The Worst and Best $8 I’ve Spent in a While

My friend Katie found out I was thinking about canceling my Gold’s Gym membership and switching over to the (much) less expensive Arlington County Rec Centers. “You need to come to spinning class with me,” she said. “This Wednesday is going to be the last one I can go to for a while because of work so you have to come.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe. Won’t it be busy because it’s the new year?”

“I’ll see you at 6:30,” she replied.


I headed over to the Thomas Jefferson Community Center after work this evening, wondering what I was getting myself in for. TJ is connected to a local school (unlike Arlington’s Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center, which I’d seen once before) so it’s a pretty low-scale affair; an indoor track, weight machines, free weights, a lot of cross-training machines, a stretching area, and some spaces for classes. It was that last place that was calling my name. I’d paid for a $5 guest pass and $3 for a single spinning class (there are discounts if you buy more), so this was it. I was committed.

Katie showed me how to put the seat and handles onto the stationary cycle; I’d put the handles on backwards, and then didn’t tighten the seat enough at first so that it promptly slid back down within about a minute of be sitting on it. This was why I finally decided to go tonight—not only because Katie might have beaten me up otherwise, but because I’d have someone to catch my stupid newbie mistakes in the act rather than after I managed to eject myself into the air halfway through the class.

I wasn’t the only new person either, happily. Two other people were also rank amateurs. I vowed to keep an eye on them, especially after instructor Theresa told me that if I needed to stop and sit down from time to time that was all right. I wasn’t folding if they weren’t.

At first it wasn’t too bad. We were 15 minutes in and I was pedaling away, trying to remember to keep my shoulders loose, push with my heels, and everything else that Theresa was telling us. Then Katie turned to me and said, “I hate you.”

“Huh?” I replied.

“You aren’t even breathing hard,” she said back.

Now, I had thought I was working pretty hard. But suddenly I had a flashback to speed training workouts back in 2005 with Rick W., who yelled at me as I ran past him, “If you’re laughing you aren’t running fast enough!” Well, clearly I wasn’t trying hard enough. So I started upping the tension. And then a little more. And then a bit more after that.

The next thing I knew, we were 25 minutes into the class and all I could think was the worrisome thought that surviving another 20 minutes might not be an option. And if I died, would I get a partial refund on my $8? Now sure, I could just turn the tension back down a bit and save myself. And it sounded good. But right then Theresa yelled out, “Sure, this could be easier but then what’s the point? Everyone would do this if it was easy!” And you know, she had a point.

So instead I gasped and grunted my way through the full 45 minute class. When it was over and we got off our bikes, Katie turned to me and said, “What did you think?”

“I ran 12 miles faster than I ever had before on Saturday,” I replied. “And this kicked my ass in comparison.”

Afterwards was perhaps the best part of the evening; stopping by Pio Pio on the way home and eating some Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken and rice. Mmmmmm. Provided my run tomorrow evening doesn’t involve me whimpering and limping a lot? I think I might just go back next week and see if Theresa will be even tougher on me if Katie’s not there to shield me. After all, half an hour into the class I saw Theresa walk around and increase the tension on some other people’s cycles. It could happen to me next time. I just don’t know if this scares or excites me.

I guess there’s one way to find out.

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