“Well this is new.” I sniffled and smiled at the gym employee holding out some protein bars.
It was new. I had decided to try a new class, cycling, at the gym. Workout classes like SoulCycle seem so popular, so I figured I’d give it a try. I could pick a bike in the back, take it easy, watch other people and take my cues from the more experienced participants.
Except there were only three other people in the class, so hiding in the back didn’t really work. Not knowing how to adjust the bike properly, I felt like I was going to fall over every time I tried to lean forward and reach the handlebars. This also meant I couldn’t reach my water bottle, which was jammed into the holder just forward of the handlebars, so I kept having to dismount to get some water. And there were no breaks. In Zumba, we have breaks between songs. But this was just trying to keep my balance and honestly wondering how on earth the other three girls were making their legs move so damn fast.
That was what eventually broke me, I think. Stand up and pedal? Sure. Increase the resistance? Great. But every time the instructor said, “Sprint!” I could not physically make my legs go faster. And as I leaned forward and saw spots and hoped I wouldn’t somehow slide sideways off my bike, I noticed that tears were starting to gather.
Hoping to make a quiet, dignified, inoffensive exit, I dismounted and grabbed my towel and water bottle. Unfortunately, since there were only four of us in the class, the instructor caught my eye. She asked, “You OK?”
And that’s when I started crying in earnest.
The instructor led a bewildered, quietly sniffling me to a recumbent bike, adjusted it so I could just use it as a regular seat, and told me to take deep breaths while she got someone to check on me. In a few minutes, the front desk lady brought over a handful of protein bars and asked if I’d eaten that day.
“Yes, I had dinner right before this,” I said. She smiled, but still looked concerned, so I added, “This is new. I honestly have no idea why I’m crying.”
I often forget the link between the physical and the emotional, probably because I spent a lot of my adolescence doing my best to ignore the former and rein in the latter. But as a counselor pointed out, suppressing negative emotions or reacting to unwanted thoughts takes physical energy. And I had been a little stressed with wedding and moving planning, so I had been suppressing more negativity than I’d realized.
Until I exerted myself physically and lost the energy I was putting into keeping up the emotional barrier. At least, that’s my working theory.
I didn’t tell the nice front desk lady this. I told her that I’ve never been able to lean too far forward (which is true – I can’t do a somersault or a cartwheel, and I always think I’m going to fall when I try to touch my toes) and that was probably it.
But it was an interesting reminder to pay attention to how my body reacts to stress.