Out of That Saddle

    ‘Uuuppp, and hovvverrr.’
    Okay, here we go.  The idea for this blog landed on me last nite. I’ve been a writer since the 3rd grade. I’ve been riding a bike since the 5th. I’ve been Spinning since April. And I feel as passionate about it as I do writing–so why not combine the two? Almost every spin class I take is jam-packed. So maybe there’s audience interested in reading a blog devoted to spinning. 
24Hour Fitness is where I spin. It’s the working class gym.
It’s nice living in San Diego. There’s a 24Hour Fitness in every city in this county. So if you’re a Spinning devotee, or Yoga fanatic or whatever–you’ve got a huge list of classes to choose from. All you’ve gotta do is: drive yourself there on time. The classes do fill. And they reserve up to half the spots for individuals willing to plunk down a dollar to save a seat. So if you want to get a pass without paying, you need to be there an hour before the class starts.
The 24Hour website has a group class search page where you plug-in your zip code and the site displays the the group workout classes scheduled that day.
     So, this morning, when I finally rolled of bed at 8:15–I logged onto the website and found a class at the Hillcrest location scheduled for 10 am. Using the calculation outlined above, I knew I needed to be there close to 9 am to get a spot. And 10 am was the last scheduled time for class anywhere in the county. So I didn’t want to be late. 
    Now, a little bit on my Spinning obsession. I’ll hit 50 years old this summer. I’ve ridden bicycles on and off my entire life, starting with early morning mile-ers to my elementary school when I was 12 years old. That was a Husky Cheeta-Slick for which my mom saved green stamps for a year. In college, I rode a Nishiki Custom Sport 27-speed. I went thru 2 frames on this bike: the 1st one got irrepairably bent when I hit a car parked in the bike lane (riding w/my head down, natch). The second one lasted me through Community College and State University, too. I loved that bike. And I still mentally kick myself for just giving it away to Goodwill in the middle of my doomed marriage. I rode that bike in the 1983 Tecate-Ensenada Friendship ride. I trained for half a year, rode with 3 junior-college buddies who all beat my time, but I still proudly crossed the finish line at 4.5 hours after 72.9 grueling miles. Sometimes, in spin class, with my head heavy and my legs heavier, I imagine being back on that pocked and broken Mexican road, the little kids and some adults, too, lining the road and offering their outstretched hands or a cup of water. It always gets me thru.
    I now own a Centurion Le Mans road bike of roughly the same vintage as my old, lamented Nikishi. It’s got a Chromoly frame, a nice custom crank and some other features my Nishiki never had. I tried to sell it on Craigslist a few years back, but I’m glad nobody swallowed the bait. Seems I’m always trying to get rid of things I should keep. I also own a Diamondback Wildwood. This is a hybrid, comfort bike. It’s pretty good quality, though it doesn’t get respect from bike snobs. I bought it in 2002, and the original Michelin tires show no sign of needing replacment. The rubber accordian-style boots on the fork shocks are cracked and falling apart, but that’s minor. So, I still like to bike out in the open air. But when I joined 24Hour, I did so with this tiny germ of an idea in the back of my mind: I was going to start Spinning.
The “membership counselor” who walked me thru the cavernous halls of the Balboa Ave location showed me the class in session when I mentioned my interest. Peering inside the open door, the booming bass line thumping and sweaty, firm bodies churning up and down on the pedals–it was a bit overwhelming. It looked like a nightclub, or a disco from my high school days.  So it took me awhile to screw up the nerve to take a class.
   “Are you here for cycle?”
   That question finally got me started spinning. It was 7:30 am on a Sunday morning at the Grossmont location. I was there to work out on the elipticals, burn my pre-ordained 300 calories and go home. But, the very cute, very young and very fit blonde desk clerk thought that I was there (on time) to get my pass an hour before the class started. On impulse, I told her yes, I did want a pass. It was late summer. I had taken three months to lose 15 pounds. My head was light and stuffed up with a summer cold or possibly the flu. Still, I went and did a half hour on the eliptical machine. All the while thinking to myself that I was going to show those indoor cyclists what a lifelong road warrior could do.
     I went in and got a bike. People who are fanatically devoted to Spinning (like myself, now) get to class early, pick out their machine and roll it over to a favorite spot. The best idea is to park it and mark it with a towel, water bottle, or what have you. My first position ever in a spin class was middle row, just right of center. I kept that position week after week. Then one Sunday, I moved up to the front row, still just right of center.
    Nowadays, I always spin in the front row, near the center, sometimes right, sometimes left, but always close to it. The front row offers me the best view of my cycling form in the ceiling-to-floor mirrors which face us. I want to make sure my knees are straight ahead, not wobbling. And it’s a little vanity as well. I want to see myself unobstructed. It’s also a pride thing: nobody who can’t follow the drills belongs in the front row. Most Spinning devotees know this unspoken rule. At 8:25, the class instructor strode in, dressed in full bike spandex gear. Her name was Barbara, and she proceded to kick my butt! All my false dreams of bicycle superiority littered the gym floor by the halfway mark. I kept looking up at the clock, wondering why the hands seemed frozen. But I walked out ready to come back. And I did. And I gradually increased my endurance and my ability to keep up.
Now, I troll through the classes, looking for the most challenging instructors: the ones who make me feel inadequate and offer me the challenge, “how much do you have left?”
    That’s what I want this blog to be about: the incredible ecstacy of self-challenge and the sights, sounds and personalities which surround me in the arena. I plan to rate individual instructors on this blog. I’m envisioning a butt-kick rating scale. If an instructor can’t motivate me, and kick my butt in the process, I feel no compulsion to return to their class. That’s enough for now. I did go to spin class at Hillcrest this morning. I plan to go to Imperial Marketplace tomorrow for Jeff B. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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