A RUNNER WHO SPINS

1968-schwinn-exerciser

I’ve been running since high school—when my dad would drag me out of the house in the early hours before school. He practically had to push me around the lake in those early days. “It’s good for you,” he’d say. “It’s too cold/snowy/rainy/early/dark,” I would complain in response.

After college, I found running again (shortly after paying attention to the fact that college had not been good for my pants size). In those early days, I found motivation to get out the door no matter what the weather (winter in Vancouver is cold, and rainy, and dark) and then came my first 5k, then a 10k, and over the last ten years my relationship with running has completely transformed. All those things that outsiders think are silly came true. I grew to love the run, the high afterward, the quiet time in my head while pounding the pavement, the sweat, even the days when running wasn’t fun—it felt good.

But after I ran my first marathon in 2013, I started to feel a little disconnected and a little disinterested. I have always been a goal-oriented person, and accomplishing the farthest distance I will ever attempt I couldn’t really see what was next. And after 13-, 16-, 20-mile training runs, a quick 4-mile loop seemed… lacking, in a weird way. So during a lackluster winter, I turned away from treadmills and trails and went to find motivation somewhere else: the spin bike.

I’ve been spinning as an alternative to running in the winter for years—because seriously, people who say they like treadmills are high, or crazy, or both. I always liked the loud music, having someone in your ear for a full hour “encouraging” you to go further, faster, harder. It’s a good compliment to running. I loved the feeling of getting off the bike and not knowing if you’re going to be able to walk down the stairs. I had taken really awesome spin classes—and really bad ones. I had always thought teaching spin would be a fun challenge. So that winter, when a random connection led to an offer to teach, I decided to give it a go.

Last May, the day after the Brooklyn Half Marathon (which would turn out to be a bad decision), I went up to the Bronx and spent eight hours learning the inner workings and ideas behind the concept of Spinning. Three full hours on a bike (ouch), five hours of classroom learning , and one online test later, I became a certified Spin instructor. And I had a regular Thursday evening class to teach in Brooklyn, at a brand-new gym.

Teaching spin is fun. I love being the master of my own playlist. I love talking in front of a group of people, and I LOVE being in charge. There is nothing more motivating to getting in shape that getting up in front of a group of people who are expecting you to be knowledgeable about fitness. No one is getting inspired by a lazy, flabby instructor—so last summer I finally started lifting weights regularly (and no kidding, it totally works). And I made new friends with the other instructors at the gym, which being friends with really fit people makes you want to be super fit as well (no one wants to be the fat friend).

Like so many things, teaching spin is, of course, harder than it looks. But I hit a stride, and had a few regulars and genuinely looked forward to teaching spin every week (getting paid to work out didn’t hurt either). But one of the most unexpected effects of spinning has been on my running. Turns out all those articles you read about cross-training are true—even though I was running far less over the last year, I can still bang out a solid five-miler and feel good. And in a bigger way, I’ve gotten back to appreciating running as an alternative to spinning. I appreciate the relative quiet of my runs now, I like flying solo and not having the responsibility of looking after a class of people.

Taking a quasi-break from running to teach spin actually was exactly what my running needed. For various reasons, I’ve taken a break from teaching since January, but I’m certified for three years and I fully expect to find myself back in the saddle sooner rather than later. Finding a balance between running and spinning was just what I needed, to reinvigorate myself.