The soft ocean breeze hits my body and whispers to me to relax (shhhhhh). I can hear the seagulls. They are softly telling me to keep my eyes closed and just breathe (hushhhhh). There is no place I would rather be. The sound of the… bull horn. That’s a bullhorn. That is a loud freaking bull horn. What the hell is going on? I feel myself being pulled from my beach chair into the air toward that crazy, uncomfortable sound. Why am I going up? Why am I …
Oh. It’s my alarm. It’s 4:30am. Time to make the donuts. If you don’t know what that means, it means I’m old.
Today I’m starting my day with a 45 minute spin class at my favorite cycling and boxing studio. This is not one of those places where everyone is flawlessly dressed and the women’s faces are freshly made up. I’ve been to those kinds of gyms and studios. This is different. This is not a fashion show. Everyone is different but exactly the same. They are there to get shit done. You aren’t checking off the workout line on your to-do list here. This is work. Sure, it has fun moments, but I wouldn’t call it fun.
It does make you feel fucking amazing.
I walk through the door of the gym into the quiet, preparatory calm. The music isn’t pumping before the first class of the day. People probably haven’t had their coffee yet. Their alarm just went off. No more loud noises until we are warned. So it is quiet. Everyone is setting up their bike, warming up on their bike, stretching, breathing, staring, zoning, preparing.
Preparing. This might be the only time you get to be in your own head for the entire day. This 45 minutes is yours.
And then it gets dark except for a cool blue light, the music comes on and the silence breaks.
“GOOD MORNING, 5:30!!! It’s Monday and you have made a CHOICE today. A choice for yourself! A choice to get out of bed this morning before everyone else! A choice to come here! To leave here a stronger person than you are right now. Let’s do this. Leave EVERYTHING in this room!”
There is that knot and the catch in my breath. I can feel it already. Deep breath out.
Let’s do this.
Your leader’s voice guides you through a bike ride filled with racing flats, rolling hills, mud (Yes, mud. You can almost actually see the mud under your pedals), team races, steep climbs…
You are sweating. Not glowing. Dripping, soaking, drenching sweat. And you have been on this bike forever. Not 45 minutes. You have solved almost everything you need to solve in life. Almost.
This isn’t just a workout. This is your life right now. This is everything you are happy about, everything you are scared of and everything that keeps you up at night. Those weren’t racing flats and hills and mud pits. Those were amazing family vacations, sick family members and work deadlines. This isn’t a spin class. This is getting to the top of the mountain of everything you have been through. Right now. Why? Why is this workout all of that? I have no freaking idea. I can’t explain why. Magic, maybe?
Then you hit the bottom of the last big mountain. The tallest and steepest. You are about to start climbing. Before you even start you are promised a fantastic downhill after you make it to the top. You know this will be tough. This is it.
“THIS IS IT! Whatever you have left, give it all right now! Leave EVERYTHING here! Everything in your life that is keeping you from where you need to be… You LEAVE it ALL at the bottom of this hill!”
Yessss! I am so ready for this!
And then you start digging. Pushing. Getting “Breathless”. You think you are giving it your all but you aren’t. You have more and you need to let it go here. It hurts but you are almost there. You can’t slow down. You can’t give up.
And then the knot comes back. And then the tears begin to well.
The room gets dark. No blue light. Just dark. The music levels out and you can feel the tension that something is coming.
“Think of someone who needs all of your positive energy right now. If it is you then focus on you and how much support you need from yourself and what you need to overcome. If it is someone else, think about that person. Whoever it is…they are waiting at the top of this mountain for YOU! They need you to climb above everything that is stopping you, everything that has stopped them. They need you to LEAVE EVERTHING IN THIS ROOM!!!”
Jesus! I can’t breathe. I’m crying. Why am I freaking crying? I need to get to the top of this damn hill.
The music ramps up again. “SIXTY SECONDS LEFT AND THEN YOU GET TO FLY DOWN THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS MOUNTAIN!”
So you dig, and you grind, and you pedal faster, and give more power. And you are crying. And catching your breath. But you are a beast and you are strong AF. And there is someone waiting for you at the top. All that other stuff has been overcome. Now you just have to get there. To that person.
Or to yourself.
So you stand up! You “GET OUT OF THAT SADDLE AND CHARGE TO THE TOP OF THIS MOUNTAIN!”. You push until you are so out of breath that you think you might get sick. But you don’t.
And you get there. To the top. And there is everything you were riding for and nothing of what you were riding from. And you turn back the tension on the bike so you can fly down the other side of that mountain. You blot the sweat or tears or both. You can breathe again.
What the hell just happened? You have no idea but you like it and you can’t wait to do it again.
And you feel fucking amazing.
Credit: Nex Level Fitness (cycling studio, Chalfont, PA)