Photo by Jeannette Brodeur
Photo by Jeannette Brodeur

With the warm weather finally here, at least this week, everyone’s thoughts tend to turn to exercise. What’s your favorite form of exercise? Running, biking, walking, weight lifting, basketball, baseball? Spinning? Have you ever tried spinning? 

Several years ago, my much younger co-worker, Sam (Samantha) talked me into trying it. I rode my bike a lot as a kid and a teen and even a bit in college. I thought to myself, it’s a stationary bike, how hard could it be? If you haven’t tried it, it’s MUCH harder than even riding your brother’s 10-speed bike to Bradlees on a hot summer day. It’s more like cramming a Tour de France event into your lunch hour. 

That afternoon we tried spinning, Sam and I walked confidently into the almost empty class together. We picked a set of bikes a bit close to the instructor so we could watch the person show us what to do. That was a mistake. As it got closer to the start time, several thin, well-muscled ladies decked out in full spandex leggings, workout tops and custom spinning shoes came over and surrounded our bikes and told us these were THEIR bikes that they rode every week. Sam and I, both wearing floppy old sweatpants, baggy t-shirts, and regular well-worn sneakers, nodded and slinked off to the back of the room. I felt like I was in middle school gym class all over again. 

In five minutes, the spin class was completely packed and I was already feeling nervous and intimidated. We watched people begin carefully adjusting their bikes with the precision of NASA scientists. I learned later that your leg should be completely straight when you are sitting on the saddle and that when you clip your feet in, your leg should have just a slight bend. 

I only adjusted my bike once so I could sit on top of it and reach the pedals (or as I would later call them, “Instruments of Torture”). I still couldn’t even touch the floor when I sat on the bike. And then your feet are clipped in, giving you a feeling of complete helplessness. I was already starting to sweat and the class hadn’t even started. 

As I started to shift in my seat and try not to think I was going to tip over on the bike, our extremely perky instructor put on her headphone/microphone device, shut the door, turned off the main lights, and cranked up the music. 

For what felt like hours, but was only 45 minutes, our instructor took us on a ride over mountains, hills, and a few straight roads. It started slow but rose in intensity. I thought I was doing pretty well until the instructor announced that we had finished our warm-up and we were going “full throttle.”

Every time we came to a hill or a mountain, she had us “tap back.” Sam and I were hoping that had something to do with drinking beer, but it’s actually when your butt leaves the seat and you go up and down while still pedaling. 

After several intervals of this, my feet began to hurt so much that I felt like I was going to fall off the bike. And even though the bike seems pretty close to the floor when you look at it from the ground, it feels pretty far to fall off when you’re actually on the bike. I opted to stay seated for most of the class and watched everyone’s rear ends, except mine, go up and down like some sort of crazy synchronized dance for the last half hour. 

One of the last songs was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” but believe me, Steve Perry, I truly believed that I was going to pass out. Somehow I got through the last pounding beats and the teacher took us through a gentle cool down. My floppy sweats were wet with sweat, but my barely-panting classmates looked refreshed and were high-fiving each other. 

At the end of the class, Sam and I congratulated each other for surviving our first class. Our instructor even came over and said we did well. She must have known we were “newbies” by the look of terror on our faces. When I told her about my feet hurting, she suggested that I wear a thicker sneaker next time or get spinning shoes. Then she told us that next time we might want to try the beginners spin class instead. This was an intermediate class. I guess we hadn’t checked to see what level this class was, only that it fits into our work schedule. 

Just when I finally caught my breath again and a bit more of my dignity for surviving an intermediate class, we were surprised to see our then-82-year-old co-worker, Andy, head toward us in black bike pants and a matching top. He wasn’t even panting! Andy took this class every week. Maybe that’s why he looks so good for his age. We didn’t see him because he was in the front with the cool kids, aka experienced spinners. 

Lately, a lot of my high school friends are on Facebook talking about the new spinning bikes they’ve gotten during the pandemic and how they aced their online spin classes they take almost every day. Ugh. The memory of that one class still haunts me so I give them an enthusiastic thumbs up and stay in my exercise lane. A spin bike would be more like a very expensive clothes rack for me. 

My choice of exercise is walking. First of all, it doesn’t hurt. I walk at the lake with my son Aaron almost every day. We do the same route and put in about 5.2 miles each day. We go at a pretty swift pace most days, but we have no big goal in mind. We both have Fitbits and we check our steps and I feel good when my Fitbit vibrates and displays a rainbow when I hit 10,000 steps. Yes, I guess that’s my only fitness goal…reaching for the rainbow.

Jeannette Brodeur has been a journalist for more than 30 years and wrote a human interest column for the New Jersey Herald, the Naugatuck Daily News and the Citizen’s News for many years. She and her husband Todd have three adult children: Harley, Aaron and Jillian, as well as an aging rescue dog named Nelson and two rescue cats named Reeses (like the candy) and Clarence (like the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life”). They live on Highland Lake in Winchester/Winsted.