I returned to the scene of the crime today. Spin class. Not just for girls. In fact, not for ‘girls’ at all. The pain of proper spinning is comparable to rowing. It’s one of the most challenging and effective types of exercise there is.
I remember my first ever spin class. It almost required the vomit bucket. I thought I was having a heart attack and a stroke at the same time. And I only tried for half the class. The rest I spent panting like an overheated dog on an August afternoon. I vowed never to go back. I stuck to my vow.
Until about a year ago. The real bike was gathering dust in the garage. We live in the hills, so it’s not only painful but frustrating and dangerous to take an actual bike onto an actual road. If a car doesn’t get you, a pothole will. And never mind that it’s usually raining. Or dark. Or too cold, or too hot. The excuses of the cyclist are many and imaginative. It is often too windy, or blowing from the wrong angle.
So I joined a gym. Remember this: gym memberships are for psychopaths, the rich and the lazy. The rich don’t mind signing up for a year for something they will use for five minutes. The lazy love the gym. They flash their membership card in the most unlikely situations: business meetings, bars, dinner parties. But they never show up.
The psychopaths are those who join the gym and, to get the value out of it, go at least once or twice a day. You’ll know someone like this. They look like Arnie when he was still juicing on steroids. Was that Arnie? Maybe it was Stallone.
And so, faced with an impossible situation, I returned to the dreaded spin room. Remembering my initial session far too clearly, I paced myself in. I set off slowly. The instructor shouted abuse from the front. I smiled. I ignored. I knew my limits. The session ended without an ambulance. I had found my rhythm.
Over the next months, over a year, I turned out once a week, gradually upgrading my kit to a proper cycling bottle and some too-tight lycra shorts. Nothing dayglo, just black. I broke out the shorts only when the outdoor temperature reached hot. And then, inevitably, I stopped.
But now I am back with a vengeance. Such is my relationship with exercise. Only when faced with a Mick Fleetwood blancmange situation in the mirror will I return to indoor exercise. And that moment has arrived, as we all know it will.
I’m just now popping out for some proper cycling shoes that clip onto the pedals. They simplify the exercise, make it more effective, I’m told. But lord help you if you mis-time a push. You’ll be over the handlebars with your ankles wrapped around your face in less than a second.
It’s not half as easy as it looks.