Spinning class

December 26, 2011

Jeff arrived at 8:59 for a 9 AM spinning class, his first ever. The instructor, a slender woman in her 30s, helped him raise his seat and handlebars. Soon he and the others were into an easy 5-minute warmup accompanied by the Eagles’ “Take It Easy.” Then they shifted abruptly into a simulated hill climb, increasing the resistance of the flywheel and standing up on the pedals. “And it burns, burns, burns,” sang Johnny Cash. The hill continued, but participants were told to “get back in the saddle.” Thank goodness, thought Jeff. He never stood up when riding a real bike; even 2 minutes of that was awkward and exhausting.

The music carried them onward. “Who is this by?” asked the woman to Jeff’s left as “Self Esteem” (The Offspring) transitioned into “Hurts So Good.” “John Mellencamp . . . back when he was known as John Cougar,” Jeff said. “I think Cougar might be his middle name.” “It’s a record company name,” said an older man in a gentle Southern twang.

Jeff was dripping onto the floor like light rain on a sidewalk, and the pool of sweat below him started to invade the adjacent stations. “Would it be OK to take my shirt off?” he asked the instructor. She gave a half-smile and shrugged noncommittally. He kept his shirt on.

Another hill climb coincided with a country/folk song about Indiana, “where the tall corn grows.” “I’ll be impressed if you all know this one,” said the instructor. Jeff thought (correctly) that it was Lyle Lovett but was beaten to the answer by the Mellencamp expert.

The instructor diverged further from her protocol to note, “I’m from the small Indiana town where Lyle Lovett married Julia Roberts. But I was in Italy at the time, so I missed it.”

“And by the time you got back, the marriage was over,” cracked the Mellenfan.

In an era when it’s customary to monitor pace, heart rate, elevation change, calories burned, etc., Jeff found his exercise bike oddly primitive. There was no indication of power output; the only variables being reported were the duration of the session and the cadence in revolutions per minute. Apparently spinning was basically noncompetitive and nonquantitative in spirit — more like yoga than weight training. About the only thing the spinners could compare amongst themselves was perspiration production — a contest that Jeff was clearly winning, much to his chagrin.

After some light post-ride stretching during which Jeff mistook “All Summer Long” (Kid Rock) for “Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd), he approached the barely-moist instructor.

“Sorry for sweating all over your floor,” he said.

“No worries,” she said in her accentless, not-necessarily-from-Indiana voice. “Besides, the alternative is even more problematic.”

“What’s the alternative?”


“Right,” he said, unsure of both the word itself and whether he was being teased. “Anyway, thanks for a great class.”


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