It's 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I find myself fighting the wind and the cold rain as I work my way up Magnolia Boulevard toward in the NoHo Arts District.
I've never taken a spin class before, so I don't really know what to expect and I'm not exactly excited about it, either. I've never been much for organized workout classes and prefer working out alone by going on long hikes, jogs or bike rides and spending the time in deep concentration. But how I prefer to do things has led me to pack on 20 extra pounds, so perhaps I need to stop listening to myself and start listening to others who clearly know more than I do.
My first step was to go and at for some guidance, which has so far led to great results. With eating habits in line, it's time to get the workout routine in order, too.
I don't need to pay because my first class is free, but I've been told in a confirmation email to check in at the front desk. The confirmation email also told me they offer free parking in the Spumante lot, which is where I have parked.
I'm asked for my shoe size. I wasn't quite prepared for this, but I'm given a pair of size 12s and told that Sandra, my instructor, will show me how to strap into my bike.
I change my shoes and sit alone on the bench, feeling a little like the new kid at school while others in the class talk and chat and warm up. There are about 15 of us there, I'm one of about five men, and all of us are different shapes and sizes. Sandra finally comes over, having just entered. It's been pouring rain all morning, the worst in months, and her drive from Baldwin Hills has been hectic.
Sandra shows me how to clip my shoes into the pedals and asks me if I have ever been to a spin class before.
"Once or twice," I lie, "but not in a long time."
I don't know why I said that. I said the same thing in the 5th grade when I went skiing for the first time, and the same thing the first time I was skateboarding or golfing. I always want to let the talented, physically skilled person know, "I could do this as well you, I've just chosen not to. I do other things. Cooler things."
The peer pressure begins almost immediately. After I've been clipped into my bike pedals, Sandra informs me that most of the class will be spent up off the seat, with my "bootie" in the air. She shows me the proper technique for this, and informs me that my natural inclination is going to be to straighten my back upright or to sit back on the seat.
"But it's an ego blow," she tells me. "For me, it's always a huge ego blow when I sit back down."
It's then that I realize why I am here. It's the same reason I like going to Envy to being guided by Terri. I'm here for Sandra, and to get an injection of her coaching. I love the way she puts it and it makes me smirk uncomfortably. Instead of the typical, "But you can do it, keep pushing yourself!" generic instructor gibberish, she's aiming me back into myself. "You can choose not to do as I say, it's totally up to you, but what it does to your soul is on your shoulders," seems to be the subliminal message.
I had been worried before the class if my legs could take the 1-hour abuse of a spin class, but two minutes in I realize my legs are going to be fine because it's my arms that are screaming at me. Because I'm holding myself up off the bike, all the weight goes to my arms and the challenge is not to resist sitting back down, but to resist leaning forward and resting my elbows on the handlebars.
About five years ago, in a similarly-motivated mood to seek outside help, I went to an organized workout class at my gym. I don't remember what it was called, but it was a lot of sprinting, pushups, medicine balls, etc. I stumbled out about halfway through, abandoning my partner without an explanation, and threw up in the bathroom. So all I want is to get through this spin class without... an ego blow.
I cheat my way through the class a little by not tightening the tension on the pedals as much as Sandra instructs us to. This is simply to assure that I will make it through the class. I think I can handle the ache in my arms for the hour, but if my legs start to go as well, I'm screwed. If sitting back down on the seat for a few seconds is an ego blow, getting off the bike must be ego death. If I puke on the floor in front of everyone, what kind of eternal ego damnation is that?
Strong, loud, thumping nightclub dance music pumps through the air, moving with strobe lights as we pedal to Lady Gaga and Jay-Z. The music is so loud that I have some trouble hearing everything Sandra is saying and wish her mic was a little higher. After all, she is the reason I am here. The heat in the room is slowly turned up, and the Sweat Shoppe starts to deliver the promise of its name. It's website says it offers: Just indoor cycling....or what we to call Sweat Cycles®. And we have one goal: to make you sweat!
Sandra frequently loses herself in the music, closing her eyes and moving her head in long pumps to the beat. It's hypnotic to watch, and during the class I welcome any mental distraction from the ache in my arms, if even for a few seconds.
She tells us near the end of the class that she weighed 200 lbs. back when she started spinning 10 years ago. Today her legs look like they could kick a hole through my stomach. They certainly keep my ego intact and motivated, so I will be back for more.