'Feel the burn!' she says. I hate the fucking burn.
I am in a spinning class at 9.30am on a Monday morning. I'm pushing it and cranking it and violently hating it. Turns out, as verified by a friend who knows, even childbirth would have been a better way to start my week and my year.
It was, as I growled through gritted teeth and 'climbed that hill', hell on earth.
What was I thinking?
Don't be fooled. This wasn't my first spinning class. I tried it last year and managed three whole sessions before I made a somewhat unconscious decision to simply not go any more. It was hard and a long way out of my 'comfort zone'. But it was doable. I did it.
So I thought I knew what I was signing up to. But last year I'd been to an evening class. It was at an hour when you've been up for a while and had a few coffees. You have, by the end of the work day, managed to create a semblance of coherence and togetherness and you feel like an acceptable member of the human race.
This is not the case at 9.30 on a Monday morning.
Sleepwalking into the jaws of the beast
So it's Monday and getting up is not so easy. I don't help myself by crawling out of bed only fifteen minutes before I have to leave. Stretchy sweat clothes on. Clean teeth. Water - must drink water. Where are my keys? Oh god, I'm going to be late.
It's only as I'm cycling uphill to the gym - a cruel form of warmup - that I realise I've had no breakfast. Can you spin on an empty stomach? Probably not a good idea. So I buy an overpriced gym banana and wolf down half before bounding (ha ha) up the stairs to 'indoor cycling'.
It being 9.30 on a Monday I imagine the class will be quiet. Wrong again. As I walk through the door I'm confronted by a packed, mirror-walled room and the sound of a girl bragging to her friend, 'yea, I've been here since quarter to eight.' What? Who gets to the gym that early? And stays there? Only to do a spin class an hour and three quarters later?
Rather than entering a safe, quiet class, I had walked straight into a masochistic fitness-freak's fun zone. Crap.
Well I've paid for it now
Already I know this is a mistake but I can hardly walk out and lose face in front of those springy-ponytailed winners. So I hoist my seat, raise the handle bars (poorly as I learn shortly after when we are asked to do press ups on them and mine simply sink down under my sluggish weight), and clamber on.
The lights go out. The disco lights come on. My body clock screams. The skull-rattling music pumps out. 'Let's go!'. Oh god.
I'm right by the door. I could just sneak out. Not a motivating thought two minutes into a 45-minute session. On the other hand, I have paid £6.40 for this torture and I'm not one to waste such extravagances. So my feet remain fixed in the pedals and I push on in a twisted effort to get my money's worth.
It was all a blur
It didn't get any better. At any point. No endorphins kicked in. No surge of energy. Just jaw ache from clenching my teeth and sweat. Not glowing, wow-what-a-workout sweat, but sticky, roasting, uncomfortable sweat.
Every five minutes I thought, 'have I done enough to warrant £6.40? Can I bolt yet?' But the longer it went on, the more I realised the hell I had survived thus far would be for nothing if I didn't make it to the end. And somehow that was worse.
So I stuck it out right through to the cool down, ritually disinfected my seat (it's all so visceral in these places) and left with the energised masses.
And then I cycled home. In the rain.
Fine. January is about trying different things, figuring out a direction for the new year. This experience was utterly without saving grace, but it did at least teach me a lesson. Early morning intensive exercise is not for me. That is not who I am. Fine.
I could reconcile losing a morning to learn that lesson. But it wasn't long before a dull headache began to throb. Probably dehydration. Chug chug, bit of lunch and I'll be fine. Maybe some ibuprofen too, just in case.
Very much not fine.
By mid afternoon I was flat out in the dark suffering the worst migraine I've had in years. Throbbing, nausea, tear-inducing pain. I was barely able to sit up before it was time to go to bed.
Not only had I exercised monumentally poor judgement in signing up for the class in the first place, but my miserly calculation not to waste £6.40 had cost me the entire day. Turns out, I really did feel the burn.