Monday, 30 January 2012

Fat Woman goes to spinning class

Fat Woman was getting a little tired of aquarobics but all the other classes at the gym seemed to be permanently full. Fat Woman's swimming coach runs the spinning class at the gym. Mr Swimming Coach convinced Fat Woman that spinning class was an excellent activity and that she should try it. When Fat Woman explained about the class always being booked up Mr Swimming Coach announced he was in control of the class list and could put her name on the the top before he opened up places for public booking. Fat Woman was very impressed by this display of power and influence and was delighted to accept a place for the following week. Frankly, Fat Woman was swayed by the enthusiasm and the idea of getting a hot ticket.

Fat Woman went to spinning class. Spinning class was full of very fit people. Not just thin people, but muscley super fit people who eat quinoa and go on 15 mile walks up hills. Fat Woman doesn't find thin people intimidating but she is just getting used to fit people and isn't quite sure if they are going to patronise or pity her. As Fat Woman has no airs about her gym presence she prefers the patronising: sometimes it's well meaning and comes with useful knowledge.

There were some disappointed super fit people hanging about. They were hoping Fat Woman wasn't going to turn up so they could attend the class instead. This made Fat Woman feel rather bad and a usurper. Everyone else in the class obviously knew these people and was sorry they couldn't join in with their spinning class friends. Fat Woman felt rather sorry that she'd taken the place of someone who really, really wanted it and could make good use of it.

Spinning class has loud music and lots of energy. For a  few minutes Fat Woman thought she might have found a new, fun class she could go to every week. This positive feeling lasted four minutes.It was the spinning bike itself that was the problem for Fat Woman. It was the first piece of gym equipment Fat Woman had experienced that fulfilled the often-repeated gripe that gym equipment excludes fat people. Fat Woman had always been under the impression this was a moan by super-super-SUPER fat people who were so fat they couldn't stand on the treadmill without it breaking or whose fingers were so fat they couldn't close their hands around the free weights. Fat Woman was never quite that fat, although admittedly she was getting close once. Fat Woman ran into reality with a bang when she sat on her spinning bike.

Spinning bikes have foot straps. This is so your foot doesn't fly off when the pedals are moving faster than you can keep up with. Fat Woman has super comfy 6E trainers for her wiiiiiiiide feet. If you have very wide feet and would like some very wide fitting trainers, Fat Woman can recommend They have a very good self-fitting guide. Fat Woman bought a lovely comfy pair of black trainers of the DB brand from Wide Fit Shoes. They were worth every penny.

So Fat Woman crammed her 6E feet into the pedal straps. The class was one hour long. At 35 minutes Fat Woman realised she could no longer feel her feet. Fat Woman's feet were properly numb. So very numb in fact that if she had looked down and her feet has been removed Fat Woman wouldn't have been surprised. But Fat Woman reasoned that this wasn't a problem as she wasn't really using her feet other than to connect with the pedals, and besides, nothing was actually hurting, so there was no reason to stop.

The pedals were part of another cause for concern for Fat Woman. Spinning class is not just about sitting down on a spinning cycle. In spinning class sometimes you stand up whilst pedalling and sometimes you do something they call "hover" where you are standing up but are bent over at the waist. The first time the instructor shouted "up!" Fat Woman sprang up along with everyone else. One revolution of the pedals was enough to invoke Fat Woman's first rule of exercise:

Fat Woman will not do anything which involves putting all her weight on to one knee and moving upwards.

Think about it. If someone dropped a 200lb weight on your knee joint it would hurt. Now imagine that 200lb extra weight being actually on your body in the form of fat. What do you think it would be like trying to lift that amount of extra weight? Stair climbers, treadmills with high inclines and cross-trainers are the biggest dangers to Fat Woman. Even the act of climbing steps means Fat Woman has to be careful that she isn't trying to pull her whole weight up by just one leg. Try it next time you're on the stairs and you'll see what  is meant. When Fat Woman rose off her saddle her weight landed on her right leg, pushing her right pedal down and lifting her left pedal up. Then Fat Woman had to push the left pedal downwards by putting her weight on her left leg. Fat Woman's knee went NO!

Fat Woman listens to her knees. Fat Woman has to listen to her knees because they are inclined to give her hell if she doesn't. It's as yet undetermined if this is a problem with actual joint or just the muscles or ligaments or something, but the knee doesn't hurt so long as Fat Woman sticks to the flat or non-load bearing exercise. When her knee said NO! in such a firm and decisive way Fat Woman was ready for it. Fat Woman had come prepared to spend most of the class sitting down. In fact, Fat Woman had cleared this with the instructor beforehand. It was perfectly okay to sit down, and Fat Woman wasn't embarrassed about the accommodation. Fat Woman was perfectly prepared to spend the rest of the class sitting down whilst everyone else stood and hovered and crouched. After all, the rest of the class ate quinoa and went on hill walks. Fat Woman is just a fat woman.

The saddle of a spinning bike is very narrow. Not just normal person narrow, but narrow in the style of racing bike. Much, much narrower than the exercise bikes at the gym. After five minutes sitting on the very hard and very narrow saddle Fat Woman knew that it was going to hurt. Fifteen minutes later Fat Woman was very uncomfortable. Half way through the class Fat Woman was in pain. Not so much pain that she was going to admit to being unable to last through a spin class, but quite a lot of discomfort all the same. This is because where a lean person would have muscles next to the hard saddle, Fat Woman has soft rolls of fat. By sitting on this hard saddle Fat Woman pinched some of her soft rolls very, very hard. Do you know how painful it is to be pinched? Try in on yourself. Now get a six year old without restraint to do it. That's what it feels like.

Fat Woman found herself between the proverbial rock and the hard place. Sitting on the saddle for a whole hour was utterly horrid, and was why everyone else was so keen to stand up and "hover". Yet standing and pedalling was going to be a whole different level of pain for Fat Woman. What was Fat Woman to do?

In the end Fat Woman compromised by standing up when everyone else stood up (Fat Woman even "hovered") but not pedalling. This turned spinning class from a punishing workout into a cycle ride in the park, albeit one with unusually loud dance music and silent but sweaty companions. The first 40 minutes Fat Woman was working incredibly hard. The last 20 minutes Fat Woman had so many stand-up breaks that she barely broke a sweat.

Here is a summary of reasons why Fat Woman won't be going back to spinning class for a bit:

  1. The class is full. Fat Woman would have to fight for a place every week and displace someone else.
  2. The class is full of super fit people who seem to be on a completely different plane to Fat Woman.
  3. All the super-fit people in the class seem to know each other already. It feels a little like breaking into a clique. Okay, some were friendly and it probably wasn't really a clique but it felt like one.
  4. The music was really, really loud but at the same time not the kind Fat Woman particularly likes.
  5. The class is a bit too early for convenience.
  6. Sitting on the narrow, hard saddle hurt Fat Woman quite a lot. 
  7. Lots of the class is standing up and "hovering".which Fat Woman can't do.The choice is either hurt a knee or lose exercise time.

Don't think that Fat Woman didn't enjoy spinning class. Fat Woman has dropped a comment card in to the gym asking if there could be a beginners spin class. Fat Woman would get a cushion and put up with 1-5 but the addition of 7 means that Fat Woman needs so many accommodations she might as well do a programme on the stationary bike listening to her own music at a more convenient time and not have to deal with the guilt of taking up a place someone else really wants.

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