An innocuous email. A simple request. What could be so bad?
“Looking to burn off those latkes from Chanukah? Join us and other fellow congregants for an afternoon of spinning.”
My mind began to turn. The idea intriguing. I mean, I did consume bushels of potatoes over the holidays. Why not bite?
So, with mind racing but ass sitting, I confirmed my attendance. No pain, and definitely no more gain.
I knew how to ride a bicycle. I fondly recalled those days with my brand new five-speed, riding to Walter Reed Junior High School with my trumpet precariously perched on the back. (Okay, who am I kidding? There was a reason I failed seventh-grade band… I never brought the trumpet home). But I rode that bike from one end of the San Fernando Valley to the other.
And when I got my first Schwinn ten-speed, I was hooked. I remember riding for charity – 35 miles sponsored by Jack in the Box. Every five miles I received a “healthy” snack – cheeseburgers, fries, the coveted Breakfast Jack.
So what could an hour of spinning really do to a seasoned rider – of years gone by – like myself?
And then… the emails began. Guidance on how not to chafe. Instructions on the special shoes. Advice on racing tights vs. sweat pants. What did I get myself into?
But I had made the leap and was ready to spin right round even if I landed right in the emergency room.
The day of, I came prepared. No Lycra but loose workout shorts and mid-brief underwear. Water bottle? Check. Warm-up jacket? Check. Lisinopril? Check.
As I entered the spin-emporium, I suddenly realized I was as old as the hills I was about to climb. Hebrews still in their ‘30s fashionably attired with zero-percent body fat. The old man and the sea… of lululemon.
Why hadn’t I set up an emergency “get out of spin class” call with my wife? Could I suddenly claim an old football injury? (Like I played high-school football…yeah, right!) Could I quickly slink off to the Trader Joe’s next door or, better yet, the deli across the street?
But it was too late. Recognized by fellow congregants, there was no way out.
I made my way into the sweat tent… I mean, spin room… watching as taut legs spun in perfect unison. I made my way to the back where the new spinners were perched on their bikes. Let the games begin.
But first, I had to get on the saddle. Really, a small, tiny saddle of a seat. How was my latke-enriched tuches, genealogically formed by previous generations of chicken-fat eating Jews, going to fit on this bike? If you could call it a bike.
And there were those pedals. As I tried to lock in, I almost went flying off. I searched the pulsating room for help. A young woman saw my plight and clipped me in. I had no idea how I was ever going to get out.
Just then, I noticed ear plugs going in all around me. Were they worried about my impending cries for help?
“It gets loud. You’ll need these,” a fellow congregant said to me. She offered me a pair.
“And don’t forget about weights behind you.”
Okay, I knew about the weight behind. But then I noticed her pointing to weights tucked behind the teeny, weeny seat. Was I supposed to add weight training perched on this tiny, moving pogo stick?
The lights went down. The music came up. And we began to ride. A spotlight. A microphoned, pony-tailed Amazon. And with her every command, the room rode faster. Katy Perry blasting from the stratosphere.
“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire…”
People were up. They were down. They were moving left and right. Was this a Nuremberg rally or an exercise class?
I continued to ride at a middle-aged pace, balancing my petrified cheeks on that precarious seat. Did I dare to ascend like the rest? Was I ready to roar? Oh oh oh oh.. oy!
And then it happened. The instructor walked toward me. Was this 8th-grade gym class all over again? When I had to demonstrate how to mount the pommel horse? Because all I remember of that day was flying through the air, hitting my head and somehow ending up twisted around the parallel bars.
Was I fated to eternal communal humiliation?
I took a deep, gasping breath and looked at our fearless spin leader. A double thumbs-up. I turned around, seeing if it was meant for an imaginary rider behind me. No, it was for me.
Acclamation from this spinning god had me pedaling with the abandon of youth. Who cared about a possible myocardial infarction? I was a dreidel on Ecstasy. It was Studio 54 all over again!
(I also knew there were at least two cardiologists in the room… heck… it was a synagogue-sponsored event).
For the next 30 minutes, I hit those pedals, elevating my body, spirit and double chin closer and closer to heaven.
I was 13 again. I pumped. I grabbed those weights… well, just one weight since I dropped the other one on the floor. I was a spinning top at the top of my game.
Then, in what seemed like a moment, it all decelerated to a close… with inspirational quotes and leonine stretches. Prayers for a better you, a better world, the hope of new songs from Katy Perry.
But I kept riding. Like I couldn’t be stopped. Like there was no tomorrow or yesterday. I was one with the bike, and the bike was one with me.
And that’s because I couldn’t get my shoes unlocked from those pedals. Where’s an orthopedist in bike shorts when you need him?