Spinning in Manila: A Survivor’s Tale

This is not your average spin class where you get on a stationary bike and pedal ‘til your glutes and biceps feel monstrous. This — is spinning on steroids. Image from Ride Revolution’s Facebook page

Why are you here? She asked, her voice breathless and strangely intimate in the dark. Why are you clipped in?

My legs burn.  It’s cold, but I have sweat coming off me like May showers. It feels a little like I’m having peri-menopausal hot flashes except that this one is about to go on for 50 minutes. Right now, I’m only on minute 15.

The only answer I can think of to her question is . . .  that I can’t escape?

Cycling to Nowhere

The club atmosphere, from the insane lights to the music, will fuel you up
Image from Ride Revolution Facebook page

She yells at everyone to get ready to take it up a notch. Everyone woops and leans in, anticipating the beat to drop. My grip tightens. She turns up the music and the lights come back on to reveal a roomful of heavy breathing, sweaty masochists. All of us furiously moving our legs to a Post Malone remix.

You’d be forgiven to think that I’ve stumbled into some sort of fetish club.

But this, is spinning.

A form of indoor cycling, high-intensity, low-impact workout that claims to burn up to 800 calories per class. If you’re anything like me, that’s a solid excuse to scarf down a sugar glazed donut or two post session.

The trouble is I may have to hobble to Krispy Kreme after this class.

Sass and Sanity for Your Cardio

Everyone’s asked to sign a waiver before the class because the energy in here may be too much for some
Image from Ride Revolution Facebook page

With Manila woefully lacking in accessible facilities that would allow for outdoor pursuits without being assaulted by traffic, pollution or a million people texting while walking, spinning is the perfect solution to anyone looking to add some sanity and sass into their cardio routine.

Which brings me here now. In one of the many spinning studios sprouting up in the city. The bouncy twenty something at the reception asks me how I’m feeling today, and I hesitate to tell her that I’m anything less than pumped up. I can only surmise that their spirited, perky demeanor has something to do with regular spinning practice.

I want to be that perky, that energetic and, honestly, that fit enough to squeeze in a tiny sports bra.

I sign my waiver, grab my clip-on cycling shoes and head off to the changing rooms. Immediately, I’m smitten. It’s spartan in there, with nicely folded white towels and free toiletries. Plus, there are enough industrial neon details and positive affirmations etched on walls to make it oh so IG worthy.

Not surprisingly, it’s inspired people around me to whip out their phones and break into an orgy of pouty selfies. Thankfully, the cycle studio itself is a mobile phone free zone, and a good thing too because no one can see what I’ve seen inside there.

A Balance of Grace and Grit

If you think you can’t spin your legs, move your upper body to synch with the beats, and stand up on your bike without falling off and causing all the other bikes to tumble — think again
Image from Ride Revolution Facebook page

And I mean no one can see because even before the class starts, the lights go out.

It’s dark, except for thin light around the square podium where the instructor starts to spin her legs in time with the music. She tells us that we only get what we put in, and as the beat gradually start to pick up, I could swear I see smoke rise around us. But that would be crazy, so I assume it’s just my anxiety escaping my body.

What followed next was 45 minutes of physical and emotional journey that will test your limits and challenge what you think you are capable of.

Think you can’t spin your legs fast enough? Yes, you can.

Think you can’t spin your legs and move your upper body to cheoreography at the same time? Uh, guess again.

Think you can’t do all of that while standing up on your bike and not fall off possibly creating a catastrophic domino effect with the rest of the bikes and people around you? No, that didn’t happen. But besh, I was afraid it would happen.

It’s a precarious balance of grace and grit. Which is why it’s easy to understand that a few people would end up cruising or even sitting out some of the tracks.

But with an average session costing at least, P1,000, it would be a crime not to give it everything and  feel like you deserve a prize for dying on the bike.

After all, this is what I’m really here for, to deserve that extra rice at dinner. Which is ultimately, the prize we’re all after.

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