Every now and then a day at the gym turns out better than you imagined it would and today was a day like that. And that’s saying something because I really like working out and I like the people at my gym, so most days are good ones.
Today is Day Two of the 81-Day Challenge. And today’s benchmark test was a 25-kilometre ride in the spin room. No one was looking forward to this. The race was strictly against the clock. It wasn’t so much a race at all as it was – for me at least – a benchmarking of modest progress over the preceding months.
But spinning is hard work, if you’re trying. You stop spinning, you slow then stop and you’re trapped in the spin room that much longer. And today, no one was allowed to leave until you did 25 kilometres. So go fast, leave fast.
Do the math. If you peddle at a 25 km-per-hour pace, it will take you an hour. I wanted to be out of the room by 7a so I would have time to shower and catch my usual train. Plus the weather made driving slow. So, add on another 10 minutes for that mess.
We went in the spin room about 620a and were quickly at it. I needed to be sub-40 minutes to make my train.
Doing 25k in the spin room is nothing at all like doing the same distance on a road bike. There are no downhill grades to coast along. There are no stop lights. There are no cars to watch for and there are no pedestrians walking their dogs on 30-foot leashes.
There’s also not much to look at in the spin room. On a ride in the summer along the Lakeshore I can people watch, see the lake, enjoy the parks, note the changes in the community. The spin room can challenge you mentally because there are no distractions to carry you along.
I knew I had no hope of keeping pace with the top spinners in the room – all younger, all fitter. But I also knew that I could likely exceed my personal expectations because I like to cycle in the summer. I had no intention of taking anywhere close to an hour, nor should I after six months of working out.
Richard offered good advice – don’t look at the odometer because it will depress you. The klicks go by slowly. The music was pretty good starting out though – Eminem, a number of songs – and the beat helped us all find a cadence.
In the parlance of the spin room I was set on gear 5 and stayed there and I was managing an RPM in the low 90s. That translated into about 41-43 km/per hour give or take, for the first half or three quarters of the ride. As the ride progressed, I started to dip occasionally to 37-38 km per hour.
Richard then asked someone – I’m not sure who – for a music suggestion, and immediately David Bowie was put forward. The late singer was immediately the soundtrack for the rest of the ride and for whatever reason, the energy in the room jumped, mine included.
People knew the words and started to singalong to parts of songs they liked. When Suffragette City came on, I was 18 kilometres or so deep into my spin and I started to sing, too. It may have been delirium at that point, but it was fun and it broke the monotony of the haul perfectly.
And I broke through the 20-km mark just as most of the room boomed out the iconic lyric, “Wham bam, thank-you ma’am.”
I laughed – we all laughed — and the next five kilometres flew by while the sweat dripped off me like I had been hit with the business end of a fire hose.
I have only a general idea where I placed among the group and really that doesn’t matter because it was me against the clock. The same race the other 18 or 20 people were in with me.
My time was 37 minutes and 35 seconds, which works out to almost exactly 40 km an hour. I’m okay with that because today, 24 hours after executing a single, lonely pullup on Day One, I made a point to myself.
My heart rate was above 90 per cent of capacity for most of the ride. I burned 1,100 calories. I had a blast and felt great afterwards.
Tomorrow is the last day of benchmarking. Running. We do shuttle runs on the inside 50-metre turf. Six lengths. 300 metres. Three times. The stopping and starting is brutal. And again, it’s a race against yourself and the clock.
Bring on Day Three. Only 78 more to go.