ColumnSpinning brings out a side of me I didn’t know was there.
Last week, I sent this text: “Class started 4 mins late—294. UGH. #FlyWorld problems.” It would take a fellow spinner to have any idea what the hell I was talking about, specifically another person who has joined the cult of spinning known as Flywheel. And I mean ‘cult’ in the best possible way.
The international spinning chain launched in Chicago about two years ago, and since then, I have become a woman obsessed. The second my shoe clips into the pedal, the non-competitive, non-athlete that I usually am disappears and a crazed, competitive maniac takes her place.
Flywheel works like any other spinning class—except for this little thing called the torq board—a giant screen that shows your progress to the whole room (if you opt in). As the spinning class progresses, you build a score based on speed and resistance, leaving you with a total power number at the end. For me, scoring 300 is always the goal (though not often the reality), hence the text.
To understand how out of character this particular spinning addiction is for me, let’s revisit my previous athletic accomplishments.
Running: I hate, loathe and despise running. Highlights of my not-running career include: walking the required mile during the Presidential Fitness Test in 8th grade as a very nice gym teacher wasted her breath yelling, “Libby, pick up the pace!”
The next year, I walked up to the high jump bar during track and field in gym class (but still cleared it and then was asked by a misguided gym teacher if I’d ever consider joining the track team). My last year of high school I wore bright green Doc Marten boots to gym class while explaining that they were European gym shoes. When told to run laps for mouthing off, I said, “These shoes aren’t appropriate for running.” I then sauntered to my dean’s office after being booted from class.
Yoga: Yoga was the first fitness-y thing I did outside of a gym requirement. I have been practicing for years, and I love it. When I step on the mat, I am in my own world. If I happen to see the person next to me executing a lovely pose that my hamstrings simply won’t allow, I am impressed, but not jealous. I don’t push beyond my limits and try to compete. Rather, I’m thankful for all that my body can do. Seriously.
As I got older, I decided that I probably had to incorporate cardio and other healthy habits into my life if I wanted to stay alive and stuff. Last year, lured by the idea of a free workout that required little advance planning, I even revisited the idea of running and completed a 5K. I was suckered in because it was the Elvis 5K and I love Elvis. Also, people wore capes and wigs, which I’m super into. At the end, I Googled: “5K in 38 minutes. Is that good?”
It’s not good, and I didn’t care—I was just glad to have finished. I don’t feel the same way about spinning.
I love the competitive edge added by Flywheel. Seeing my score on the board as class progresses makes me work harder. When I see that I’m a mere three points behind the woman ahead of me, I haul extra ass. The board is split into men and women, so I am directly competing against women, something else that doesn’t sit well with me in any other setting.
I’m in a Lean In group. I’m on the planning committee for Rock Health’s women’s leadership retreat. I constantly seek out ways to support my fellow ladies. Unless we’re spinning. On a spin bike, I imagine having those tricked-out Grease cars that shoot daggers at my fellow riders; I envision creating oil slicks of sweat; I wonder if it’s possible to knock out the competition with my stinky self.
Off the bike, I am a firm believer in unwinding, daytime naps and doing what you can. But spinning, and Flywheel specifically, has allowed me to tap into my unexpected desire to compete—to my desire to be amazing, and, as the company’s tagline says, never coast. I’m a sucker for a good tagline.
It’s a reality that, as women, we’re competing all of the time, whether it’s against ourselves or others. The ability to tune out the world for 45-60 minutes at a time and just think, “Go. Move. Drink water. You won’t die on this bike. Beat the girl on bike #23,” is a gift. Because even when I think I might die on that bike, or on the days when I know that #23 will kick my ass on the torq board, I still compete. Unlike the days when I wouldn’t even attempt to do well in a 5K, I still want to win.
Spinning has made me realize that I am stronger than I think I am; that I can push myself harder than I knew. I take that knowledge with me into the world.
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Image: Flywheel Sports