The Spin Cycle

One man finds a hard-core workout that's soft on the knees.
By Jay Clark

After a long, pavement- pounding summer of tennis and 8-mile runs, I was tired and running out of cartilage. I wanted to find a balanced exercise regime to match my high-octane personality, one that didn’t involve sleeping next to a sexy bottle of ibuprofen.

One day, while pretending to be busy at work, I saw an email from my sister.

“Come to spin class tonight. Spin is back in,” it read.

“Spin class?” I typed. “Not enough calories burned.” Send.

Her reply: “At least 800 calories in 50 minutes. Just try it.”

I walked in at 5:25 p.m. and was immediately struck by how many bikes were scrunched into the tiny classroom and how much of the class’s DNA was X-chromosome. Y was I here again?

My bike was too complicated for my tiny male brain, so the instructor helped me readjust it to the proper position. “Your knees should be slightly bent when your legs are extended, your hands loose and relaxed on the handlebars,” she advised. Before I could even get my feet in the pedal straps, a speedy Kelly Clarkson remix began crashing down on me. The instructor-turned-drill sergeant began barking orders, and I was on my way up a faux mountain of pain.

“We’re climbing to an 11 on the effort scale!” she screamed.

What does that mean? I wondered. It meant more resistance every 15 seconds, frantic peddling during the chorus, and mountains of gluteal pain. Suddenly, the song changed, and we were “jumping” to counts of four: first, peddling in a seated position; next, standing upright; and lastly, bending forward in a vomit-encouraging position. Repeat, and add resistance. Forever.

I looked around during a brief lull. Everyone still looked energetic. This must get easier with practice, I thought. Um, just like riding a bike. And then there was Enya. It was over.

My legs felt like Jell-O, my stomach had swallowed my abdomen, and two large pools of sweat flanked my bike. Spinning was officially ... awesome. High octane, low impact? We were a match made in type A heaven.