The Spirit of Spin

Picasso's Wounded Bull

It’s not exactly a perfect penance, and I might not be able to come up with 11 lessons, but I have been a regular participant in my own local spin class.

For the unacquainted allow me to explain: spinning is an exercise where a medieval torture device called a “stationary bicycle” (pedal all you want but you ain’t moving nowhere) is ruled over by devilishly athletic instructors. These microphoned minions of fitness lock you in a dark room and guide you through an imagined landscape of endless hills, and narrow valleys near a surging ocean of pop music and club beats.

Generally I survive this torture by bringing as much boring routine to it as possible. I wear the same clothes. I eat the same granola bars. Like a wounded bull that returns to the same spot in the ring to collect himself, I even try to get the same bike every time.1 Never the less there I am, several times a week, snorting my way through another round of self-improvement. And, like the bull, I know this fight ain’t fair.

***

And it’s even less fair now that Daylight Savings Time has come along. Ever since the time-change I’ve found it harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning (I am a grad student after all). It’s not that I need daylight, but this only adds insult to injury. My body’s biological clock reminds me that what was a 6AM ordeal is now a 5AM torture. Moreover, my late rising means that lately I haven’t had first pick of the bikes – I’m a tired bull and I can’t get to my querencia. And again, it gets worse.

Because during the last few classes I’ve been on a bike that faces a slight distortion in the mirror on the front wall of the room. May I share something with you? It’s bad enough to have to watch yourself in this struggling sweaty state, but being confronted with a monstrous distortion of my real proportions is like a carnival mirror of horrors! I look like that dude from The Lady in the Water who only lifts weights with one arm. It’s disturbing.2

So there I am, huffing and puffing and trying to avoid eye-contact with my distorted avatar in the mirror. And then, I discover a problem. You see, the mirror is actually kind of helpful. As you know,I worry too much, and this habit manifests itself in occasional shoulder pain. So, keeping an eye on my alignment during these classes is important. And if I don’t want to fall into a fit of OCD over my RPM’s I can just keep a steady pace by watching my feet in the mirror. My legs become like the bars of an equalizer visually measuring the beats within the haze of pop music. 

Push. Push. Push.
We found love in a hopeless place
Push. Push. Push.

***

The point is this: avoiding the mirror really screws me up. As disturbing as the image may be the reflection is helpful. I may not like what I see, but I need the visual aid for my timing, rhythm, and pace.  I’m obviously not the distorted freak in the mirror (Okay, so my calves are kind of big, and a football coach once told me – explaining why I’d play offensive line – that I “had nice stumps.”) but, looking in the mirror, I don’t see a static image or a wounded bull. I see someone struggling to live and live well. I’m moving. I’m struggling. I’m working.

Push. Push. Push.
Damn. Damn girl you do it well…”
Dig. Dig. Dig.
“…And I thought you were innocent.”
Push. Push. Push.

Looking in that mirror I begin to see something other than a tired bull in need of a safe place. What I see is motion… what I feel is rhythm… what I have is strength.  After all, I’m not actually in the mirror. I’m in my body.  And, thick or thin, I’ve got mad beats. And I can do this.

Push. Push. Push.
I am right there, in that moment.
Dig. Dig. Dig.
And Im noddinmy head likeYeah’…and Im movinmy hips likeYeah!’”
Push. Push. Push.

— — — — —

  1. the Spanish word for that spot in the ring is la querencia – a place of power in a moment of struggle, a place of homecoming – although it feels to me like a place of last resort!
  2. Even worse, it reminds me of how much I hate M. Night Shyamalan films. Did you see The Happening? Nauseating.

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