For the past year I have regularly attending classes at a nice gym. I really enjoy it; I’ve never worked out regularly before joining and now I wonder why I waited so long.
I thought it would be so much more painful than it is. I do push myself and sometimes I am uncomfortable, but not overly. I now like the feeling of a raised heart rate so often I go just to the point of nausea. I figure my nice classmates would not enjoy me throwing up next to them. As a side note, I think the most painful class I had all year was Pilates the Monday after Thanksgiving.
The best thing about going to the classes is the moment I get in the car to go home. There is that nice adrenaline high going on and I drive home singing and smiling. Everything about the world is fiiiiiiiiine. It never fails.
Anyway, I wanted to share a story that happened in spin class and how it made me feel about being “a winner.”
Exercise instructors are amazing people. I do not think we give them enough accolades. Thinking of it from their perspective, they are doing a workout, shouting over loud music, and trying to inspire a bunch of cranky people in pain without causing anyone injury. Only a few very special people can do this I think.
One day in spin class and there was a guest instructor. Wow, was she fit! She was bouncy and beautiful with those Linda Hamilton arms that make me consider lifting weights every day (though at this point in my life I forget all about weights after class until I see another exercise instructor with Linda Hamilton arms).
She warmed us up and got our hearts racing a bit. Then she started us on an imaginary mountain climb. She said, “OK everyone! You are in a big race to the top of the mountain! Let’s go!!” And we biked and pedaled and sweat. People groaned a bit.
Then she said, “OK everyone! Now turn up the resistance really high! This is where half of the racers will fall away! Are you going to be with the winners or with the losers??”
About 5 people spoke up and said they were OK with being part of the losers. No one cheered. Grumpiness filled the room. We spun and spun.
But she went on and had us go up the mountain, a few more intervals. The general feel of crankiness in the room began to shift as we kept going. By the end we were cheering and happy (and goofy). It sure was nice to stop “climbing the mountain” at the end of the workout. “Wahoo!!” we all said. However, it was best being with the classmates all together and feeling the shift to optimism.
The experience made we wonder about my (and others) attitude about winning.
After spin class, it occurred to me that I witnessed something interesting. How do we really feel about winning? Do we really want to win? What does winning really mean?
When we first started going up the mountain and our instructor asked if we wanted to be winners, were we all thinking of Lance Armstrong? I was. The thought of him did not make me want to join his club, he just made me sad and angry. The thought made me cranky. He was not motivating.
Tucson is a place where many professional bike racers go to train in the winter and Lance Armstrong is a regular here. I am certain other people were thinking the same thing. Mixed emotions.
At first he was such a great hero and now the truth comes out that he was a cheater. What saddens me most is that if he hadn’t cheated and had continued to race through the cancer and after the cancer, I think people would have still loved him. Probably just as much. Less of us would know his story unless he had a win or two but it would still make an amazing story regardless of the wins.
We humans love a story of trial and tribulation and quite frankly, someone who beat cancer and still competed in the Tour de France is incredibly impressive. If he wouldn’t have cheated, we would have still cheered him on through losses, hoping that next time maybe he would win. And I’ll bet he would have won at some point. That win would have been a beautiful pinnacle because it would have been clear how hard this physical trial really was.
But I feel Lance didn’t understand what a winner really was in the first place. He was thinking being a winner actually meant winning a race, regardless of his authentic character. It meant being better than other people. To tell you the truth, after all of the wins he had, I sort of took for granted how amazing it must be to win the Tour de France.
He denied an authentic opportunity to be great, choosing rather to be recognized as close to god-like. But well, humans are just humans, even Lance Armstrong. Liar Liar.
Also, it reminds my of a fortune cookie a friend of mine got once that said, “No tree ever reaches the sun.” Our human condition is humbling and when we quest to prove that wrong, we find the emptiness of fame without friends and fortune with no values.
Anyway, when we finished a particularly grueling class, pretending that we made it through climbing some big mountain, we weren’t thinking about Lance Armstrong anymore. We weren’t thinking about trying to be better than our other classmates to the point were we were close to god-like. We were not trying to push our classmates out of the way to get to the top. Because being a winner does not mean being better than other people. It is personal.
In this class, we are all aging human beings with a multitude of fitness goals, and I think, or hope rather, that all of us understood that at the top of the mountain, we have just as much worth as someone like Lance. Because we won and all got through it authentically, pushing ourselves all the way. For me, my goal was to sweat and finish class without throwing up. And I did it, laughing by the end.