Cycling: The Circle of Life

Kathyrn David

Normally in spinning class, I am thinking about death. Not death as an abstract concept, but my own death, and how if I exert myself more, it will be imminent. Don’t I get enough exercise, I ask myself, walking up the hill and doing the occasional arm exercise scooping out ice cream in Frank? But, by the time class has ended and we are all quietly stretching and taking in how tired we all look, I realize I had a pretty good class and am eager to start the whole thing over again for the next session. There’s something I like about spinning and I soon realize it’s how the lessons of spinning class relate to my everyday life.

When I walked into my first spinning class, I was very intimidated by the equipment and my classmates. In fact, just as intimidated as I was the previous week in my academic courses. Staring at the bike, I had no idea what to do. At first, only seeing a metal bar where a seat should normally be, I grew nervous. While, of course, nothing is definite, I probably want to have children someday and pedaling while sitting on a metal bar probably wasn’t the best way to ensure that I had that option. Thankfully, I saw the instructor open a cabinet full of plush and padded bike seats to attach to the metal bar. However, my biggest surprise came when the instructor explained how she was going to lead the class. By watching her, we would see how fast we should be going and what positions we should be pedaling in. However, while she would tell us when to turn up the resistance and when to turn it down, there was really no quantitative way for her to tell us how much resistance we should bike with or for her to monitor whether we were doing an adequate amount. She simply told us to try to push ourselves as hard as we can, because we all want the best workout, right?

After hearing these instructions, I immediately thought back to a conversation I had with my sister before I began college. I was asking my sister, who has earned a Master’s degree and is now working in New York City, how to handle the workload and the readings.

“You are going to meet people who do all the readings,” (she proudly told me she was one of them), “and you are going to meet people who do none of the readings. But nobody is going to be monitoring how much work you do or telling you to push yourself. In the end, it’s up to you. You want to have the best college education and experience, right?” Just like spinning class, college was both a highly individual and a highly collaborative experience. On the one hand, you are a member of the university community, with your classmates, professors, and administrators for support. Similar to the spinning instructor, they are showing you what to do by example and explaining to you all the opportunities available to get the most out of Colgate. But as an individual student, it is ultimately up to you to decide how closely you should follow that example or whether to follow it at all. On your stationary bike in spinning class, you could choose to bike without any resistance, going through the motions without actually having a good workout. In college, you can just go through the motions too, choosing not to do your work, not to take advantage of all the activities and programs Colgate has to offer, or not making any valuable friendships. Being confronted with this amount of choice can be overwhelming, but for now the choice is clear. I would not have signed up for spinning if I didn’t want to challenge myself in the gym and I would not have asked my parents to put up thousands of dollars for me to go to Colgate if I didn’t want to be challenged in the classroom. Perhaps, only a few weeks into freshman year, I have no right to make this kind of statement of commitment. But for now I can say I am trying my best to make the most out of my four short years at Colgate, even when it seems difficult. As for spinning, I am also trying my best to turn up the resistance and, despite the soreness I feel the next morning, I am determined to keep going.