I am not much of an athlete. I’ve thought long and hard about why this is, and I’ve narrowed it down to two factors. For one, I lack depth perception. And, for two, I’m a little bit lazy when it comes to physical activity.
As you know, it takes all types of people to make the world spin. There are people who can run around on a field, kick balls or throw passes, and then score goals. Then there are those who can cheer for these people from the safety of a warm bench on the sidelines, sipping hot apple cider under a plaid blanket and looking cute. There are those who can maneuver not only their bodies, but a lacrosse stick as well -- simultaneously! -- and those who can write about them for the local newspaper.
Some people get a healthy glow about them during exercise, while others turn an unnatural shade of purple.
Some can work on a dissertation for ten years, and others can ride a bike.
Guess which one is me.
The first (and only) time that my husband, Brett, took me bicycle riding was on Nantucket. I assured him that I sucked at riding, but he would not be swayed.
Our relationship was relatively new. Dear Brett still believed that anything with me was possible, if only he loved me enough.
“Brett, I suck at this.” I said for the umpteenth time, securing my helmet and walking the rental bike down a dirt path near our cottage.
“It just takes confidence, and practice. You’ll see how easy it is. Your only problem is that you’ve never biked with me before. I’ll be encouraging and supportive.”
“Can’t you be encouraging and supportive about my desire to read four books while sitting under an umbrella on Cisco? In return, I’ll be super encouraging and let you go on a solitary bike ride to Madaket if you want. Heck, go all the way to ‘Sconset! Just let me be.”
He shook his head no. “Three miles. Straight, flat road. From here to Bartlett Farm and back. Easy as pie.”
“Pie! Can we stop and eat pie at Bartlett Farm before heading back?”
“Whatever you want.”
I took a moment to deliberate. I was the verge of tasting those freshly picked purple berries as they oozed out from under a crumbly crust. I was also, possibly, on the verge of actually breaking a sweat.
This was a tough call. But there was to be pie. “Okay, I’m in.” I smiled.
We hit the road. This isn’t so bad after all, I thought, biking in front of Brett so that he could keep an eye on me. We had gone about a half a mile and I was starting to like it. A car passed by. Then another. Then several more.
“Stop!” Brett called. There was panic in his tone. “Julie! Stop right now!”
It took me a moment to remember how to brake. I stepped off the bike and turned around. “What happened?” I asked. “Are you okay?”
“Me!?” Brett guffawed. “Me!?”
“What? Me? I was just biking.”
“You swerve into traffic every time a car passes by! It’s like you’re drawn to the cars, by some sick magnetic pull.”
“Oh, yeah, that.” I shrugged. “It’s from my lack of depth perception. You see, I can’t really tell where the road is, where the car is, and where I am.” I used sophisticated hand gestures to illustrate my point.
“But, you’re going to get hit by a car!”
“No kidding! I told you I couldn’t ride a bike.” I put my hands on my hips, striking the classic “I-told-you-so” stance.
“I thought you meant that you couldn’t handle the riding part of riding a bike. Not the oncoming traffic part.”
“Nope. I can ride a bike perfectly well, if only I could do so in a bubble. Like on a bike that never moves.”
“A bike to nowhere.” Brett added.
“Exactly!” I agreed. “A bike to nowhere would be perfect for me.”
And that’s how I fell in love with spinning.
Spinning – riding a stationary bike to nowhere – is my sport. It requires hardly any hand-eye coordination, occurs in a climate-controlled environment, and is accompanied by loud pop music. Most importantly, there is very little chance of ever getting hit by a car while spinning. Need I say more?
My only problem is that I often walk away from a spin class feeling a little disappointed by some aspect of it. The music was annoying, or the teacher wasn’t that great, or the guy next to me smelled bad. Not long ago, I encountered a trifecta, with the convergence of 80’s heavy metal, an obnoxious teacher singing along to the heavy metal, and the slowest, sweatiest, smelliest person in the continental US just to my right. I endured it for 45 minutes, but I never went back.
Alternatively, sometimes spin class is just plain boring.
Enter Soul Cycle, the newly-opened spinning studio above the newish CVS, located at the corner of Popham and Depot roads. Soul Cycle has been popular in NYC for years now, which means that, as a complete suburbanite, I’m only learning about it now. The studio has been opened for about a month here and it already has devoted, obsessed followers. You know the type: people who sign up online for their favorite bike and/or instructor days in advance. Slightly intimidating, well-attired individuals clad head to toe in Lululemon spandex. People who are already really, really fit.
If there is one thing I will never be, it is obsessed with exercise. But I will say that I am really digging this workout. It’s crazy and intense and anything but boring. Plus, some of the instructors are a little bit insane. And I mean that in a totally good way! Great spin teachers need to be endorphin junkies in order to set the tone and pace for the rest of us. They need to dance around a bit, play interesting music, and show some personality. Soul cycle instructors inspire and motivate me, even as I sit on the bike and wonder if my legs will ever move as fast as theirs. (The answer to that is no.)
By the end of the 45 minutes, the room is so steamy, it appears to be raining inside. Indeed, some individuals are so sweaty, they look like they have been rained on. (Pretty image, isn’t it? The ambient candles around the room have kept the space looking and smelling relatively fresh, though.)
On my way out of the studio, I wipe some condensation from the fogged mirrors lining one wall and examine my appearance. My skin is bright purple, as expected, but I don’t care. I’m smiling, and exhausted.
After 39 years, I’ve found my so-called sport. It may not be social, like tennis. But it’s an exercise I love and it’s something I can honestly say I don’t suck at.
So, the next time you take your real bicycle out on the Bronx River Parkway, give a little wave in my direction. I’m up there, in the spin studio, happily pedaling as fast as I can to nowhere.