a higher gear is, um, how shall I put this delicately, HARD!

Although I loved the loud music, I quickly realized there was no way I could keep up with the instructor. She was already telling me I should be in 15th gear and I couldn’t do anything past 8. But the nice thing about cycling is, it doesn’t matter. You can do your own thing because no one can see your numbers.

This time, with my neighbors all in attendance, there was no way I was leaving. I peddled on, occasionally glancing back at Suzanne. Her head was down, she was sweating profusely, and I could hear her labored breathing. Thank God, I thought. It’s not just me. As the end of class approached, my legs were on fire, my heart was pounding, and sweat poured off me. I’m not going to make it, I thought.

“Shut your eyes and just feel the music,” the instructor called out. “Listen to this last song and just enjoy the ride.”

Right. Enjoy the ride. Is that possible when you’re trying not to vomit? But, since I’m a rule follower, I did what I was told. Shutting my eyes, I let myself fall into the music. Hunched forward over the handlebars, Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider blasting through the air, I was transported to the final leg of the Tour de France.

As I rounded the final bend I saw my family up ahead behind wooden barricades. There was Janelle, jumping up and down, her face beaming. Michael’s eyes were obscured by his Nikon D80 camera. He was busy capturing the moment on film. Amanda was giving me air high-fives and Grant was doing his Tiger Woods fist pump. “Go Mommy!” they all screamed as I zipped by.

I think I missed my calling as an actress because my eyes actually filled up with tears. I saw their faces so clearly, felt their energy and pride, heard their words of love and encouragement ringing in my ears.

“Okay, bring it down to your base gear. Great job today everyone. You worked really hard,” the instructor’s voice jolted me back to reality.

As I relaxed on the bike, peddling slowly, wiping my brow and dabbing my eyes, I decided this cycling thing isn’t so bad.

You know, aside from the pain and nausea.

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