Breaking Away By: Michael Courteau

It used to be that I was afraid that I might not survive the grueling workouts of my spinning instructors. Now I am afraid that I will not survive without them.

What started as a modest campaign to stay in reasonable shape after last summer’s cycling season became so much more. Spinning became a tri-weekly mental and physical diagnostic test for me. It became a drug. It became a religion.

If I had a bad week—one of those weeks that impoverishes the spirit, I knew that, through indoor cycling, I could throw ballast back to the other side, the right side of whichever side I was on, and find my equilibrium. Sometimes it was the encouraging, spiritually nourishing mantras recited by the many excellent instructors at the Life Time Fitness in Highland Park that put pep back into my step. Always, without fail, it was the punishing workouts that left me gasping for breath, way beyond my lactic threshold, and begging for more.

I have heard it said that if you want to get in shape, really good shape, you have to suffer. You have to love to suffer. And I have fallen in love with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am as prone as the next guy or gal, perhaps even more so, to succumbing to the temptations of the grape and losing myself in a bottle of Malbec. I ain’t no saint.

But, perhaps like most pilgrims at some time or another, I have found myself at a crossroads. Spinning season is over. For me, anyway. The classes that worked with my schedule, the classes that I’m likely to attend, have been mothballed until the fall.

Now, it’s all up to me.

For the next three months, I will not be spurred on by the exhortations of my spinning instructors to add more resistance and pedal faster. Nor will I have regular weekly classes to remind me that tonight I had better not overdo it if I want to survive in class tomorrow.

What’s to stop me deleting from my summer schedule tomorrow’s ride that I promised myself when tonight’s Chianti is singing its siren’s song?

I surely do not wish to lose the fitness that I have worked so hard to attain over the last five months. I could not have imagined last December that I would be able to match some of my spinning instructors pedal stroke for pedal stroke like I can now. Back then, I was struggling just to stay in contact with the peloton, to put it into pure cycling terms, and now, I often break away.

I suppose the two best tools for maintaining my current level of fitness are a mirror and a scale. They will tell me if I’ve indulged too much and suffered too little.

So, I better stay after it this summer, because I wouldn’t want to return to spinning class in the fall to discover that I have fallen out of shape and be forced to repeat that Sisyphean feat all over again.

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