Spinning: why pedal furiously on a bike that’s going nowhere?

“Take it up to 100 rpm, flat road.” I’m pedaling like crazy, grateful my feet are clipped into the pedals and can’t fly off. Knowing the next command from our spinning instructor is going to be “add a touch” [of resistance, that is], while simultaneously taking the “cadence” up to 110 revolutions per minute.

I, too, used to believe everything non-spinners said about spinning: it’s too hard, it’s ridiculous even in concept – why don’t you just go for a bike ride outdoors? Not to mention: it’s boring, there’s nothing but you and the bike (which, in case you forgot, isn’t going anywhere). Oh, and did I mention, it’s really hard?

 tri-ing to be athletic_spinning

Spinning out of my mind

I had even tried spinning once or twice, thought it was terrible. Did not relate to the super-young, overly enthusiastic instructor. Plus I couldn’t imagine myself joining a class of people who were either grubby t-shirt + multiple sweat towel types, or else petite women wearing only teeny spandex and sports bras.

But since I couldn’t play tennis this fall, and I was desperate to find a way to improve my cardiovascular condition — having found that even vigorous walking wasn’t going to achieve it, I thought I’d try spinning again. After all, I’d been told that biking would strengthen my quads and reduce the knee pain that bugs me when I run too much on the tennis court.

So I checked out a few classes. I wound up at Uforia, the same place where I had done the Jane Fonda-style aerobics class. The first few classes were hard, really hard. Just as I was getting used to the regular instructor, he went on vacation and got a sub. She seemed crazy. Kept on telling us to increase the resistance, climb the hill. There was no recovery time at all — I couldn’t even get a sip of water from my bottle clipped to the handlebar.

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Why’s exercise walking so tough?

I love to walk. It’s a chance to get outdoors, breathe fresh air, clear my mind. Exercise walking takes no special equipment, just some decent shoes and for those of us who are fair-skinned, sunscreen. I can walk my dog, walk with a friend, or my personal favorite, walk by myself. I can catch up on podcasts, an audiobook, music or just think my own thoughts in silence.

So what’s the problem?

In a word, self-judgment.

 

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I can’t walk just for the pleasure of it. I worry about whether I’m walking briskly, burning enough calories, keeping my heart rate up. Add to that the mental distractions. If I walk in our neighborhood, I brood over how many people are remodeling their homes. I start to worry when, if ever, my husband and I will replace our fifty-year-old shower, drafty windows, etc. At the same time, I hesitate to drive to a woodsy trail twenty minutes away — that lengthens my workout, plus it’s steep, and it’s dusty. After all, I just got my car washed.

Exercise Walking at The Dish

There’s a terrific walking trail near my home on Stanford land that locals refer to as “The Dish,” because it houses a large radiotelescope belonging to the University. It’s a looping, up-and-down pedestrian trail about 3.5 miles long. The Dish trail doesn’t allow dogs or bikes, and it’s entirely paved. Like lots of others, I enjoy walking in the Stanford hills, away from traffic. The views are spectacular, affording vistas over Silcon Valley’s foothills, Stanford and the San Francisco Bay.

 

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Correction: please notice the views, they’re spectacular. I myself have trouble enjoying them while trying to keep my heart rate up. I pay attention to the ground ahead of me. While I walk the Dish, I’m usually bothered by an internal conversation that goes something like this:

What? Who are those women who just went around me, and on an uphill part, too? Oh no, I know that one — I played her in a USTA match. Well, no wonder she’s a 3.5 now and I’m not. Is she seriously MY AGE? I can’t believe that. What’s wrong with me? I have to walk faster, this is ridiculous.

Exercise Walking and the Dreaded VoJ

It’s that Voice of Judgment again. Only this time it nails me on a walking path where I’m supposed to be communing with nature, clearing my mind. Seems that I can’t stop competing, can’t stop evaluating my own performance and finding it deficient.

I don’t think I can silence my VoJ, at least not anytime soon. Maybe I can get it to quiet down a bit, though. If I temper my concerns about walking fast and burning calories with appreciation and gratitude for being able to enjoy a nice day, maybe that’s the best I can hope for right now.

See you later. I think I’ll take a walk.

 

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