I completed my first "spinning" class this morning. Yes, "spinning" sounds like a class that teaches you how to spin around in circles until you puke. In reality, it's a cycling class where you mount a bike like the one in the picture here and follow the leader of the class as they put you through an intense, varied workout. It was a mere 45 minutes, accompanied by the DJ/instructor who spoke to us from her mic and played a variety of songs meant to inspire us. "Sheesh how hard can this be?" I thought. I used to ride almost every day and I even did a few triathlons many years ago . . . before my 19 yr old daughter was born. "I'm in good shape, there's nothing to fear." I thought.
I was wrong.
Things started off well, with the gentle instructor telling us to keep the resistance on the bike low and simply spin.
"I can do this" I thought.
Soon we entered Stage One - our first "hill" as we turned the resistance dial up a few notches and then rose off our seats as though peddling up an ever steeper hill.
"I might be able to do this" I thought.
Stage One, with varying degrees of difficulty, lasted 10 very long minutes. The music, which was helpful to start with, began to annoy me. When the first stage was over, we fell back into our seats and dialed down the resistance. Heavenly.
Barely a minute later Stage Two began and this time we were coached to "dial it up" and "chase the van." I couldn't see a van, which told me that it was way too far ahead and I shouldn't worry about chasing it. But the testy instructor, who evidently could see the van, yelled at us to chase it while increasing the resistance. We backed off for 15 seconds, then dialed it up for a minute, backed off for 15, dialed it up. . . you get the idea. Sweat poured off my head, dripped down my face, and hung on the end of my nose until the salty droplets leapt to their demise on the spinning wheel below. I tried to see how many of the drops I could get to fall directly on the wheel, hoping a wet, lubricated wheel would spin more effortlessly.
"What am I doing here?" I thought.
After a brief low- resistance rest time, we entered the final challenge, Stage Three.
"Alright people!" the instructor barked, "This is it. I want to see you work! I want to see your hands on that dial; bump it up! We're going to do 10 more minutes with 8 rotations; 10 seconds in your seats, followed by one minute on your feet peddling as hard as you can! Ready, 3...2...1.... GO!" The music blared a feverish country tune about a spurned wife, and we peddled furiously.
"Is it possible for a heart valve to simply tear wide open and rupture? How long are those valves good for anyway? They can't last forever." I thought.
On I peddled as the demonic coach told us to "give the dial two more clicks" and "push, push yourself!" It wasn't me that I wanted to push. I reached down as my inner poser made his appearance. He grabbed the dial and twisted it ... except not really - the stationary dial slid through my deceptive fingers.
"Is this what it takes to make me cheat? Spinning?! Do I really need to fake this?"
I looked around at the room of my fellow spinners: A middle aged computer geeky guy who could stand to lose a few pounds, and an assortment of women of various ages and sizes. All of them looked far less fatigued than I.
"I must finish this well." I thought.
And so I did, more or less. I dialed it up for real and soon Stage Three was complete. The cool down felt like a reward. As we stretched, our kind instructor gave encouragement to each participant saying, "Good job everyone! See you next time!"
So what, if anything, does that experience have to do with this week's sermon? Well, it actually occurred to me, between towel wipes, that the Church is not unlike a spinning class. I have worked out on my own for years now, pushing myself hard, getting in good shape, I believed. But most of my workouts have been on my own, alone. I set the standards, the goals, the pace. That's good as far as it goes but the problem is, it doesn't go nearly as far as it should. The class approach has several advantages:
- The instructor knows how to bring out the best in class participants.
- The combination of an instructor and other spinners pushed and challenged me far beyond my normal limits.
- I didn't feel alone, (even though we didn't engage each other much.) We were spinning together.
- I noticed good and rotten things about myself that I never see when I work out alone.
- I thought about other people and my snap judgements/prejudices changed in subtle ways.
- With consistent participation, I will be in much better shape.