On Tuesday morning, the last day of June 2010, I met a new woman at the 5:45am cycling class: myself! A new woman with the stamina, perseverance, strength and power that I would not have otherwise believed existed in me were it not for the image in the mirror staring back at me.
This was my 5th indoor spinning (cycling) class in 2 weeks and the seemingly impossible task of surviving a 60-minute basic spinning class was now softened by ounces of progress and heaps of determination. The impossible had withdrawn again, making room for new discoveries.
Yes, I used to consider myself in decent shape, what with all my power yoga and all the stairs in my house and well, you burn calories when you tango and go for a walk, you know!
Ha!!! Wishful thinking! It takes only a return to one spinning (cycling) class for a rude awakening of your senses on top of that sweet adrenalin rush!
It had been more than 8 years since my last spinning class. I was not exclusive with just spinning back then; I used to love many types of intense workouts. Kickboxing. Step aerobics. Running. Oh and I did absolutely no yoga and hardly any stretching! It is no wonder then that my knee started to give out (it is however a wonder how the rest of my body held herself together with lack of stretches!). I took the brilliant youth approach of treating an injury: Complete denial and ignorance. My knee in return, stubborn as the rest of me, went on strike and one day completely gave out.
I could not get on the bike. I could not kick box. I could not run.
It was time to take a break. That break brought me to yoga which led me on a fabulous journey of falling in love with my body in an endless path to self-discovery. Yoga healed my knees (among many other parts of me on the brink of breakdown) but I never returned to cycling. I admit that my passion for power yoga is unquenchable and unmatched but the return to the bike is another story altogether.
Absolutely nothing can fully substitute the benefits of a cardiovascular workout that brings the heart rate up to a fat-burning zone and keeps it there for 45 minutes to an hour. The proven scientific benefits are compelling but a paradigm shift in thinking brought me back to the bike.
After moving away from the YMCA world, I returned to the generic gym environment a few times, resenting it more upon each return and each time, abandoning it with a vow never to show up again. But what is a girl to do to get her serious cardio workout on a rainy day or in the heat and humidity of mid-summer or worst of all, during the frigid days of winter?
On top of that, I am not even crazy about running or walking or doing much outside. I explore on foot to the end of the world when I am traveling but no such compelling reason to leave the home’s sanctuary for the local park.
Therefore, in my mind, I associated cardiovascular exercise with undesirable machinery, blaring television news (gasp!) and large bodies hanging around the weight machines as my scenic backdrop. I also associated my knee pain with spinning class, unfounded as that may have been. I concluded therefore that I dislike cardio as a rule and what’s more, I dislike walking unless it is in the streets of Tokyo, Rome, London or Paris. With this gloomy outlook on the cardio plain of options, I felt torn between lousy and lousier options.
Then came my simple and sweet revelation. It was the moment I finally decided that enough is enough. No more walks or runs. No more gym visits ever. If I am not madly in love with my cardiovascular workout, I am not doing it and since an obsession with top-notch health and well-being is nonnegotiable in my life, I must find something I can fall in love with. Period.
And this, my dear friends, is what I call a paradigm shift. I needed to look at cardiovascular exercise differently. I needed to see it from a new perspective. I needed a new goal.
~ Old goal: Must get my cardio workout at any cost (boredom is irrelevant!)
~ New goal: Must LOVE my cardio workout (so the doing follows without hesitation!)
What followed was sheer luck in good timing. Things have a way of coming into your life when you are ready for them! My good friend suggested I go back to cycling at this new gorgeous studio in town, The Sync Studio, a place which has brilliantly combined one of my old addictions, cycling/spinning, with one of my deep passions, yoga. It is a studio, not a gym. It is affordable and full of generous amenities (towels, snacks, water bottles, mats, bikes!). It has a packed schedule, offering super early morning sessions (best excuse for rising at 4:30am for 5:45am class) everyday. It has welcoming staff, kind teachers, amazing instructors, best playlists on the planet for cycling, and a vibe on which I am already hopelessly hooked. It is a dream come true, this discovery of Sync Studio.
First step is always the hardest, they say. Even before I stepped back on the bike for the first time, I could feel both the fear and anxiety combined with the pinch of excitement and joy at the pit of my belly.
First the Excitement and the Joy:
In 5 classes alone, the bike has awakened new energy meridians from a sweet slumber and thrown my body into a state of complete euphoria.
The bike fills me with supreme self-confidence.
The bike strengthens my legs with power and determination.
The bike cleanses my skin through profuse perspiration.
The bike charges me with an abundance of zest and energy for life.
The bike convinces me of the unmistakable progress in the human body.
The bike excites and thrills me about life for reasons still incomprehensible to me.
Next the Fear and Anxiety:
Excitement aside, relationships require much work after the falling in love stage and my relationship with the bike is no different. The fear of failure and not keeping up persist but I am fighting through it. I refuse to let the bike beat me.
I am wiped out completely and sometimes can hardly keep up but I keep going back.
I can still feel the weight of the anxiety pulling me down when the class would go into sprints but I do a few more seconds each time.
I can see my body struggling, shaking, and begging for a break, and after a short recovery, I press on and on and on.
I can sometimes hear a disturbing inner voice telling me that I may not be as young and fit as I used to be. I refuse to listen and zone into the music.
Message from the Bike
New discoveries are all excitement and delight in early stages, no doubt, but I think we know how to tell the difference between a whim or fancy and a real new beginning. Cycling for me is undoubtedly the latter. For you, it may be running, swimming, snow skiing or ice skating. It may even be an undiscovered venture on your path, waiting to happen to you! Whatever your place and passion in life, find excitement and anticipation, delight and addiction in your cardio path! Our bodies are meant to experience that zone of euphoria, often if not daily! Decide how you reach that state of euphoria! Be selective and choose the cardio path which is right for you. Passion ought not to be compromised.
And whatever you do, guard your health as your most treasured possession. Always.
“What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.”
~ Emil Brunner
UPDATE from August 12th: Just a note to say that 25 amazing, challenging, killer cycling classes later, this is not a fad or a phase. I have stayed committed (rather, grown addicted!) to the bike and I know you can stays committed to whatever you find for your intense cardio program!
UPDATE from October 26th: Just another note to show that the passion is still going strong after 55 amazing cycling classes (in total). I managed to pull myself back into it even after a month of absence for traveling. Do not let the passion fade on your drive to health!