Back in the Saddle
Every time I see someone from my "old life," the one that existed back in NYC, I get asked if I ever miss it. The truth is, I do miss New York sometimes, but it's really just a few special little things that I grew to love or that took on meaning for me. For instance, I'm convinced there are few things better in life than walking home through Central Park on the first warm day of spring. The driver who picked me up at Charleston's airport last weekend and I waxed poetic about how amazing New York is around Christmas and the holidays. When it comes down to it, though, what I miss about living in New York falls into two categories: my friends and the routine I had there.
You learn very quickly to make apartment decisions based on what's immediately around you in your neighborhood. It is so nice to be able to walk to a Starbucks, a post office, a gym, a CVS. I really lucked out my last three years in the city. I lived on the Upper East Side around Third Avenue, up in the 90s. Yeah, we had Second Avenue subway construction happening and the 4/5/6 trains constantly broke down, but I had everything I needed nearby. After I started writing full time, this was key--I had plenty of excuses to leave the apartment, even in the dead of winter.
One of the biggest routines I fell into was going to the gym for spin classes. Real talk: I am NOT athletic. I have never been athletic. The one year I tried to play JV basketball in high school, I threw out my back and spent six months with a persistent chest cold that always felt like it was on the edge of becoming pneumonia. During that WONDERFUL time in my young adult life, I found out that I had exercise-induced asthma, and that was why my chest always got so mucus-y and tight when I exercised, which made it almost impossible to regulate breathing... which made it impossible to build real stamina... which made me hate most forms of exercising. Weeee.
But writing is such a sedentary job, even with daily walks built in. I'd had a gym membership nearby that I used pretty half-heartedly, on and off. Finally, after realizing I was winded just climbing up three flights of stairs to my apartment (I refused to live above the third floor, which is a true case of recognizing and accepting your own laziness), I decided to try out a bunch of different classes my gym offered.
The only one that didn't immediately scare me off was spin. The reason it didn't immediately scare me off was because I was going at 9 AM, when, shall we say, the more elderly residents of my neighborhood would come. For that reason, I ended up in classes that didn't make me feel like I was spinning for my life in the Thunderdome, being blasted by rainbow lights from every direction. The instructors focused on form and the physiology involved with spinning, so I had time to build my endurance. Eventually, I was going between three and four times a week, and was even that person who had her favorite instructors and would follow them around the various New York Sports Clubs nearby.
When I moved out of NYC, I definitely fell off the wagon in terms of spin. I really didn't enjoy driving around Alexandria and there wasn't a spin studio or gym nearby to walk to. Then I got Tennyson, and he really struggled with being left alone as a puppy... and, well, I never got back on. After being chased out of Alexandria by spiders (don't ask), I landed back in Arizona.
I tried a number of different studios that were closely modeled on Soul Cycle, but... wow, I do not like that style of spinning. Mad respect to everyone who loves it. My experience is that I feel dizzy if I'm spinning in a dark room and the music is always just a little too loud to hear the instructors' cues. I also still have some back issues, so doing a lot of the up-and-down out of the saddle and the arm work really made things worse. My old spin classes conditioned me to like riding in a bright room that was closer to cycling outside on a nice day than an awesome party.
I gave up on it for a while, thinking I would try something else. But I really, really loved spin. After that initial hurdle of about two weeks of torment, I had understood why everyone else loved spin, too.
So, now that I'm in a new house and have a little bit more room for it, I decided to by an at-home bike (a Peloton, which probably costs more than my soul would fetch in a market down in hell, I can't lie). It's definitely an investment, but one of the things I'd been struggling with lately is trying to fit the exercise into a truly tough deadline schedule. I now have zero excuses because it is literally RIGHT THERE (I have to walk by it to get to my bed) and the classes that are offered through its screen (roughly the size of my Mac desktop??? Jesus, Peloton.)/subscription program range between 20-60 minutes, which is nice because sometimes I only have 20 minutes to spare.
It was delivered on Monday, and I basically gave it a hero's welcome. All that was missing was the shower of rose petals over its gorgeous form. I took my first class on Tuesday--one of the pre-recorded ones vs the livestreaming ones because I'm not ready to ride with the other People of Peloton, because omg the People of Peloton. I scrolled through the list of on-demand rides, wondering inwardly if the saddle had always been this hard, and decided that I would test my current endurance with an Advanced Beginner ride, because oh ho ho, I am no Beginner-Beginner. I once rode like the wind, with the fleetest of feet.
Reader, I just about died. If I had been in an actual class, and not in the privacy of my own home, I think someone would have called 9-1-1. Yes, I was huffing and puffing and sweating THAT HARD. Thankfully, only Tennyson was there to judge me silently from his comfortable bed. By the end of thirty minutes (THIRTY! MINUTES!) I barely had the energy left in me to clip out. It was Not. Good.
There's this thing that people who don't ride--bikes, stationary bikes, actual animals--might not know about, which is saddle soreness. Which is exactly what it sounds like. Here's another thing you might not know: that feeling does go away. Your body gets used to it and you no longer feel it days after a ride. I don't totally understand it, because #science, but I've been reminding myself of this fact all week, while I work at my job in which I spend upwards of six hours sitting.
Today, I took another thirty minute Advanced Beginner class. It was not much better. I did not expect it to be.
Aside from being incredibly humbling about how little physical strength I have in my body these days, my recent return to cycling has reminded me quite of bit of what it feels like to jump back into a writing project after being away for a while. Or, you know, just jumping back into the habit of writing. It always feels so, so painful and awkward when you first start again--there's that voice that's constantly there, telling you that you don't remember how to do this and that it is HARD HARD HARD.
But really, with cycling and with writing, it's all about building muscle. It's about getting through that initial period of painful adjustment and adapting your body and brain to the level of focus and work these tasks demand. I spent the first seven chapters of my current YA bemoaning how hard it felt to be writing YA after such a long break with Prosper, and how slooooooooowly the words were coming. Now I'm twenty chapters in, and flying. In the end, both with spinning and writing, it all comes down to perseverance. So many people quit before they ever truly begin, discouraged by how hard to feels to start.
Don't quit. Take it easy. Take it slow. Readjust at your own pace.