If you told the Lia from a few years ago that 22-year-old me would be taking indoor cycling classes two to three times a week now, she wouldn’t believe you. To be quite honest, even now, I sometimes don’t believe it myself!
Those who are in my inner circle know me as someone who’s perpetually busy. I’m a high-functioning individual and I like to fill up my schedule with productive work— college and school work, extracurriculars, learning as much as I can on the side, and even running my own slow brand accessory line, Scrunched Up .With my day already so full, I always thought it’d be impossible to be able to fit a workout in. Plus, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with exercise. I was never athletic; I never liked P.E. class and I’d much rather read a book or watch a movie than go for a run.
Fast forward to last year’s pandemic and the sudden urge to start taking charge of my physical health came. It was actually a really low point in life—a feeling I’m sure everyone to some extent, got a taste of last year. College was getting stressful, my relationships were being tested, and it felt like I had no control over the things that were happening to me and I desperately needed an outlet.
This is where indoor cycling came in.
Indoor cycling—or spinning as some call it—is a full-body workout that takes place on a stationary exercise bicycle. It works all the body’s major muscle groups through intervals, resistance training, choreography, and extreme cardio. Indoor cycling is really one of those things that you either love or hate. For most of the people I know, they try it, don’t like it, and never do it again. To be honest, I felt discouraged by it. Like I said, physical activity and exercise have never come easily to me. So why would I make myself do a workout that people I knew didn’t like?
My First Cycle Experience
For full context, I have tried other workouts before. But none have ever kept me hooked. Looking back, those workouts (zumba, yoga, shadowboxing) were way easier than cycling but I could feel that my mind and body were seeking a challenge with this one.
When I stepped inside the studio for my first class in January of 2020, I had a ton of mixed emotions. I didn’t want to go through with it at first and I was scared that I wasn’t going to be good at it. I was going into this with seasoned riders that knew what they were doing. I couldn’t help but feel like such an amateur next to them. However, all those expectations went out the window when the lights dimmed and the class began. I came in expecting a fast-paced, 45-minute workout, but I got something that felt so unexpectedly cathartic.
There’s this one part of the class before the final sprint where the instructor lets us ride freely at our own pace before we do the finisher. It was during this part of the class where I realized that I was grateful to be there, and that I was proud of myself for taking this first step into my fitness journey.
Needless to say, I left the studio (and every class) with trembling legs and a happy heart.
Why It Was Different
The feeling I got every time I finished a cycling session was different to any other workouts I’ve done before. Yes, the instructors always push you to your limit but they also assure you that honoring and listening to what your body is saying is the most important thing.
I never got that feeling from other guided workouts, to be honest. I started to see changes in my physical health but what I didn’t expect was how it affected my mental health as well. Being on the bike encouraged me to erase all distractions and focus on myself, even if it's only for 45 minutes a day.
Another factor that made me stay was the community. The studio I cycle with treats everyone like family, and we all workout with the thought that we’re great on our own, but stronger together. It’s crazy to think that these people were strangers to me before I started cycling, but we’re united in this common goal to grow and achieve new things together. Even though you’re taking the class with about 15 other people, I’ve never found myself comparing how I did that day with the person next to me. Aside from that, my fellow riders never made me feel like an amateur. Moving as a pack with those around me motivated me to keep going. We were all growing together, no matter how long we’ve been keeping this up.
I was doing pretty good with my routine of cycling twice a week until the pandemic happened. Gyms and fitness facilities were required to close due to the current situation, including my cycling studio. At this point, I was already on my 12th ride. I knew that my routine was going to have to stop for the meantime, and I was scared that I wasn’t going to feel motivated to do it again when the world reopened.
When my studio announced that they would be shifting to virtual classes as a response to the studio closure, I remember rushing to rent a bike in April because I was so desperate to spin again. I thought it’d be hard to get myself to work out considering I was just staying at home, but having a bike of my own unexpectedly got me to do it more often and kept me accountable for my workouts. Cycling became my form of meditation, which some might find weird because it’s so high energy and fast paced. Cycling is the reason that I’ve been so productive and good with keeping up with a routine, despite the uncertainty of the times we’re in.
What I Learned
As the title of this piece suggests, I didn’t only gain physical strength and endurance from my sessions of indoor cycling but also learned some nuggets of wisdom about life in general. Here are some things I learned:
1.Small progress is still progress.
Most people want to see results right off the bat when it comes to working out and what I’ve realized through indoor cycling was this: the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit. After all, a few small steps a day eventually adds up to a bigger leap. Having this mindset both in my workout and in life taught me to learn at every step of the journey and adapt when necessary.
- When there's a lot of resistance, you just have to work that much harder.
In all of our classes, we’re encouraged to increase the resistance of our bike as we move forward with the workout. At the start, I found myself ignoring this option and just pedalling at a comfortable pace. It was through this that I realized that being comfortable wasn’t enough, and that this is a sign that it’s time for me to grow. When I began to challenge myself, it was then that I truly felt I was moving forward.
- Be gentle with yourself.
Despite the amount of times I’ve taken a class, there are definitely days when I don’t feel like working out or I end up missing a class. I’ve constantly beat myself up for missing classes before but I learned that we all fall out of a routine every now and then and that’s totally fine. What’s done is done, and what matters is that you bounce back and get back up on your feet. Breathe, give yourself some time, and come back when you’re ready.
Even after more than a year of consistent cycling classes, finishing a 45 minute sweat session still feels like it did the first time. The high I get from finishing a workout is unmatched, even on the days where I feel that I didn’t do as great as I hoped.
That being said, one of the reasons I’ve stuck with this routine for so long is how it’s affected more than the physical aspects of my life. Yes, I feel great after completing a class, but the way it's affected my personal life is worth so much more than the calories I’ve burned.
Word of advice? Be open and give it a try, even if it intimidates you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll change your mind and love it as much as I do.