A middle-aged man tries spinning class

Three things prompted me to go spinning at SoHo Cycling Studio.

One, I thought it would make a good column.

Two, the young and energetic interns in our Riverview bureau insisted it would be fun.

Three, they have a defibrillator at SoHo Cycling.

Not to suggest that exercise and I haven't been acquainted for quite some time, but I'm closer to my third cousin twice removed than I am to working out.

My malaise created a sense of intimidation, in part because I thought they call it spinning because of how it affects your brain.

As I made my way from the office to catch the 6:15 class, I listened to Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett sing It's 5 O'clock

Somewhere and wondered why I just didn't go find a bartender and ask him to "pour me something tall and strong."

But when I arrived, I felt a tinge of excitement. With the lights low, the two 100-inch screens glowing bright images and the music pumping, the adrenaline started racing even before I started pedaling.

Owner Michelle Burrell sought to bring that sensation to Tampa when she opened SoHo two years ago. Specialized studios for activities like spinning and yoga were popular when she lived in Arizona and Philadelphia, and when her exercise goes beyond weight training, she prefers the studio setting over multipurpose gyms.

I appreciated the cleanliness of the studio, and how Burrell set me up on the stationary bike and adjusted it to my height. She also fitted the straps on the pedals so my feet fit snuggly. Clearly, this bike, manufactured by Spinner, was significantly better than the one at home that I use as a clothes rack.

For a moment, I felt a sense of confidence.

Then Conna, one of the studio's certified instructors, strolled in with a fit physique and an energetic gleam in her eye. It's not like I expected a 250-pound Brunhilde to lead the class, but Conna looked like she should be wearing a yellow jersey and leading the ascent in Stage 18 of the Tour de France.

Conna explained the process. She would shout "UP" when she wanted us to stand on the bike and pedal faster, "DOWN" when we could ease the pace. She also said she would call for us to increase the tension on the 40-pound flywheel to increase the intensity.

And then the 45-minute session began, with jamming music videos and an instructor determined to push the class to its limit.

My limit? Ha. It didn't take long for me to realize that my childhood memories of riding up and down Tallahassee hills 30 years ago were just that — memories.

In fact, I discovered that I had walked into the studio with my own personal instructors: my thigh muscles, who translated their instructions into a burn. Every time Conna shouted "UP," I would stand up and pedal faster and then my thighs would say, "DOWN — NOW."

The more I tried to defy the pain, the louder they shouted, "Old man, we said sit down."

If that wasn't bad enough, my calf muscles started weighing in. "Hey, didn't you hear what they said? Sit down or you won't be able to walk out of here."

Unlike other forms of cardio workouts, however, I didn't necessarily stand out when I slowed down. I just kept pedaling and did my best. It's one of the advantages of spinning.

And I found an added boost of energy when Conna went old school. Shalimar's Second Time Around caused a little surge in my pedaling. I thought for a second I might do better with a full complement of '70s disco. Hearing this didn't surprise Burrell.

"From my experience, sometimes when you're doing 45 minutes to an hour of cardio, it's hard to stick with it and stay with it, but with the music videos, the time goes by so much quicker," Burrell said. "They're a mental distraction to how badly legs are burning."

Sadly, my legs didn't agree with my ears.

"Old school ain't gonna help you, old fool," the thigh muscles screamed.

"We just want to know what happened to happy hour," said the calves.

As for the fun-loving interns, they handled the workout with more aplomb, as did the other riders. But make no mistake, it proved intense for all. I think that's the point. Burrell estimates that men can burn 700 to 1,000 calories in one workout, while women can burn 350 to 600 calories.

After the class, it was time to do post-spinning ab work. I told the others that as soon as I get some abs, I'll start working them out.

While my legs didn't quite cooperate, they may have to get used to it.

Someone recently posted an old yearbook picture of me in the 1981 Mr. Cheerleading contest at Godby High School. Returning to the days where I could actually fit into a cheer uniform and sport beautiful legs (well, they really were beautiful) may be unrealistic, but I do want to be around to see my 9-year-old daughter cheer for her high school.

That's all I'm saying.

A middle-aged man tries spinning class 08/04/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:51pm]

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