Interior – Local health club – Day
A woman tentatively enters a large spacious studio, scouting it out, worried expression clouding her seasoned face. The hardwood floors shine as if recently polished. Mirrors line the back wall from ceiling to floor, stationary bikes tightly stacked to the left and right of the room, piles of clean white towels flank both sides of the door, upbeat music playing in the background, with the sun bursting through a wall of windows along the back of the studio.
The fitness instructor adjusts her bike in the center of the room, arms like pistons, with an ass as tight as a drum. Not intimidating at all. Students scattered about the studio, wearing unique combinations of trendy lycra, carrying matching water bottles, and white hand towels.
Cheryl moves tepidly into the vast room masking her fear with an awkward smile. She watches the participants wheeling their bikes into place, making adjustments, while casually greeting one another. Friendly, calm atmosphere. She thinks to herself this could be a screenplay. #selffulfillingprophesy
Cheryl: (Reflective) What the hell am I doing here?
[A cadence of banal chatter and friendly greetings fill the room.]
Cheryl: (Self-conscious) In a snug lavender tank and tight lycra pants. If I leave now everyone will think I was just checking out the facility, I have seconds to decide, every fiber in my body is telling me to run.
Marcia: (Magnanimous) The ridiculously fit instructor marches over to welcome Cheryl to the class, her approach is friendly, open.
Cheryl: (Intimidated) Absolutely nothing moves when this woman walks. Is she real? Just smile, she’s not going to hurt you.
Marcia: (Merciful) A newbie. “Roll your bike over here honey. Yes. Just drag it. Good.” She pushes Cheryl’s hip next to the seat and starts adjusting the settings, she has Cheryl lean across the bike as she fiddles with the handlebars. “You’re so tall.”
Cheryl: (Joking) “I’ve never been able to hide it well.” Short people always mention my height? Why is that?
Marcia: (Confused) English is not her first language. “Here is where you adjust the resistance, see, higher and lower. Good, you’re all set.”
Cheryl: (Worried) “Okay, let me just confirm this way is lower, less resistance, great, thanks.” Seems nice enough but first impressions can often be misleading.
[Participants continue arriving, roll their bikes into position, and start warming up. Marcia finishes adjusting her bike, turns up the music, and starts pedaling slowly with her back to the mirrored wall.]
Cheryl: (Confident) Begins pedaling slowly, adjusting the tension to the lowest possible setting, blissfully unaware it will take every ounce of reserve to finish the damn class. This is not so bad. I totally got this.
Marcia: (Propitious) “Let’s go. Everyone good today? That’s great, let’s do this, knees up, keep those knees over your feet. Let’s go, warm it up. Yes, looking good. Relax the shoulders. That’s right.”
Cheryl: (Cautious) Two minutes into the warm-up. I’m exhausted. This can not be good.
Cheryl: (Concerned) Four minutes – sweat is forming over her entire body and she is extremely worried if her knees are positioned incorrectly. This spin class could damage me for life? No one else is sweating. Shit. How long is this class? It can’t be more than 30 minutes? People would die? That wouldn’t be good for business.
Marcia: (Reassuring) Smiling broadly at the students. “Good, pick up the pace now. Let’s go.”
Cheryl: (Distressed) “Pick up the pace?” Did I say that out loud? Ten torturous minutes have passed. Sweating profusely, her ass slips slightly to the right, upsetting her balance, dislodging her foot from the pedal saddle, the bike jerks to a sudden stop, almost toppling Cheryl from the seat. Jesus, I’m strapped to the pedals like a prisoner, trying to balance my entire body on a rock hard seat the size of a child’s shoe. This is a ridiculous way to exercise.
Cathy: (Perky) Stationed next to Cheryl, at least ten years her senior, friendly demeanor. Turns to Cheryl. “Just keep spinning, even if you can’t keep the same speed, just pedal at your own pace, the idea is to finish the class.”
Cheryl: “Good advice, I’m just trying to stay on the bike.” How’s that going for you?
Cathy: (Laughing) “I remember my first class.”
Cheryl: Is she laughing at me? Fifteen minutes of intense torture. This instructor is clinically insane.
Marcia: (Euphoric) “Okay, time to turn up the resistance, that’s right, you’re riding uphill now. Okay, good, bring it up. Standing now, push those pedals, fast as possible. Good, hold it 10, 9, 8…”
Cheryl: (Incredulous) She wants us to not only turn up the resistance but expects us to stand while peddling as if I’m a member of Cirque du Soleil. She tries to stand once but worries that she might be going into cardiac arrest.
Cathy: (Savior Complex) Smiles, keeping perfect pace with the instructor. “You’re doing great.”
Cheryl: (Softly Whimpering) Wiping the sweat from her face with a towel, “I might be dying.” I’ve heard such great things about spin classes. What the hell? By the way the clock isn’t moving? Einstein would have a heyday with this phenomena.
Marcia: (Pushing hard) “Okay, let’s bring it up again. Holding, keep it up, good, hold, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Down 4, 3, 2, 1. Okay up, hold…” This pattern continues for the next fifteen minutes.
Cheryl: (Tormented) This must be a glimpse into what it would be like to burn in agony for all eternity. I just want to leap from the bike and run straight to McDonald’s. She tries to quiet the rapid squeaking or ticking sound coming from her own lips.
Marcia: (Enthusiastic) “Alright you’re half way there people. Le’t bring is up again. Great, you got it, hold it up, shoulders back, stay loose. On the count of eight, good, let’s go, bring it up to 74. Good, keep it there.”
Cheryl: (Traumatized) Face beet red, breathing hard, sweating profusely. The positivity is absolutely nauseating. Forty-five minutes into the class. My blood is confused, it doesn’t know where to go, every muscle is in need of oxygen. Oh dear God please don’t let me faint.
Marcia: (Ecstatic) “Almost there, let’s go, five more minutes, up, hold, down, up, hold, down. Keep it going. (After five grueling minutes.) That’s it, slow it down. Good job everyone.”
Cheryl: (Badass) I stayed on this hideous instrument of torture for an entire hour and finished the class without moaning out loud. #goalAF
Two nights before infamous spin class.
End of the day, dusk, a quiet and calm evening.
Interior, brick kitchen, cream tile, hardwood floors. Cheryl, in sweats, sits at the dark wood kitchen table grading papers online while Larry, in slacks and Santa Clara University t-shirt, unpacks a Blue Apron box, deciding on which ingredients to cook for dinner.
Larry: (Animated) Stops what he’s doing, exits to his office, returns flapping a flyer around the kitchen, waves it a tad to close to Cheryl’s face. “Look what came in the mail today!”
Cheryl: (Irritated) “Pour me some wine sweetheart, I need reinforcement, I have twenty papers to go. Did you get another coupon for a free car wash?”
Larry: (Cheerful) Moving confidently to the cupboard, brings down two wine glasses. “No, no, it’s far better. It’s a advertisement for a gym membership. We should celebrate.”
Cheryl: (Phlegmatic) “Oh no, I’m afraid that is not in the budget dear. Remember, we’re cutting back, no unnecessary expenditures. I believe those were your exact words.” Did he bump his head at Cross Fit this morning? Feeling annoyed.
Larry: (Enthusiastic) “They’re offering reduced rates for teachers and senior citizens and they cutting the initiation fees. It’s a great deal!”
Cheryl: (Bemused) She looks up as if trying to explain quantum physics to a child. “Honey that is because teachers don’t have time to go to the gym and seniors only have so much time left. It’s free money. Do I qualify for both? With all this excitement please don’t forget my wine.”
Larry: (Determined) Moves towards the table with the wine glasses but no wine. “You work part-time. This is perfect for you.”
Cheryl: (Escalation) “Pardon me? I’m not only a highly experienced grandma but I blog.” (Pause for emphasis)
Larry: (Flippant) “Oh yes, let us not forget The Blog.”
Cheryl: (Insulted) “I’m sure there’s a catch like you have to be between the ages of 45 and 46 with a Phd., minimal body fat, and memorize a secret creed.”
Larry: (Persistant) “It’s a health club, there’s no catch, it’s fitness for all ages, body types, and lifestyles.”
Cheryl: (Humored) He sounds like an advertisement for the YMCA. “Honey, let’s not completely ignore the budget. It’s irresponsible.”
Larry: (Decisive) As if a lawyer breaking a case he pounds his fist on the table. “You have never considered the budget in your entire life and you’ve been whining about getting more exercise for two years. Here’s your chance.”
Cheryl: (Divert) “I’ve been whining about wine.” He should really have his ears checked.
Larry: (Brave) He finally hands Cheryl a small glass of wine. “I made an appointment for tomorrow morning at the gym. They’ll give us a tour and explain the program. We’ll decide when we have all the information.”
Cheryl: (Paniced) “Oh no, that won’t work, I was going to wash my hair tomorrow.”
Larry: (Not Having It) He gives her the look.
Cheryl: (Acquiesces) This is what you do after thirty-five years of marriage when your partner says something crazy. A gym membership? What next? Partner yoga? She giggles at her own thoughts.
Larry: (Wise) He chooses to ignore his wife and continues prepping for dinner.
Outside, crowded parking lot, sun is shinning. Larry and Cheryl are walking out of the gym, no one is talking, as they weave their way through the cars. He smiles as he opens the door for her to get in and walks around to the drivers side.
Cheryl: I joined a gym. Whatever.
Interior. Gym – day. It is the end of spin class, in studio, Cheryl makes a sloppy attempt to get off the bike.
Cheryl: (Horrified) With little stability she drags herself off the seat and struggles to bring her opposing leg across the bike. It going to take an act of God to stand erect. I’m not kidding. I may never speak to Larry again.
Marcia: The instructor begins walking students through a series of stretches. “That’s good, take it slow, let’s stretch out our calfs.”
Cheryl: (Alarmed) It is difficult to see past the sweat stinging her eyes but she notices people are actually stretching and smiling, as if we just came from a lecture on the benefits of recycling. She tries to bend but her body refuses to cooperate. I sort of want to cry but it seems inappropriate.
Marcia: (Docent) “That’s right, grab your right foot, pull it back with your right hand, balance, hold, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Good other foot. Balance is so important especially as we age.” She innocently glances in Cheryl’s direction.
Cheryl: Is she looking at me?
Marcia: “If you have trouble balancing hold onto the bike.”
Cheryl: What am I a stork? Cheryl is having trouble standing on two feet so she hangs onto the bike with both hands. Safety first.
Marcia: “Good job everyone, remember to return your bikes, next class needs the floor.”
Cheryl: (Aghast) The fun never ends. All the way over there? Really? Maybe someone will take pity on me, like they do in airplanes, and help me with this baggage. Where are all the gentlemen?
Cathy: (Rescue Complex) Person spinning next to Cheryl, attempts to distract the new student with idle chatter. “We had two barn owls take up residence in our back yard. They’re so fun to watch. Interesting creatures, loud, sort of dramatic.”
Cheryl: (Confused) Is she comparing me to Barn Owls? (Trying to appear polite) “Owls, how interesting.”
[Barn Owls make a wide variety of sounds, alarm shrieks, chatty calls, and a rapid squeaking or ticking sound.] #me
Marcia: Walks towards Cheryl smiling. “You did great. Made it through the whole class. It will be easier next time.”
Cheryl: Did she say next time? She is totally unaware how insane that sounds. I can actually feel the muscles in my legs stiffening up as we speak. “Can’t wait.”
Cathy: (Optimist) “I’ll bring you a picture of the Barn Owls next time, (attempt at humor) they’re a hoot.”
Cheryl: (Not humored.) “Good one,” struggling to safely store the instrument of torture against the back wall. Above and beyond the call of duty.
Marcia: “Don’t forget to wipe the bikes down with an antibacterial sheet available by the back door.”
Cheryl: (Overwhelmed) It’s just too much.
[Before throwing herself down on the ground in a total tantrum…]
Cathy: The owl lady grabs a few extra antibacterial sheets on her way back. “Here you go.”
Cheryl: (Indebted) “Thank you.” May God bless you and your children, and your children’s children… After cleaning the gym equipment she tries to dab the sweat from her body with a sopping wet hand towel while calculating the distance from the studio to the women’s locker room. Goals – find my purse, drive home.
Joann: (Adept) Coming out of the same spin class, but from the other side of the room, dressed in an adorable navy sweat outfit, barely sweating at all. “Is that Cheryl Oreglia?”
Cheryl: (Shocked) Lord have mercy. Who is hailing me? Cheryl turns around to see a friend from high school, someone she hasn’t seen in at least twenty years, approaching her. Perfect. This is exactly the look I was going for, drowned rat, with no perceivable control over my bodily functions. “Hi Joanne!” I’m pretty sure she wants to take my pulse but politely resists.
Joann: (Attentive) After the rapid catch up thing, “How did you like the class?”
Cheryl: (Totally lies) “It was awesome but grueling.” I can’t believe I used the word awesome.
Joann: (Laughs) “It gets easier each time, just take it at your own pace.”
Cheryl: (Acquiesces) “I might try yoga next.”
Joann: (Boosterish) “That would be good. I do yoga on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, let’s exchange numbers, maybe we can do a class together.”
Cheryl: (Torpor) Feeling faint, but still able to recall her phone number, “408… ” And just like that I found a gym buddy!
After parting ways with Joann, Cheryl continues limping on to the lady’s locker room, with a stroke of genius finds her purse, buys a cold water at the front desk, and makes her way slowly to the car. She sits quietly, attempting to identify which body parts are still functioning. My right foot and left hand. This will have to do.
Cheryl: (Elated) I really should have Ubered.
“It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more elaborate, our identities clouded by fear, the horizon safely in the distance,the essay longer than it need to be and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility.” David Whyte
Topics For Discussion:
What do you fear most – trying something new or never trying?
Where are you inflexible?
What stretches you?
How do you approach new situations?
Who supports you?
Who discourages you?
What is your greatest strength?
In need of improvement?
If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?
What do you hope to accomplish with this one precious life?
I’m Living in the Gap, in the tub, sulking, I mean soaking.
Notes to self:
- OMGino, my niece, a rockstar spinner, how does she do it?
- Buy more lycra
- Bring water to class
- Am I over doing Spin Class?
This post was previously published on CheryLoreglia and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: istockphoto