yes i can!
By Deb Baer Becker
Last month, I signed up for classes at CycleBar, a hip new spin class studio. It opened next to our favorite Mexican restaurant where the Hubster and I eat fish tacos and too many tortilla chips and cheese and salsa.
The glam of this new cycle studio put me off at first. “It looks slick and expensive,” I say while peering in the window. The Hubster gives it a glance, turns to me and says, “Maybe I’ll try it, get my legs ready for the MS150,” the annual two-day cycle ride for charity.
I note some red ladies’ tanks and short shorts displayed on the merchandise wall and say, “You’d hate it; too many hotties.” He assured me that cycling is for everybody, but the wall banner’s image of a smiling and perky twenty-something CycleBar chick said it all. “I’d have to drink the blood of a unicorn to fit in here,” I say to the Hubster.
He laughs and says, “I’ve already got my hottie,” and we walk on, holding hands, our bellies stuffed with tacos and beer. Well, the thing is that this idea of riding at CycleBar hung on me like a bad cold virus. Crazy notions rolled around my head: challenge your body; find your edge.
The last time I’d felt good about my body - or should I say good in my body - was April of 2014, the time of my daughter’s wedding. I was on the “wedding diet” and had a consistent exercise routine.
Now Kay is pregnant, and I’ve been eating for two, too! That’s what my too-tight favorite summer blue jeans keep telling me.
“Why does this keep happening?” I asked the Universe.
The Universe sent me a Groupon: Four CycleBar rides for $39.
Spin classes are notoriously hard, made for people with sinewy muscles who love to sweat and suffer and almost die. I haven’t almost died since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. That year of cancer treatment was the longest race I’d ever run. The chemo was hard on my heart. Maybe cancer took something from me that I can’t get back.
I was scared to put my heart on the line to find out.
All my thoughts shouted, NO! DON’T PUSH YOUR LUCK! And then they held up that scared-face Emoji.
When I was a kid, my bike was my fair weather best friend in the very best way. I’d ride my blue Schwinn far outside the strict limits of safety that my Mom had set out for me. I rode as far as my legs would take me, all the way to freedom.
So, I told the Hubster I bought the Groupon, scheduled my first ride at the CycleBar, and a do you know what he said? “Maybe you should practice riding your old bike to get used to it again.”
What’s that old saying, “like riding a bike?” This made me even more determined to go do the thing.
On the day of my first class I chose the bike closest to the chicken exit. The studio has a club feel with colored spotlights and pumping music and dance energy. I adjusted my bike seat, climbed up and clipped in.
It was go time. The lights came up and our cycle leader took the stage. I struggled to keep up with the beat of each song, and the cadence called by our cycle leader. I increased the bike’s tension until it felt heavy, pushing hard against my I Can’t Do This thoughts like riding switchbacks up a tall mountain, pedal-by-pedal, right-left-right-left. My muscles strained. I was slowing down.
Our cycle leader called out, “Say it with me, CycleBar – YES I CAN!!!” And I shouted, “YES I CAN!” to everything that wanted to quit inside me. I was breathless and sweaty and my heart pounded like a drum in my chest.
I put it all on the line, rode hard against the bike’s resistance and my self-imposed limitations, punching the pedals, riding to that place where I feel young and fearless and free.