by Charlie Nickell


If one more runner on a cross-training bender gushes about how great spin class is, I’m taking hostages. Where is the fun in pedaling a bike missing a wheel for 45 minutes while going absolutely nowhere, while listening to rap remixes of Taylor Swift songs? I don’t get it. Isn’t the point of turning mechanical cranks via human power to actually create forward motion — to go somewhere in life? When the excitement of spin class ends and you return to your car do you just rev the engine for the next hour without leaving the parking lot? Hey, why not — the engine gets a good workout.

It’s interesting to note that I’ve never been asked to attend a treadmill class. Why would I? Who needs some overly groomed fitness instructor barking orders on how to run on a perfectly balanced treadmill? If you stop moving your feet on a treadmill, you can kill yourself — yet no safety or motivational instructor exists. If you stop peddling your spin class device, I’m pretty sure the crank shaft stops moving. Spin “bikes” look pretty stable and self explanatory. My couch doesn’t tend to shift around. Do I need a couch coach to keep my heart at the proper aerobic rate while mowing through my Cheetos and channel surfing for “The Shawshank Redemption?”

OK, I admit it: It’s not a balance issue that requires a spin instructor. The purpose of the instructor is for pure distraction since you’re not really going anywhere and they (evil corporate America) don’t want you figuring that out? If you really liked to bike, you’d be outdoors, and there are no monthly fees for that so the corporate health spin is on full throttle to keep you indoors (where you belong).

252690_10150198176756861_251061411860_7581590_1574870_nI have a used LifeCycle in my garage for rainy days when I can’t run outside. It has a “Hill” program that I mostly use. I typically peddle the device for 48 minutes and after the program finishes, the LifeCycle turns off and the LCD displays three meaningless totals: 48 minutes exercise time (oh thanks, that was so confusing, what day is it?), 6.4 miles covered and 680 calories burned. OK, so 48 minutes makes sense. Looks like the LifeCycle and the rotation of the Earth around the sun are in sync. What about the 6.4 miles? I haven’t moved forward one physical inch, much less 6.4 miles. It’s a three-car garage, for crissakes. Hmm, 680 calories burned. How does the machine actually calculate my metabolic burn rate? The only thing touching the bike is my butt. I typically drink an entire bottle of CarboPro 1200 30-minutes into the mind-numbing drill. I’d bet I’m carbo-loading 800 calories or more during the supposed workout. And, my garage slab is at a slight downgrade so when the water heater blows, killing our pet salamanders, everything drains out the driveway. Admittedly, if you run street marathons my garage is a major hill but to me it’s flatter than Cameron Diaz. Make no mistake, the LifeCycle and its evolutionary evil offshoot, the dreaded Spin Bike and associated classes, are closely related.

What’s the point here? If you’re going to move your feet around for hours on end, wouldn’t it make more sense to do it outside and actually experience something? The point of exercising, in my so humble opinion, is to detach from human-made devices (stereos, buildings, CNN, strip malls, Danskins, male Spandex workout pants) and tap into the real world that supports your very existence; focus on the oxygen process instead of some chick’s/dude’s sweaty gluts. Do we need 42-inch plasma screens with some motormouth Honey Badger telling us to spin faster? “You’re doing great. Jane, excellent work going absolutely nowhere.” Last time I checked, “spinning your wheels” was an expression of wasting one’s time.

Spin class, like its many robotic predecessors — aerobics, dancer-size, step aerobics, T-Bow, the foxtrot, whatever — are just weak attempts for the 24 Hour Witless operations to keep the masses from getting bored in the freakazoid environment known to the thankful animal kingdom as the indoor gym. The small, grungy lockers with naked guys drying themselves off sprawled out under the wall hand dryers — egads, it’s all so normal until you go for a long run or ride and think about it.

News flash: stationary bikes with some person yelling at you indoors is not fun. Great workout? Super to hear, good luck in your next stationary ultra or century ride. Here’s a tip: If you go to a garage sale and there’s a bike with one wheel, tell the guy it’s broken and you’ll haul it off for five bucks. Spending four grand on a Lance Armstrong or similar spin bike is the scam of the century; it’s like buying a Ferrari with no rear end.

I could go on for hours, but I have a “trampolining” class tonight and have to split. Oh, never heard of it? I’m totally hooked on the group mini-trampoline phenomenon at Three Hour Exercise Emporium. I’m going to log 35-minutes of indoor fly time with a total gain of over 17 vertical air miles and never leave a 4×3 space inside some converted warehouse that I don’t recognize as such because they’ve cleverly painted the air ducts and ceiling jet black. The camouflage is so real it’s like staring into the sky on a crisp winter night. Is that Venus? I could stay forever.

Charlie Nickell is a free lance writer and entrepreneur from Southern California. As a seasoned endurance runner, he editorially covers ultramarathons and other events from the runner’s point of view. His entertaining perspectives are designed to inform and entertain. With a triathlete wife and three children, Charlie lives an active lifestyle by following the mantra “your health is your wealth.”

2 Responses

  1. avatar

    Good ‘ole’ Charlie, you sounda little bit negative!!! I am nearing 65 years young, have been involved in trithlon,ultra running and bikeing, and mt. bike stuff for nearly 30 years.I also have been leading ‘spinning’ classes for a local YMCA for about 8 years 3 days per week. I have an incrdible range of age, background, goals and abilities in my classes. In fact the core group of the class have become friends, and some have been encouraged to even do other forms of exercise,i.e., running, biking, swimming and even triathlons. I am sure your piece was mostly a humerous dig at a form of exercise you have not REALly expierenced. I don’t yell at or demean my classmates, but for some this is one of their ways of staying healthy, and also socializing rather then running miles and miles all alone for the most part, and then going home, ha, ha ha. I think that we as athletes are here to promote any form of exercise that engages another person and contributes to their health, I would NEVER,EVER put down any persons choice of exercise, even those CRAZY PEOPLE that run 100 mile events, but would celebrate their incredible ability, and would hope they could embrace my choice to sit on a one wheeled bike and ride with friends to some GREAT music. Come join me for a class and just maybe you will have a great time, burn a little of your fat, and be winded enough to just hang in their with some of my senior riders. Sincerely, and cordially yours, Jerry Wildermuth

  2. avatar

    By the way Charlie, if you want you can send me one of your shirts, any color would do. And I could wear it and share your great joy of the outdoors. No other logo other than your logo is necessary. We don’t get many free things in life, and so there it is. I did like your article, and I enjoyed the opportunity to ‘debate’. JW

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