Dreaming of the Front Row
By Lesley Green Leben
I am clipped into my pedals, in a crowded stuffy tent at the Bridgehampton SoulCycle. My twenty- three- year-old daughter is on one side of me and a redheaded woman, not much older than me, on the other side. The redhead leans towards me, “This is only my second time,” she whispers conspiratorially. “The first time I bled, you know, down there,” she motions to her groin. I chuckle at the absurdity of a complete stranger sharing such intimate details. The redhead continues, “Yes, I had a little blood but I Googled it and the web told me it was normal.” I am no longer chuckling: this is my first spin class. I try to jump off the bike but I am clipped in. I struggle to break free of my pedals while my heart races. I turn towards my daughter for help but the music has started, pulsating so loud that I can feel the beat pierce my chest. People’s feet are flying so fast that I feel as if the tent might levitate from all the energy in the room. I have no choice but to pedal.
It was my daughter’s idea. I was turning 50 and my “muffin top” was now visible on my loose jeans. “Let’s try spin,” my daughter suggested.
“Too hard, I’m a less is more kind of gal when it comes to exercise,” I replied. “Yoga, Pilates, Meditation – anything that involves sitting or lying down.”
My daughter insisted, “Come on, it’ll be fun.”
Now, I am waiting to be sacrificed to the Hampton’s “Spin Gods” as I struggle to breathe. I remember the redhead’s anecdote and move up and down on the seat as gingerly as possible. My daughter, a former college athlete, is enjoying herself. For a moment, I contemplate that she is trying to kill me. I can see the headline: “Killer Workout: A Daughter’s Revenge.” Just when I think I am getting the hang of it, the Cirque de Soleil starts. Over the boom of the beat the instructor yells, “TAP BACK, RHYTHM PRESS, SIDE TO SIDE” she’s announcing a series of choreographed movements that take place while I’m fiercely pedaling standing up. The tap back: a maneuver that involves standing up and rhythmically touching the seat lightly with your groin, elicits a spontaneous “woohoo” from the group. I watch enviously as the front row bumps and grinds to the beat. They move in unison like synchronized swimmers on wheels. The front row receives inspirational “shout outs” from the female instructor every now and then. “I believe in you Nancy, Ellen, Janie…” she calls out. “Lesley, my name is Lesley” I telepathized to her, but to no avail. She’s silent.
As hard as I try to stay up, I collapse back onto my seat. By the end of the forty-five minute class I feel light headed and dizzy. I slow my feet down as subtly as I can so as not to frighten my daughter. The only thing that keeps me upright is the thought of what I would look like passed out while still clipped into my pedals.
“I’m not going back.” I am bright red hobbling to the car. “Why?” my daughter laughs. “Those people are a bunch of maniacs. They’re having orgasms or spingasms or sporgasms, whatever you want to call it.” I keep shouting, oblivious to the looks from the people in the parking lot.
But I did go back because I didn’t want my daughter to think of me as a quitter. I also loved the music. On line at the grocery store, in the subway, or just walking down the street, the sound of Rhianna playing in my head pulls me back to class week after week.
It is a year since my first SoulCycle experience. My daughter attends class regularly and refers to herself as a member of “the cult.” Time keeps me from going more than once or twice a week. Bikes become available at noon on Mondays and fill up instantaneously online, like theater seats to the hottest Broadway show. Some people actually pay thousands of dollars to be able to sign up in advance. I’ll admit that this proposition at first seemed obnoxious and extravagant, but now that my soul has been awakened, I view it as quite brilliant if one could afford it.