My Empty Nest

It's not always empty.

The Empty Nest Workout Part One

Spinning into control.

The only thing less likely than me taking up jogging - which is something I did five years ago, is me going to a spin class, which I started to do last fall. I am the poster child (woman, whatever) for the Athletically Challenged Happy Empty Nester (acronym: ACHEN, as in oh my achen legs). But a good life is filled with less than likely choices, occasionally playing to one's weaknesses instead of the rational choice of playing to one's strengths. I am not a natural athlete. Nope, never have been accused of that. But I do love working out, feeling that endorphin rush, though I bet I am one of the few women ever to weep in an aerobics class. Which just goes to show you one never knows where those hormones will take you.

Looking back, I started this new athletic adventure right when my life (well maybe not my life, but life in general, life universal) seemed to be spinning out of control. My kids were high school seniors, anxiously applying to college, about to leave home. My husband was working hard and long, worrying about the economic meltdown our country was in the throes of last year. Marriages were breaking up all around me. And then there was the war, and the other war, and global warming, and Kate Gosselin. I was feeling overwhelmed -- old and in the way. I couldn't guarantee that our kids would get into the schools they wanted. I couldn't fix the economy, (no one can shop that much), heck I couldn't even seem to lose five pounds. But I'd heard that exercise is good for relieving stress and depression, though frankly the thought of trying one of those boot camp workouts leave me feeling both stressed and depressed.

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I tried a dance class, it was fun but I felt a little foolish. (I still take the dance class, still feel foolish, but hey a little foolishness never hurt no one.) And then one morning I screwed my courage to the sticking place and walked into the small room at the back of my health club with the stationary bikes and the glass wall. I started pedaling to the beat of a remix of The Bangle's hit, Manic Monday. By the time the song had switched to Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, I was hooked.

What is it about spinning that appeals to me? The music for sure. A good spin class with the right mix of tunes goes faster than a downhill race. Bad music is painful. Rap - ugh. Techno - gag me. But guilty pleasures are great. Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, also any songs with inspiring or appropriate titles for the occasion - Take it to the Limit, Don't Stop Me Now, Born to Run, -- you get my drift. So pick your teachers carefully; if they don't share your musical tastes it's gonna be murder. Believe me.

What else do I like about spin class? Hmm. The fact that there's no talking and it's generally done in the dark. No chance to check out the competition. There is no competition. It's just you and your bike. I also like the way that it mimics real life. You work really hard and you don't really get anywhere. You sweat a lot, and sometimes you feel great but mostly if you do it right you're exhausted. In spin you are either in position one, two or three. Just like life. You get up, you go to work, and you go home. 1, 2, 3. The spin activities are a little more varied, but not much. You stretch, you sprint, you climb imaginary hills, you do something called jumps (I really like jumps) and then you get to cool down. That's about it. It's not complicated, unlike life. And you can control how much resistance you have to deal with, also unlike life. But like life, it beats death, which is good enough for me. In fact that would make a great ad campaign - try spin class: it's better than dying!

Oh yes, and you can fake it if you feel like it. As the good teachers always say, it's your ride. Some days are pedal to the metal. Others are more on cruise control. But you show up and give it your best, whatever that happens to be that day. 45 minutes later the ride is over. At least you've accomplished that.

Now my kids are in college, my husband's less worried and Kate Gosselin's show got cancelled. Did spinning have anything to do with this? Did I spin my kids into college or my husband into a better mood? Do you think I'm delusional? Don't answer that. But spinning was something I could do while whatever was going to happen happened. And yes spinning does make me feel, if not good, then certainly better about myself. And better is better than bad.

Control? Please. It's an illusion. But spin class - that's for real.

Madora Kibbe is a Christian Science practitioner and writer who lives in New York.

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