15 Things I Learned From Indoor Cycling

As I posted last Wednesday, the cycling studio I briefly attended closed its doors 10 days ago. While the owner told me tearfully she had yet to turn a profit and that her dream was over, my mind raced to a bigger issue: what was I going to do now? Join a big-box gym? Shout “time’s up!” to my not-cleared-to-run-from-surgery knee and hit the pavement?

But the dust settled. I’ve moved on.

And as I reflect on my time on a bike, I realize I’ve learned a few things along the virtual road. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Pants are preferable to shorts unless you’re sure of the prior rider’s hygiene.
  2. Apparently I have no obliques because despite the instructor’s shouting encouragement to engage my core and LEAN, I move a pitiful few inches.
  3. It’s not a seat—it’s a saddle.
  4. Whatever it is, it has no padding. And a gel cover makes no difference.
  5. Go conservative when you’re told to “gear up.” You’ll thank yourself when the instructor shouts encourages you to keep adding gear later in the ride.
  6. Sit where you can see the clock.
  7. Don’t mind the defibrillator on the wall—it’s probably just some requirement.
  8. If the class is over and the instructor asks who wants to go another 15 minutes, don’t be proud—chances are no one knows how to use the defibrillator.
  9. There is no coasting in a cycling class.
  10. There are no stop signs or signals, either.
  11. Plan on going directly home. You won’t even look good enough for Home Depot when you’re done.
  12. If the instructor shouts encourages you to “grab a drink,” do it. Pretty soon the only thing you’ll hear is your heart pounding in your ears.
  13. Bring a towel. Not a washcloth—a towel. The thirstier, the better.
  14. “Almost there” means 5 different things to 5 different instructors.
  15. If the instructor stops to help someone to the ground before that someone faints and hits their head on the concrete floor (true story), watch the clock yourself or that 1-minute sprint you were promised could easily go long. (See # 6.)

Running For Dummies

No, I’m not implying you’re a dummy; after all, you’re reading my post—that’s a testament to your intellect right there.

But I’ve been challenged to explain running in such a way a child could understand it. Which is ironic, because kids and running go together like devil’s food and cake.

For the sake of this assignment, though, let’s break it down.

Invest in decent running shoes. You will be spared untold agony if you purchase from a specialty running store (sorry, Sports Authority). They have people who know what they’re doing, not some high school kid earning minimum wage on weekends. And dress nicely—chances are you’ll be videotaped while running so they can check your footstrike.

Stretching is optional. Want to start a firestorm? Ask a group of runners what they think of stretching—it’ll make a presidential debate look like two best friends chatting over coffee.

Start out slow—slower lower than you think is necessary. So what if you appear turtle-esque to passersby? Better that than be doubled over a mile down the road. You can only pretend to check your shoelaces so many times before it arouses suspicion.

Have fun. Okay, technically it’s called fartlek, but it’s what kids do all the time: pick a spot, and run to it. It could be a mailbox in the distance, or every other telephone pole—doesn’t matter. Just catch your breath, and do it again. And again. And again. And…

What fartlek should feel like.

What fartlek ACTUALLY feels like. Courtesy middlegroundmusings.com

Push yourself a wee bit. That sounds less threatening than “run at or about your anaerobic threshold.” You should be able to talk, but it will sound something like this: “I…think…I’m…having…a…heart…attack.” You can throw out the phrase “tempo run” next time you’re at that fancy shoe store, because that’s what you’ve just done.

Push yourself a wee bit more. The “wee bit” may have been optimistic, because when done correctly you’ll swear you’re about to die. The good news is, you only run a short distance and you get to recover before the next one. The bad news is, there’s a next one. These are called “intervals.”

Looks like SOMEONE just finished his interval training. Courtesy: wikimedia

Distance doesn’t matter. Oh, who are we kidding? Distance is everything.

Have more fun—you’re done! Since you’re just starting out, we’ll save hill repeats for another day.

An Offer I Should Have Refused

“Club what?” I asked.

“Club Pilates. It’s opening next to Subway,” the woman on the bike next to me answered.

Hmmm. When one door closes…

Because as it turned out, a door was closing—the door to the spin studio I’d joined eight months back. I’m not a fan of cycling, but it gave my legs a break from running without sacrificing endurance. So last week when I learned the studio was closing, like, tomorrow—and me five weeks postop from knee surgery and not cleared to run yet—I thought I’d be stuck.

Until the Club Pilates door opened.

“Yeah, they open tomorrow,” she continued. “Their website’s up with a schedule. The first class is free.”


Still, Pilates? I knew little about it, other than it had a lot of Hollywood-type devotees. At least according to People, they were devotees. But Pilates.

These people are paying big money for this torture. Big money. Courtesy: CC/Flickr

During my free class the instructor explained the philosophy, and she used all the key words they’re told to tell runners rehabbing an injury, like stability, flexibility, and core strength. The class worked every part of me as promised, and I was hooked. But their schedule only has a few classes a week that fit my schedule, and their 3-classes-a-week package is close to $125 a month. Yikes.

But stability, flexibility, and core strength!

I visited another Pilates studio in town that has an expanded schedule, plus they offer barre and Indo-Row. The classes are unlimited, so I could go 7 days a week if I wanted! Actually, I’d have to go 7 days a week to make it pay for itself, because it’s almost $180 a month.

So that’s where it stands—me and 100 hits on each studio’s website as I toggle back and forth, trying to decide which is the better deal. And I use the term very loosely. That free class was anything but.

Why Time Travel is a Bad Idea

When my brother was about 4 and I was about 5, we tried to build a time machine out of cardboard boxes. I’m not sure why Mom let us think it might actually work, but since this was the same mom who gave us a bucket of water and brushes so we could “paint” the house, apparently she believed any activity that kept two bored kids busy wasn’t worth upending.

Anyway, I’m glad our contraption was unsuccessful.

Who knew time travel was a real thing? Photo: Flickr

Who knew time travel was a real thing?
Photo: Flickr

At first blush certain eras seem like an interesting—if not grand—time to be alive. But think about this:

The First Thanksgiving. Since it was America’s original block party/potluck, I assume everyone brought their specialty. Meaning, back then, there weren’t too many Jell-O salads—there was too much venison. Or swan. Yes, swan. Pass the Pepto.

Downton Abbey’s 1920s. I’ve never watched it, but I know the premise. It all looks so luxurious until I remember that the odds of my being Lady Grantham are slim. More likely, I’d be her servant. Or a servant. I understand there are many.

July 1776. It wasn’t all sparklers, picnics, and central air, that’s for sure. WeatherSpark.com says Philadelphia has a “humid continental climate with hot summers and no dry season.” We were in Philadelphia one Fourth of July that fell on a Sunday, and attended services at Christ Church. I remember two things: awe and heat. No, three things: humidity. Crowds, heavy clothing, and—if memory serves (from history class, not first-hand knowledge)—a lack of regularly-scheduled bathing? A revolt of some sort was inevitable.

“The Good Ol’ Days.” No particular time in history, but at least 20 years prior to present day. I invite you to sit back, close your eyes, and remember your summers as a kid: the ice cream man, playing outside after dark, foregoing shoes. Ah, those were the days. Now open your eyes and remember how things really were: your hands sticky from Popsicles melting faster than you could eat them, mosquito bites, and stubbing your big toe on the curb.

Interesting? Sure. Grand? Not exactly. All things considered I’m content ignoring today’s robocalls and electronic spam, thank you very much.

Burnin’ Love

Okay, the house is on fire and I can only grab 5 things. Assuming humans and animals are safe, here’s what’s coming with me, in no particular order:IMG_0442

Racing medals. Some bring back fond memories and others…well… Let’s just say some came with a price. But it’s not the memories that are important. It’s the symbolism. Because I was 52 at my first race a few years ago. 52. I think that’s older than some of the items on Antiques Roadshow. I’d save my medals not for me, but for my daughters. To remind them age does not—and should not—define them.

IMG_0438A quilt. I saw this color wheel quilt on the Purl Bee and fell in love with it. Since I’m a challenged button-sewer-on-er, I asked Mom the Seamstress if she’d make it for me. Purl Soho didn’t have these fabric bundles at the time, and I can picture she and Dad—who, as a retiree, is a frequent companion on Mom’s fabric-buying junkets—perusing the choices. I think she apologized when she gave it to me, because the points don’t lay completely flat in the center. But I think it’s perfect.

Christmas ornaments. Assuming I had time to pull out a ladder and climb in the garage—okay, who am I kidding? Assuming my husband had time to pull out a ladder and climb in the garage—I’d save the box of ornaments our now-adult daughters made as kids. You know the kind: pinecones with lopsided gobs of glitter, and silver bells made from cut-up egg cartons and foil. Precious.IMG_0446

Dog toys. I don’t know why. Probably because they were in the middle of the floor on the way out.



Running shoes. Again, not sure why. But since they can be pricey and these are already broken in, I’m glad I got them.



Fingers crossed that whole iCloud thing works. Because I might have left an item or two behind.

I Missed My Calling

Today’s Daily Prompt got me thinking about words. New words, specifically.

When I learned the Oxford Dictionaries issue quarterly updates, I presumed it was because (1.) these newly-minted words are much too important to wait a whole year for, or (2.) they have to justify lexicographers’ paychecks.

After viewing a list of new additions, my money’s on #2.

Here’s why: a couple words added in 2014 were merch and queso. Had I read merch somewhere, I would have first assumed it was “march” misspelled. But when “march” made no sense, a little third-grade trick would have saved the day: using the word in context. Granted, I don’t often speak like the example Oxford gave (“people mobbed the merch stand to buy T-shirts”), but I’m smart enough to figure it out. And queso I would have understood from those obnoxious Ro-Tel commercials. That, and quesadilla.

No, it wasn’t urgency that prompted the updates so it must have been the paychecks.

Since lexicographers seem focused on pop culture—and clearly they’re grasping for new material—I’ve got two nominations for them.

Ports and shants.

The words are interchangeable. They refer to those sagging garments you see on 13-to-23-year-old guys—those sagging garments that look like a combination of pants and shorts. Ports and shants. Makes perfect sense. I realize a snafu is possible with ports, but in context the reader or listener would discern between clothing and a harbor.

Is he wearing pants? Or shorts? With "ports" or "shants," there's no need to decide! Photo: Flickr

Is he wearing pants? Or shorts? With “ports” or “shants,” there’s no need to decide!
Photo: Flickr

According to mymajors.com the average salary of a lexicographer is over $70,000, so I think they should show a bit more ingenuity than trolling the Web or eavesdropping at Starbucks for new material. But if they’re ever in a bind—like if their Internet connection goes down—I give them permission to use ports and shants. No royalty required.


Why I Won’t Get a Tattoo

I don’t like butterflies or shamrocks or tigers on people (not “on people” as in a man-eating tiger, rather “on people” as in a tiger snaking down an arm). Maybe it’s symbolism these tattooees are after, but here’s what I see: The butterfly lover is an 8-year-old girl at heart, a shamrock belongs to someone with no imagination, and a tiger means you’re able to sit very still for a very long period of time.

See what I mean? Who knows what you could end up with. Photo: StumbleUpon

See what I mean? Who knows what you could end up with.
Photo: StumbleUpon


I don’t understand Sanskrit. Happens all the time: “Hey! Look at me! I’m so current I got a tattoo in a language I’d never heard of before I watched Inked!” Faster than you can say, “Shoulda looked it up myself,” you’re stuck with “French Toast” when you wanted “Faith Lives.” Tattoo-artist practical joke, or legitimate mistake? When it’s on your calf, does it even matter?

"I used to be indecisive but now I am not quite sure."  --Tommy Cooper

“I used to be indecisive but now I am not quite sure.” –Tommy Cooper Photo: Flickr


I’m indecisive. I’ve stepped foot in one tattoo parlor in my life. And I do mean a literal foot—just far enough to peruse a photo album crammed with possibilities: Pages and pages of crowns, birds, quotes, curlicues, skulls…you name it. No wonder people default to butterflies. Either I’d have wound up with a Leopard Lacewing on my shoulder, or I’d still be there deciding.


I don’t like pain. An emergency appendectomy is one thing. Hundreds (is it hundreds? I don’t even know) of needle jabs administered by a guy named Duke is quite another.


Tattoos are forever… Unless you go with your own name (and what’s the point of that, unless you need reminding?), there’s an inherent risk of times a-changin’ and your tattoo becoming obsolete. We’ve all seen celebrities sporting fancy scrollwork designed to cover the name of an ex. Nothing like a constant reminder of your mistake.


…unless you have money. Freeway billboards might advertise laser tattoo removal, but I’ve heard removal is more painful than the actual tattoo. Plus, I’m doubting flexible spending—let alone insurance—covers removal.

Give it 20 years, and this tattoo will practically be invisible. Photo: Flickr

Give it 20 years, and this tattoo will practically be invisible.
Photo: Flickr


I’m getting older and body parts are sliding into the southern hemisphere. Maybe I can’t stop the inevitable, but there’s no point in drawing attention to the fact.

Unconscious Coupling

Driving home the other day I saw an older couple waiting to cross the street. Nothing alarming there, right? And yet the scene evoked the type of fear usually reserved for that gap of time between medical tests and medical test results. Why, you wonder, would such a benign sight make my palms sweat?

Because I don’t want to be like them—because they were dressed like identical twins.

Same bucket hats—the kind that work equally well for fishing as for safaris—same blue sweatshirt slung over white T-shirts, same Arrowhead water bottles, same cargo shorts, same no-show socks in white cross-trainers. If the Reebok Princess came in a male version (the Reebok Prince, perhaps?), they’d be set.

Not a fan of the attire, but it beats matchy-matchy. Photo: Flickr

Not a fan of the attire, but it beats match-matchy.
Photo: Flickr

Right next to sleeping with the closet door open (The Ghost and Mr. Chicken has had lingering effects), my biggest fear is loss of autonomy.

That may sound like a flare shot up from a sinking marriage—which I assure you is not the case—but I’ve noticed the longer two people have been together, the more of themselves they seem to lose. They blend into one, like lines on Bert’s sidewalk drawings in a monsoon. “We like the Sizzler,” they announce, or, “We don’t care for reality TV.” We? I think. Did you two vote? Discuss your options before filling up on all-you-can-eat 3-bean salad and declaring half the night’s television programming off limits?

My husband sees no point in perusing Barnes and Noble once you’ve found a book because his theory is, how many can you read at once anyway? (More than one, but that’s my personal preference.) And I’m happy he loves woodworking, though I prefer just to go buy the piece of furniture and be done with it.

It’s these separate interests that keep us unique and individual after many years of marriage. Plus, it gives us something to talk about over dinner, which never includes 3-bean salad because my husband hates beans. Note we don’t hate beans—just him. And that’s fine by me.

I like older folks—really, I do. But there’s something so tired about parroting your spouse. It’s like individuality just isn’t worth the effort any more. And that scares me more than the idea of aging. That, and picturing my husband in a pair of Reebok Princes.