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The Spinning Experience: Back Pedaling Takes Practice


Judi Christy, the director of marketing and communication at the Akron Area YMCA, shares about her Spinning experience. 

True confession: I am not in perfect shape. Sure, I exercise and take the stairs instead of the elevator. I own 11 pairs of yoga pants, six pairs of running shoes and some random sports bras. I have a kitchen cupboard crammed with water bottles, several stretch bands, a dumbbell or two and, if look in the back of the closet, a deflated Pilate’s ball.

I’ve tried Zumba and step aerobics, toning and Tabata. They were terrific for the time I was obsessed with them – a period that, depending on my mood or what was streaming on Netflix, could be between five minutes or five years.

But, today is different.

I am 100% in love with Spinning. Well, at least I am surprisingly infatuated with Spinning considering my first encounter with a bike that didn’t travel does not bring back pleasant memories. In fact, it was traumatizing.

When I still lived at home, my father purchased a rusted, brown garage-sale exercise bike. He hauled it to the corner of our damp, dank basement and told my mother and I to use it. We didn’t. It was ugly. The pedals wobbled and the duct-taped seat made us seek medical attention. I did not attempt another ride until I was married with two grown children.

But, after getting my job at the Y, I thought I had better attempt to be physically-fit, or at least give the impression that I did more with my life than “doing” marketing and drinking coffee. So, I stumbled upon an Expresso bike in one of our wellness centers. I could break a slight sweat while also experiencing the thrill of fighting aliens and pedaling through the countryside, headphones in and listening to a library audiobook or Green Day’s American Idiot.

I almost felt like a kid again, riding through the neighborhood on my baby blue Huffy. I was having fun, despite the fact that my butt still hurt. But, no pain, no gain, right? So, I bought a cushioned bike seat, some padded riding shorts and of course, another pair of yoga pants.

I was hooked and decided to sign up for an actual Spin class.

Navigating the terrain with others who had varied experience and stamina was, at first, a bit daunting. I needed to find my own stride and my own breath, keeping my eyes on the instructor and not on the people who were apparently training for the Tour de France. I had no such aspirations. I just wanted to keep breathing without my legs detaching.

What was the teacher thinking? Stand up and still Spin? Sure, this position was a bit easier on the backside, but goodness, my shins were not made to climb hills with increased resistance. I tended, in these early days, to sort of slide in the saddle and choose a bike at the back of the room, where hopefully no one would notice that I did not turn my tension a full rotation. I faked it. Until I didn’t.

Who was I cheating? You know the answer, and so did I.

Eventually, I quit watching the clock and the sweat dripping off my face. It was time to get serious and enjoy the moment, the people in the class and the instructor. My first go around was with a group of people who I really enjoyed. We were able to actually talk between songs, discussing health, our children, places to eat and once in a while, in very poor judgement, politics.

This instructor started with a “Question of the Day,” an icebreaker, such as: 

  • What is your all-time favorite movie?
  • If you could only smell one thing the rest of your life, what smell would you choose?

Consequently, our conversation was lively and class was enjoyable. I usually ended up clapping as the class ended before hugging the instructor and saying thank you.

My second Spinning instructor was actually my daughter. She, having been by my side for the first instructor, adopted some of the same tactics – the pop music, lively banter, question of the day and the reluctant acceptance of the after-class hug. She moved on after two years.

But then I met Richelle. Unlike my previous two Spin leaders, Richelle was not warm and fuzzy.  She is cool with a feisty edge.

Her class starts at dawn and is jam-packed. If you are one minute late, she will not only use your name and ask you where in the heck you’ve been, but also caution you “next time, you won’t have a bike.”

And she’s right. Richelle leads a 45-minute interactive performance of standing climbs, jumps, push-ups and sprints – all the while adjusting the tension and speed directions she announces. Once in a while, she adds in weights. You have to keep up and surprisingly, I do.

At 61, I am probably the oldest peddler in the group. For that reason, I like to shuffle to the back row, preferably in the corner where no one, especially Richelle, can tell if I truly turn my tension wheel a full revolution around the sun. But, I try doggone it.

I stand, climb, sprint, hydrate and I sweat. By the end of the class my hair is wet and curled, and my t-shirt smudged from the times I have hiked it up from my waist to blot the moisture from my face and into my eyes. I’m out of breath by the moment we are out of time. Then there’s a cool down and stretch to something catchy by Queen, White Snake or her favorite Weezer remake.

I hop off the bike with much relief and honestly, much joy. I did it. Richelle did it. Her spunk, sass and take-no-prisoners attitude is truly freeing and created a great spinning experience. I clean off my bike, pose for her mandatory class selfie, say goodbye to the other cyclers and speed home to shower, dress and go to work. I feel proud. I kept up. And I will keep at it, at least for now.

Judi Christy

Judi Christy is the director of marketing and communication at the Akron Area YMCA.

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