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September 01, 2002


Along with the new workload of the fall semester, and after nearly a year of complete physical sloth (no real exercise), I've started taking spinning classes. They're brutal.

Spinning came along and became the big new exercise activity during the years I was leading bike trips for a living. (Its popularity seems to have dissipated into pilates and tae-bo and I don't know what else.) At first I scoffed. People would come on our trips and say, "I haven't biked much before, but I've been taking spinning classes so I should be fine." These were almost always urban women, often from New York. (A high percentage of our guests were from major U.S. cities, and New Yorkers seemed more eager than most to take our trips. Of course, the demographics varied by trip and by destination. For example, our Maine trips generally got more people from CA and the midwest, while our "western" trips (Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming) got more east-coasters. It makes sense. Still, it was rare to have a trip without at least a small New York contingent. But I digress....) The most memorable was a woman who was convinced by her husband to take one our highest-mileage tripsóBryce, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks. It's a nine-day trip, with one century (hundred-mile day), several other 80-90-mile days, and lots of big (by Backroads standards) climbs. As I was fitting her on her bike I asked her if she was ready to ride several hundred miles that week, and she gave me the extreme spinning response: "Actually, I've never ridden a bike that moved before, but I've taken a lot of spinning classes and my spinning instructor thought I'd do fine."

You've got to be kidding me! I thought. You've never ridden a real bike and you want to go out and ride 60 miles today!? Including a big (approx. 1000') climb to start, and then a 20 mile downhill on winding mountain roads? It sounded like a recipe for disaster to me. But as I'm fond of saying, I've been wrong before.

The woman seemed at first like she was going to be miserable. She could hardly stay on her bike and couldn't seem to figure out the gears (spinning bikes don't have gears or brakes, just tension knobs). But she gradually got the hang of it while circling the parking lot, and although she was nervous, she headed off to conquer the real road. Her first couple of days were a bit rough as she got used to things and got over the new fears that came with actually moving when she pedalled and seeing the pavement fly by beneath her. But by Day 3 she was kicking ass and having a great time. She was both fast and strong, so she could cruise on the flats and hammer on the hills. On the century she just wanted to keep going after she'd done her 110 miles. She still braked way too much on downhills, which always seemed like such a waste of good gravity to me, but I bet she figured she got a better workout if she didn't allow downhills to give her too much momentum for whatever came next. Whatever; she had a great time and had so much energy it was amazing.

Anyway, that extreme spinning Backroads guest made a spinning believer out of me, so when I decided I needed some sort of organized exercise to give me the discipline to get into shape again, spinning it was.So far I've been to two classes, and after about 25-30 minutes, I've been completely wiped out both times. We're talking zero energy, tank completely empty, having nothing left to give. And that's exactly what I was looking for so that's fine. What's weird is that I haven't really felt sore afterward. How can I work that hard and not be working any new muscles to the point of soreness? Am I doing something wrong?

Posted September 1, 2002 08:59 AM | life generally

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