LONG RUN: RISING FROM ASHES

Friday, March 20, 2015

wintertime-bike-ride

On Thursday nights we go to spin class.

This sixty minutes is at once my most anticipated and most dreaded workout of the week.  We’ve been going to this spin class consistently for about two years and if my math is correct, I’d say that the average time from class start to feeling like I’m going to puke is 17 minutes.

Last night was no different. After being leveled by the flu at the New Year and an epic respiratory infection in Honduras, I am still building back to my fitness base state and, good heavens, I was feeling this workout.

The best part of this class is the instructor. My first memory of her is from about five year ago when she came to the gym on a Sunday morning with freshly marked triathlon numbers.  At that point I knew nothing about triathlon and thought it was odd for someone to have their age sharpied on their calf.  A few minutes later I overheard a fellow inquiring as to whether she’d completed a local tri that morning. Indeed she had, and then she casually mentioned that she won her age group…and was just getting in a bit of strength work after the tri.

Needless to say, this Thursday night spin class is a killer workout.  But, here’s my favorite part:  her words.  What’s funny is that they are largely the same every week, which means I’ve heard them about a hundred times, but each class they seem to ring true to whatever circumstances life has dealt that week.

Each week as we climb she prompts us to “add another gear, don’t be afraid of it.”  She assures us that our legs are strong enough to climb and that they will only get stronger if this week’s hill is bigger than last week’s hill.

I love running because mental knots seem to dissolve across miles.  I come back from a run and my head is almost always clear.  Cycling presents a challenge in this regard.  I get into a ride and I feel both uncomfortable and stuck.  When I run, I might feel uncomfortable, but I am moving and creating space.  When I am breathing heavily in the middle of spin class, there is something about having my feet strapped onto the bike that makes me feel panicked and trapped.  But, I wonder if this might actually be the best possible position to work through the fear.  You cannot move, you cannot distract yourself with the scenery.  It’s just you and the bike in a dark room.  Feel the fear, but choose to add the gear anyways.  I realized this is how I can avert the panic:  confront the fear and ride through it.

After spin, I picked up Thai takeout then came home and while scanning Netflix documentary options stumbled upon Rising from Ashes.  If you are having trouble finding motivation for your long ride or run this weekend, watch this.  Seriously.  The documentary follows the building of Team Rwanda, the nation’s cycling team, in the aftermath of the genocide.  This is one of the best stories of sport that I have ever seen and it serves as a powerful reminder that “the most devastating circumstances can yield the most powerful forms of hope.”  The documentary is at once tragic, full of hope, and a beautiful portrayal of the power of the bike as a vehicle for each of us.  Ride on, friends.

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