Spinning Out of Control

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Working from home for the past year has provided me with a one-​minute commute to my home office and easy access to my favorite meal replacement — potato chips and dip. One of these perks resulted in my favorite jeans shrinking considerably and the realization that it was time to again try a dreaded fitness class.

I realize that my failure with classes is due to the fact that I don’t like being told what to do. I also would rather not waste any time with exercise balls, hoops, kettlebells, bands, ropes, boulders, tires or any other paraphernalia. Any dance-​themed classes like Zumba or Jazzercise make me feel like a reject from “A Chorus Line.” And while I loved running, my knees (and most other joints) seem to be feeling the effects of too many slow, plodding runs across miles of concrete.

So spinning seemed like a good option. The classes were only an hour and no socializing necessary. And I wouldn’t need accessories, aside from a pair of cycling shoes (I let the shoe saleslady talk me into a pair of bright neon pink ones — perhaps not the best choice for an 11-​wide foot like mine).

After a few months, I realized that some songs are made for spinning, and some just don’t cut it. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” is just torture, and one Journey song per class is more than enough.

Since I am not friendly enough to actually get to know any of my fellow “spinners,” I’ve found that giving them nicknames helps pass the time during class and gets my mind off my muscles that are sore even before I get on the bike:

“Super Granny”: Pushing 80, and with a BMI of about 3, she strolls in, nauseatingly upbeat and happy, eats an apple, changes into her spinning shoes, and puts all of us to shame with her work ethic. I don’t like Super Granny.

“The Wicked Witch”: Her cadence never changes, whether we are on a steep hill or a fast flat. For some reason, she reminds me of the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy gets knocked out by the tornado and sees all her loved ones floating in front of her. Every time I glance over at her I can’t help but hum that annoying frantic music and imagine my witch on her spinning bike, floating past.

“The Grim Reaper”: Not the most reliable attendee, but when he does appear he’s spinning away when I arrive and still spinning after class is over, always wearing a black hoodie-​pulled up over his face — and black sweatpants. He is always in the back row in the far corner. Creepy.

“Yoga Yolanda”: Her outfit — headband, capri pants and tank top — is always matchy-​matchy. Her makeup is flawless, and she does not sweat nor tire. Even her water bottle complements her ensemble perfectly. She comes late to class and leaves early. But she looks great for the short time she is there.

“The Reader”: Never leans forward on her bike, never changes her position, nor touches the tension on her bike. Just sits there holding her book in both hands, breezily pedaling away and reading throughout the class. Not sure how she can concentrate, given MC Hammer blaring through the speakers and the instructor screaming, “SURGE!”

“Mike”: Don’t mess with Mike. He is all business. He’s in his mid-​twenties, wears a Fitbit, and aside from a barely-​perceptible sigh now and then, is never out of breath. He may be a cyborg. I’ve looked for an outline of the tell-​tale metal panel on his back (hiding his robotic insides) but haven’t seen it. His bike is next to mine and I try to keep up with him during class, usually failing miserably.

“Thelma and Louise”: Both are in their mid-​thirties and like to discuss those crazy Kardashians and everybody and everything else. Eavesdropping on their conversations is quite the education — I have learned an awful lot about Thelma’s ex-​husband and Louise’s current boyfriend.

During one class, we’re told we should increase our tension to “steep hill” and go all out and surge past everyone in class for two minutes. A quick look around the room and I judge that my competition is limited to Mike (for obvious reasons no one can win a race against The Grim Reaper).

I once wondered if Mike’s gear is actually on the steep hill setting, so as any freakishly competitive person would do, I knocked my water bottle off its perch and allowed it to roll under his bike. I dismounted and crawled over to retrieve it, nonchalantly craning my neck up to see his bike’s display. Except for the skin on the back of my hand being violently ripped open by his blurry bike pedal it was a great plan.

I did manage to see his wheel tension — 17, one above mine. Darnit. I resigned myself to the inevitable conclusion: I must secretly obtain a sterile urine sample from Mike to test for performance-​enhancing drugs. After my ER visit, of course.


Elizabeth Wiethorn

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and lifetime Pittsburgher who resides in the North Hills. She has worked in adult literacy, at a financial investment firm, as a kindergarten teacher’s aide, as a debt collector, and even as an entrepreneur. Her BA in English from the University of Dayton and her MBA from Duquesne University provide her with the unusual combination of being able to “cook the books” but also write a concise, grammatically-​correct statement denying all wrongdoing. She finds humor in the everyday and loves to laugh, especially at other people. All emails praising her undeniable talent can be sent to .

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