Exercise class spins cycle of pain

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Americans are obsessed with wanting to get in shape.

I understand this.

In recent years, I've gone from being a couch potato to a firm believer that exercise is good for you.

At least, I thought so before I took a cycling class.

I joined my wife and others taking a cycling class last Saturday at a local fitness center.

I figured a little pedaling would be good for me.

So I showed up for the Saturday morning class, which was attended largely by women who appeared to be well versed in pedaling on a stationary bike. I had my towel and water bottle. I was ready to go.

Joni warned me that the class could be painful. But how bad could it be?

For 45 minutes, we pedaled sitting, standing and somewhere in between. From astride her stationary bike at the head of the class, the microphoned instructor shouted out instructions as music blared in the background.

Halfway through the routine, I thought I would die.

Even the Spanish Inquisition couldn't be that bad, I concluded.

By the time, the exercise class finished, I was exhausted.

I dismounted on wobbly legs that seemed to be ready to collapse.

The instructor cheerfully told me that I should come to the class at least three times before deciding whether to jump ship.

By then, I figured I'd probably be dead or on life support.

Still, Joni gave me words of encouragement. She said I should be pleased that I survived my first cycling class.

She said I would have felt even worse if I hadn't had a seat cushion to cover the seat of the stationary bike.

Joni learned that the hard way the week before when she showed up without a seat cushion. The cycle seats, as it turns out, are made of what must be the hardest material known to man.

They couldn't be any more uncomfortable if they had been designed by the director of some torture chamber.

Having made it through the class without a paramedic to resuscitate me, I managed to walk out of the building on my own two legs.

But by Sunday afternoon, my legs were in serious pain. I walked like an old man.

Joni said I shouldn't worry. A little pain, she said, is to be expected.

I know that adage: No pain, no gain.

But when you are being heavily recruited by AARP, you might want to think twice about this kind of exercise cycle.

On Monday, Joni cheerfully asked me if I wanted to join her for water aerobics.

"You've got to be kidding," I said, trying to ignore the leg pains.

She quietly concluded that I would be in great shape by Saturday and ready to once again get on that cycle.

Maybe so.

But right now I'm thinking that just being able to roll out of bed without major pain would be a big accomplishment.

I have a new appreciation for Lance Armstrong, who clearly has robotic legs.

According to World Book, bicycles typically have gear systems that enable the rider to pedal comfortably at a variety of speeds.

But that's not the case with exercise bikes where there's no sign of any comfort.

Maybe it's best if someone else spins your wheels.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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