Stationery Cycling is NOT Stupid: Spin into Shape

Disclaimer: I do know how to ride a real bike that moves, but I also live in San Francisco- the city filled with hills, one-way streets, and cars driving in the same lane as cyclists. I’m so easily startled that I worry about OTHER people on bikes. I just can’t use it as a way of transportation here without potentially having heart attack scares constantly. Just can’t.

This is why I love spin class. Getting roughly the same exercise indoors without the risks of accidents, sun burns, and bug bites anytime regardless of the weather outside? Sign me up.

Definitely a love/hate relationship.


My qualifications: About 20 classes in the past 6 months

What it is: You ride on a bike that doesn’t go anywhere, but you can adjust the resistance to simulate going uphill or on a flat road.

What you’ll actually be doing: Cardio. A whole hour or so of non-stop cardio. Strength & endurance training. The instructors will let you know what pace of a certain number of rotations per minute to follow, and when to add or decrease resistance. They also try to make the class less boring by mixing in intervals, riding off the saddle, or “jumps” where you switch your positions while continuously pedaling, etc. Usually there’s a bit of time for you to stretch in the end.

What you’ll be working on: Besides obviously working the leg muscles and building your stamina, cycling actually also uses your core a lot since you have to lift your knees up to do each pedal, which forces you to contract your abs. It also helps with your hips and rear end. Gotta look good in those leggings or skinny jeans!

What to do about the bike machines: I’ve tried spin at three locations and they all had different machines. Some are more customizable than others in that you can adjust the seat and the handlebars both vertically and horizontally to allow you to be in the best posture. If you’re an average height person (unlike me), then the most basic machine should suit you fine. Some bikes are more high-tech than others with sensors to monitor your heart rate, or have a color screen, etc.

Music you are most likely going to hear during class: Songs that gradually build up, or super upbeat music. All genres besides country, pretty much. Personally I think the background sound is crucial here in a spin class. We can’t help but try to move to the beat of the current track, which is why good instructors know the importance of pre-made playlists. There have been many moments where I thought I was too tired, but when a Rihanna song comes on, I revived and pushed my pedals to the rhythm while mentally singing “WHERRRRRRRE HAAAAAVE YOUUUUUU BEEEEEN ALLLLL MYYYY LI-AYEEE-FE!”

Sweaty tank top or performance art inspired by an Rothko painting?

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Be Nice To Your Body By Making It Do Difficult Stuff

There is a lot of downtime at high school cross country meets.

It’s not even 9 PM on a Tuesday and I’m already wearing my robe and sniffling in my bed. I had been drinking every night for 6 days straight, and even though my alcohol intake is always moderate, it’s taking a toll on my body. Also incidentally I have not worked out at all during that time period, unless you count intoxicated dancing on stage.

When I was a kid, I used to get sick at least once a month. Or at least that’s how often it felt like. I went to the doctor so much that I had “favorite medicines.” Although my grandma is an excellent cook who makes balanced meals and I was as much of a glutton back then as I am now, I was stick-thin despite all the older folks’ efforts to put more food on my plate.

The Taiwanese educational system does not put much emphasis on physical education at all. At my elementary school, we had PE once a week and the activities seemed to rotate mainly among badminton, ping pong, hacky sack, and dodge ball. The boys sometimes had basketball games while the girls cheered on.

Then I moved to Modesto, California. At Teel Middle School, students were judged on their ability to finish the mile under a certain amount of at the end of each grading period, so I got a D in PE the first semester. I forgot what was the exact passing rate, but I am sure it was around 18 minutes.

Growing up in Taipei, I did not have a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities. We left the city on the weekends sometimes, but it wasn’t enough. I slowly became healthier and stronger in suburban Modesto by simply just playing outside more. Freshman year in high school was when I had the brilliant idea of trying to join a sports team, when the last adjective anyone would use for me was “fit.” I don’t remember why I made that decision but I suspect it has something to do with adding extracurricular activities on my college application. Thank you for that one, overachieving tendencies!

After not making the cut for our high school softball and volleyball teams as predicted, someone told me that our track & field was short on people. I showed up and immediately was told to go to the long distance running and jumping events coach “because he doesn’t have enough people.” Thus began my ongoing habit of exercising.

That first few weeks were absolutely brutal. I was hurting in places of my body that I was not aware could be capable of pain. I visibly limped around and I often sat on the edge of a bathtub to submerge my legs in ice-cold water. Thankfully my dad was studying to be a massage therapist at the same time, so I was his grateful guinea pig almost every day after the two-hour gruesome practice. I eventually got over it and joined cross country running, too, even though I never placed in anything.

I can tell you later more about all the tips I picked up about running during those four years, but my point is that I really believe everyone should exercise in any way they can. I am not athletic at all and I was born that way without any good genes to help me. Very hard to believe, but I am the most “sportsy” person in my family. I try to exercise as much as I can because all the health benefits of fitness were proven true on me. I don’t think I ever even caught a cold in high school since I started running.

A group of our sixth grade classmates have stayed in touch over the years, and I cannot help but notice the drastic physical differences between my old female classmates and me, even though we were all in similar shape when I left.

People tell me all the time, “Oh that’s so cool you do _____. I wish I can do that.” The thing is: YOU CAN. Nothing brand new is ever easy at first. I definitely made a fool of myself countless times but you gotta start somewhere and the pay-off will totally be worth it!

In a few days I’m starting a new series here about each type of exercise and dance classes I’ve tried over the years to hopefully convince you to try them at least once. I’ve taken so many different classes because I am lazy inherently and I want to find the ones that I can stick with. And I’m not very good at self-discipline, either, so I willingly pay someone to encourage/yell at me in a group setting where I feel the peer pressure to not slack off that much.

C’mon, people. Let’s do this so we can all look as good as Rob Lowe or Jennifer Aniston when we’re 45 years old.