"Just Keep Pedaling" by Director of Academic Support Gia Batty
I have recently started teaching indoor cycling (spin) classes here at Nobles—an early morning class for adults and one in the afternoon for students. In the move from longtime spin class participant to instructor, I probably haven’t hit the magic 10,000 hour mark (yet), but I have definitely put in some time on stationary bikes this year.
There are a lot of things I love about spinning, but high on the list is that it allows for some excellent mind-wandering—that magical thing that happens when you stop focusing your attention on the task at hand, and your thoughts start to go all over the place. Mind-wandering gives way to creative problem solving, unexpected reflection and the generation of new ideas, and, for some reason, this happens for me a lot when I’m on the bike. During a recent mind-wandering moment while I was “pushing through the resistance” as I was instructed to do in a spin class I was taking, I started thinking about how so many of the instructions I give while I’m teaching on the bike (like having to push through resistance) can be applied to life off the bike.
Life lessons from a spin class? Really? I actually thought of four of them.
1. Don’t forget to breathe during the sprints.
One of the hardest things we do on the bike is sprint. Sprints are challenging, and the tendency for riders is to hold their breath until they’re done. This is not only dangerous (you could pass out), but it also makes it that much harder to recover quickly and sprint again. I always remind riders to breathe while they sprint. Off the bike, a sprint could be a big test or a presentation or an interview, and remembering to breathe will not only give your brain the oxygen it needs to perform at its best, but it will also relax and sustain you as you push yourself through something difficult.
2. The hardest part is getting started, but once you get that wheel moving, you’ll surprise yourself with how fast you can make it go.
There’s only one wheel on a stationary bike and it’s heavy—it weighs around 40 pounds—and riders can adjust the amount of resistance on it, making it harder or easier to get it to move. With a lot of resistance, it’s really difficult to get that wheel going, and it’s surprising how fast you can spin once you do. The same is true with the really challenging tasks we face outside the spin room. The hardest part is always the starting—writing the first paragraph, picking up the phone for what you know will be a difficult conversation, running your first meeting as the leader of a group—but once you get through that, you can build on the momentum you’ve created and get the job done.
3. Preparation is the key to a good ride
If your bike isn’t set up correctly, your knees or lower back will hurt. If you don’t bring water, you will definitely get dehydrated. If you don’t bring a towel, your sweat will sting your eyes and your hands will get slippery from wiping it off your face. Being prepared for class is the difference between having a great workout and actually hurting yourself. Off the bike, the importance of being prepared is obvious—for a test, a job interview, a presentation—and we remind students that it’s one of the things they actually can control.
5. Just keep pedaling
During a class, if your foot slips off the pedal or you knock your water bottle to the ground or you feel confused by the instructions, I always say the same thing: just keep pedaling. You can slow down if things are moving too fast and you can grab your water bottle when the song ends, but don’t ever stop pedaling. When our tendency is to throw our hands up when things get hard or confusing, we should try to keep this in mind. Slow down and ask for help so you can keep moving forward.