Susan and I were at her cottage on the weekend, and Saturday and Sunday were those perfect last-of-summer days: breakfast on the deck, dog walks in the forest, a beautiful crisp rolly bike ride. (BTW, all those hills on my tiny bike on Salt Spring? Built me some muscles all right).
But then Monday morning, Labour Day? September 7? It was still dark when we woke up, and it was dreary and rainy. We did Alex’ virtual superhero workout (I used a log as a kettlebell for single leg deadlifts and as a thing to hop over), and then went for a soaking wet, chilly dog walk in the now-muddy woods.
When I got back to the cottage, I hit PURCHASE on something I’ve been hemming and hawing over for months: a bowflex spin bike.
Tuesday evening, when my outdoor spinning class was moved inside because of rain, and my yoga in the park was canceled, I knew I’d made the right choice.
Throughout the summer, I’ve been loving outdoor spinning, and I just discovered the wonky brilliance of yoga in the park with my favourite studio, Chi Junky. (Go buy a fun mask, a tshirt or some of their virtual classes — they are awesome and they are really struggling to stay afloat). I’m running, and riding my bike, and just being happy to be outside moving around.
But. Winter is Coming. And I feel like we are all holding our collective breath about what is going to be okay about gathering inside, where, and in what communities. I won’t rehash all of those conversations here — all I know is that I have too many vulnerable people in my life for it to be a responsible choice to go breathe heavily in an enclosed space right now. So I’m outside, or in my house. And outside is rapidly becoming Not So Appealing.
Last spring, I was okay with my basic at home set up — a few random weights, a skipping rope, Alex and YWA on the zoom, a selection of yoga and workout mats. Over time, I’ve added to my stash, and last week, I finally cleared out the antique trunk I use as a coffee table to put some of the gear out of view. (The story of clearing out that trunk could be a book — it was stuffed with letters and other paper from the 80s and 90s, from a time when the highly verbal people in my world sent handwritten letters in the mail constantly. So much overwritten romantic devotion and division, friendship, working out of what it means to be an adult. A program from the 1991 Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, a 1994 price list for Wild Women Expeditions. Some truly puzzling letters of the “who the hell is Cheryl?” variety. A few treasures, like letters from my dead grandparents and father. Stats and medals from my long-dead marathon career. Most of it now trashed or recycled, a tiny few things tucked away).
Now I have a basket of weights (two heavier kettlebells on order), and a good set up for strength and stretching and agility. But the shorter light and long workdays mean any fast, hard movement will be in the dark chill. And I’m… not good with that. I have this thing that when it’s dark, I want to corkscrew myself into a tiny home-hugging ball, audio books and jigsaws. (Remember April, all that homecooking and puzzle doing?)
So I’ve been thinking about getting some kind of spinning bike for months. Sam is an aficionado of using her real bike on a trainer, and we all know she’s a Zwift devotee. But I’m cautious about that. To start with, I’m not a racer — I love spinning, but competing with other people leaves me cold. And while many people feel perfectly fine about sticking their bikes on a trainer, it makes me feel anxious. My road bike is 13 years old, and I love it more than any other non-living being I’ve ever had a relationship with. Specialized — its maker — is wishy washy on whether trainers are a good idea. It fits me perfectly and is, as one mechanic once marveled, “in that sweet spot of early carbon frames with super simple mechanisms.” I like it that way, and I don’t want to do anything that might disrupt its perfection.
So once I ruled out the trainer, I was left with a decision about spinning type bikes. I missed the chance to buy one relatively cheaply when my studio sold off a bunch from a second location, but their bikes — while robust and wonderful — have a pretty big footprint anyway. And I don’t have a lot of space. But as I said to someone else, I have even less space for a mental health collapse — if we are going to have another mostly distanced winter, I need to sweat. Or I can’t balance everything else in my life.
I briefly paused on the idea of a Peloton, but quickly wafted past it. Just before the lockdown, I stayed in a random hotel for a political leadership convention that happened to have a peloton bike. I tried it, and it left me a little cold — the classes were … okay, but I found the bike a bit flimsy, and had a really hard time getting it the video working with my headphones. It was fussy and annoying, and certainly didn’t make me want to start worshipping at the church of Peloton.
But I did like the footprint. So I did some research, and asked some people some questions, and had this Bowflex C6 in my cart for nearly a week. Until I woke up on a dreary, rainy, chilly Labour Day Monday and thought, s**t just got real. I need this.
So I ordered it. It connects to my ipad or phone, and I can do zwift, virtual classes from my studio, peloton classes if I give into that or just plain ride. It was half the price of a peloton, and a nice person will come and assemble it for me for an extra fee. I’m supposed to get it in early October.
I’m hoping I will find myself wondering: “why the heck did I buy this thing?! I keep tripping on it as I run out the door to the gym or to spinning class!”
But just in case I don’t, it will be taking up space in my office, ready for me to hop on. How are you hedging your bets for winter fitness?
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is looking out the window in Toronto and sighing.