fitness · racing · running · training

Would you run a 10K with no prep?

Image description: (MEC 10K in October 2017) Tracy standing in the right foreground in running shorts, tank, and shoes with a race bib 2065. Canopy with MEC sign hanging from it in the left background, and a race podium (1-2-3), and a finish line inflatable arch, and a few people in the background. Green grass, fall leaves, trees.
Image description: (MEC 10K in October 2017) Tracy standing in the right foreground in running shorts, tank, and shoes with a race bib 2065. Canopy with MEC sign hanging from it in the left background, and a race podium (1-2-3), and a finish line inflatable arch, and a few people in the background. Green grass, fall leaves, trees.

As I’ve mentioned a few times this winter, my training has gone sideways. I’ve stuck with personal training but running? Extremely sporadic training schedule. So my commitment to do the MEC series at the 10K distance seems awfully ambitious considering the first event of my line-up is…wait for it….Saturday!

We’ve also had shit weather and basically there was no way I was going out in the ice storm on the weekend. All I did was 25 minutes on the treadmill. Then this week with weather and media and all manner of this and that, it doesn’t look like I’ll get more than a short one in before Saturday. Then Saturday: 10K.

Obviously the question has arisen in my mind: really? Must I?

Answer: yes really. But must I? No. I get to choose. But I’m going to choose the follow through. Why? Because you can only get momentum going by doing the thing. The more I pass up opportunities to get back into the game the harder it is.

So I’m doing it. My race strategy is: enjoy. I’ve got my feminist playlist. Environment Canada is forecasting double digit highs. And the race doesn’t even start until 9:35. My objective here is to establish a baseline to beat next time.

The upside of going in cold on Saturday is there is nowhere to go but up in May. And then I have the entire summer to train for early September and late October (between which I’m throwing in the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon as a “welcome back Anita” event).

To answer the question posed in my title: yes. I would and I will.

What would you do?

fitness · illness · injury · martial arts · motivation · running · training

Getting back to it after illness or injury (Group post)

Image description: Single flower on the end of a circular branch with two more green buds, more flowers, branches, and greenery blurred in the background. Photo credit: Tracy (China trip)
Image description: Single flower on the end of a circular branch with two more green buds, more flowers, branches, and greenery blurred in the background. Photo credit: Tracy (China trip)

I went running yesterday morning for the first time in what seemed like ages. True, I went for about three runs in March, but each was forced and uncomfortable. I spent most of the month with a relentless cough that sometimes felt as if it was edging into something worse. I could hardly make it to work many days, never mind go for a run.

That all followed on the heels of my trip to India, where running was pretty much out of the question for logistical reasons. And then at the very end of March I went to China, where I think running would have been possible (great sidewalks) but our schedule was super tight (six day whirlwind).

So it’s basically been two months since I did any sort of endurance training. I stuck with my personal training throughout the cough, so I haven’t completely let all of my workouts go. That’s a relief because it was not easy to get myself out the door this morning.

This is a group post that includes paragraphs from me, Christine, Martha, and Sam about getting back into routine after injury or illness.

Tracy — Travel and Illness and More Travel…

As I said, I went for a run yesterday. It was hard — not that I ran hard, but that it was hard to get out the door, hard to run while I was out there, and hard to feel good about having gone because I realized how I’d lost my endurance. But I do have some tips for getting back out there after a hiatus for whatever reason, and here they are (for myself as much as for anyone else).

  1. Call in support. One reason I got out there was that I messaged Anita when I woke up and said I want to go running but I don’t feel like it (if that makes sense). She said, why don’t you go for 20 minutes? Then I posted to our blog author Facebook page group that I was going to go running and a few people said basically “go you!” That was all I needed to get out the door.
  2. Ease into it. Anita suggested 20 minutes, not 45 minutes. 20 minutes is so totally do-able. I know that lots of people think that if you’ve missed a lot you need to make up for lost time. That has never been my approach. I’m always for easing into it in a way that makes it more attractive and less of a chore. I know that eventually I will look forward to long runs again because when I’ve got the conditioning I actually enjoy getting out there for an hour or more. But that’s not now. And this morning showed me that. I had to take some walk breaks. But I did the 20 minutes.
  3. Make yourself accountable to kind people. I told Anita I would check back in after the run. And I did. I also checked back in with the blog group–more pats on the back. And finally I checked in with Linda, my running coach whose training plans I’ve not stuck with over the winter. She has asked me to send her a message whenever I go for a run, just to let her know what I did and how it went. She always comes back with encouragement, even if I send her a message like today’s: “I had to force myself out the door but I did manage the slowest 20 minutes of my life this morning. It was hard. I’ll need to build my endurance back up over the next couple of weeks.”
  4. Have a goal. I can go both ways on goals — sometimes they’re motivating and sometimes they’re oppressive. You need to know yourself on this one. I do have a goal this summer, which is to do what’s left of the local MEC race series, sticking to the 10K distance. That means races on April 21, May 26, September 8, and October 29. April 21 seems a bit close but my goal can be modest (like a continuous run) and then I can ramp it up to improve my times in subsequent events.

Those are the four suggestions I’m offering — to you and to me — to anyone who may have had to take a break and now wants to get back into it. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. So if it feels like a dreaded chore, something’s not right.

Christine – Recovery from a broken wrist
I broke my wrist on February 27 but since I wasn’t in a lot of pain, I wanted to keep up some form of training in Taekwondo. I’ve been going to my classes and doing my own modified workouts at the back of the room. That includes learning my newest patterns with my right arm in a sling to keep it immobile. I figure that practicing which way to turn, and noting any movement that I can’t do right now will help me get up to speed quickly once my brace comes off on April 16 (fingers crossed).
I’m at the point where I am doing a few rehab exercises and it’s a bit scary how stiff my wrist is but I’m hoping to have a steady improvement with that. I am a bit worried about when the brace comes off – I don’t want to be timid or overly concerned about falling but I’m not sure how to avoid that. Perhaps I am just going to have to accept that worry as part of the healing process.
Martha–Cautious optimism after a popped joint
Back in 2014, my left hip decided to misbehave. The joint popped out several times after that, but in 2016 and again in 2017, I almost went a full year without an issue. I’m heading into my 15th month post-relapse, and I am feeling cautiously optimistic. I’ve blogged about coping with setbacks before. I’ve thought about what’s different this year. I’m stronger for one. I have done a lot of work on my core and whenever I think I might slip, I haul out my sheet of exercises and giv’er.
I’m also very fortunate to work with a trainer who understands my fear of popping the joint when I start lifting heavier weights. Her eagle eye and focus on my form means we have been pushing upwards more slowly than might be considered usual. No matter; it works for me. I also found another form of movement — swimming — to complement the lifting, and it has helped enormously in keeping me loose and relaxed. The one consistent thing is keeping myself open to new movement and practice while ratcheting back the fear. It’s not easy, but it’s working.

Sam’s left knee and what will it stop her doing?

So as readers of the blog know very well I’ve had very serious knee issues for years which came to a head last November. I’ve basically got severe cartilage degradation and a lot of knee pain. The joint isn’t that mobile. Often it’s stiff and sore. I meet the criteria for knee replacement but, in the surgeon’s words, I’m too young and way too active for that to be the best choice. I’m also fierce and determined and I’m doing a ton of physio.

I’ll never run again. I’m done. But there’s an expectation that I’ll be okay riding my bike. But thinking about it makes me tearfully nervous. Baby steps. I’m riding to work and running errands on my bike. I’m taking spin classes. I’ve gone from not being able to stand on the spin bikes to finding that easy and natural. I can put big gears on again. No pain.

So I’m going to be thoughtful and deliberate this year about spring bike training. I’m going to gradually increase my mileage. I’m not going to panic about being out of cardio shape. My first long ride is more likely to be 40 km than 80. No hammering and sprinting right away. Instead, I’m going to enjoy the spring days and week by week put more miles in on the bike. I’m going to keep doing physio.

My physiotherapist reminded me last night that my knee might never be pain free again. Some pain is going to be my new normal. What we’re hoping for is that I can take on an expanded range of activity. For me, the things I care about are long bike rides and dog hikes. It’s a long road ahead but I’m getting there. I’m looking forward to warm summer days outside on my bike.

aging · athletes · fitness · training

The retirees’ advantage? Time to train

I’m coming up on that odd stage of life where I am still working furiously and passionately, but other people in my life, friends, and family, not so much. A bunch of people close to me are counting down to retirement or moving to part-time work. I’m super engaged with my work and on balance, I don’t think I’d want what they have.

Different strokes, as they say. Or, you do you.

I love my job but come spring, there are twinges of “their grass is greener.”

Why? More time to ride bikes and to travel. Our recent post on very old cyclists made me smile. I also wished I had time to ride more than 100 miles a week. I do actually but for the Canadian climate and the lack of winter time daylight. I’ve often thought about how nice it would be to go somewhere warm and ride through January-March.

I wrote about this a few years ago in a blog post called, Silver spoons and the advantage of wealth in the context of time to train and youth sports.

‘When my partner Jeff was young he raced small sailboats, lasers, pretty competitively. But he never had a chance against some of his friends who made it all the way. Not for lack of talent. Instead, the dividing line was money. The wealthy kids had all the equipment, of course, but more than that they had time to train.

There was no pressure to work and they could sail all summer. Now that’s just part of the story but it was striking to watch those who never had to work make their way through university, keeping up in their sport along the way. And it’s true for lots of sports. I once complimented my son for making the provincial rugby team. He quickly pointed out that he wasn’t the best, just the best of those kids whose parents could afford the registration fees and commit to all that driving. Smart kid.”

It’s true in youth but it’s also true in midlife. Again, those for whom early retirement or part time work is a choice there are training advantages.

More from the older post:

“We thought that once parents stopped supporting their kids that the playing field would level out a bit. Not so much. I wrote earlier this week about working part-time and early retirement. I approached the question from the perspective of health and overall well-being but you could also ask it from the point of view of sports performance. Each spring I struggle to balance end of term grading with the start of the cycling season. It’s tough. I’ve got a friend who is a tax accountant and she struggles too. Tax time is peak early season training time.

While we struggle, I’ve also got friends who post their “Retired Guys Rides” on Strava and Facebook. They’re time flexible. They can wait for the sunshine and warm weather. They can ride everyday if they want. Sometimes I’m jealous.

Some of these same people also go south in the winter and ride. Why not?”

I’ve been wondering for awhile how much work is healthy. See Working hard or hardly working?

Retirement is associated with all sorts of bad health outcomes. And I think it’s be very bored. Given the number of dependents in my life I can’t afford it either. My favorite? Less work for everyone. I’d love to see the 4 day workweek.

fitness · martial arts · training

On the Other Hand: Christine’s Plans Go Awry

In my last February post,  I had great plans for how I was going to advance my Taekwondo training in the next month. I was working hard on my patterns and I had a 15-minute a day plan. The emphasis here is on ‘had.’

 

I did 4 days of great practice, Eui Am really came together and the first part of Juche was starting to seem feasible. Then this happened.

The author's right arm in a white plaster cast. There is a tile floor in the background.
Not getting your first cast until age 45 (and after 9 years of TKD) is a victory of sorts, right?

 

On Tuesday February 27th, I took three TKD classes in a row.  In the middle of the third class, while evading someone during a sparring  drill, my foot stuck on something on the floor and I fell backward and broke one of the bones in my wrist.

 

My right wrist. I’m right handed.

 

I had the above cast for a few days until I saw a specialist and now I have a brace until April 16 (at least).

 

I am not supposed to lift anything heavy with my right hand, and I am not allowed to drive. Those things are inconvenient but given that I work from home and I can use voice dictation, they are not a crisis.

 

I’m also not supposed to rotate my wrist which makes it a challenge to open cans, use a key to get into my house, and it prevents me from fully practicing my patterns. I can do the stances and left handed arm movements but nothing with my right arm at all.

The author's right arm in a black cloth brace with lacing up the inner side. There is an orange wall and white window frame in the background. She is giving a thumbs up.
The brace is a bit more badass.

And the fact that I am supposed to take care not to lose my balance* means that I cannot do  the complicated jumps in my patterns. It also means that many of my other kinds of TKD practice are off limits, too. Kicks, footwork, punches, drills, all out of the question.

Needless to say, that put a cramp in my plans for 15 minutes a day.

 

It’s annoying and frustrating but I am trying to focus on the things I *can* do instead of the things I can’t.

 

So, for the last few weeks, I have been focusing on exercises for my legs and my abs. And the narrowing of my activity choices is actually making it a bit easier to do that work.

 

Often, when exercising, I find myself wondering if I should be doing some other exercise instead. Having fewer options right now limits that type of thinking so I can just do what I’m doing instead of overthinking it.

 

I’m still going to TKD but instead of practicing myself, I do some exercises and then I help other students to figure out their patterns. Going through the mental exercise of explaining movements I can’t currently demonstrate has been interesting to say the least.

 

I recently read the following tweet and felt oddly inspired by it. I am hoping that my willingness to focus on what I can do will help me be a ‘fitter’ version of myself by the time this brace comes off. (Yes, I know the context is different but I’ll take inspiration where I can.) I am adapting to this temporary change the best way I know how. 

I’ll let you know how it works out. KIYA!

A screen capture of a tweet from Alex Flis that reads "That's the thing people get confused a lot about evolution. Survival of the fittest is a very misleading statement. Nature doesn't care if you're the smartest or the toughest, it cares how quickly you are to adapt to a changing environment."
Yes, I know my injury has nothing to do with survival per se but I liked this reminder about the importance of adapting to change.

 

I would like to note that I realize that being able to approach this recovery period with this attitude is a mark of my privilege.  My livelihood isn’t threatened by this. My family life isn’t greatly altered. I have health insurance so there is no huge financial impact. I am not suggesting that anyone else who gets injured *must* approach their recovery period in the same way, I am only writing about my own circumstances.

And, I fully recognize that this temporary injury is not at all comparable to a disability and I hope I avoided implying that it was. I do not intend to be ableist but, as a non-disabled person in our ableist society, I realize that I run that risk (and that my ‘intentions’ are largely irrelevant.)  I am prepared to change any inadvertently offensive language I have used in this post, please just let me know.

 

*This is to prevent a fall.  The small break in my radius will currently heal without surgery but, if I were to fall on it, an operation would be inevitable.

equality · martial arts · training

The Limits of Self-Defense Training

I have been in several conversations about the nature of self-defense training in the past few months and as a result I have been puzzling about how to address women’s real needs when it comes to self-defense.

(Please note: I have not included any self-defense photos in this post so I could avoid potential triggers for people. There is a video from 1933 posted at the end but the still image is staged so it seems unlikely to be a trigger. Proceed with caution.)

With my second degree black belt in Taekwondo I feel pretty confident about my ability to defend myself in a fight. I have a fair amount of self-defense training and I’m a pretty skilled kicker and puncher. If someone outright attacked me, I could likely deal with it.

The problem is, of course, that for most women, the ‘stranger in a dark alley’ is the dangerous scenario they are least likely to encounter. We’re much more likely to have to deal with someone we know or sort-of-know in a situation that goes from normal to needing-a-defense-strategy all of a sudden.

If my life was in actual danger, I know I could act.  If the situation was unclear? I’m not sure that my instincts would be sharp enough. I fear that my social conditioning to ‘be nice’ would override my instincts, especially if it was someone I know. And I would be reluctant to cause them any real harm until I was sure they meant to hurt me, and then it might be too late to use what I know.

The author, a white woman in your mid-forties with dark blonde hair, is wearing a martial arts uniform and holding a sign that says 'the push for equality takes many hands #WhyIMarch' She is wearing glasses. The background is grey cloth.
I included this because I am in my dobok and because I think the push for equality – in this case, equality in personal safety – will take a lot of us working together. Yes, I often smirk in selfies.

I know that the big picture solution involves the social change all of us fit feminists are working toward but what’s the solution for while that change is in development?

How do we help women deal with the people who take advantage of the fact that we are trained to be ‘nice’ and agreeable? How do we get them past the fear of hurting someone they know but who is willing to hurt them?

It’s a huge issue, I realize that. In thinking about it, though, I have been tying together bits and pieces of my experiences and conversations with experts so I can start working on at least a piece of the problem.

 

A few years before I started Taekwondo my friends and I took this one time only self-defense class offered by a local martial arts school (not my current one). I learned lots of great moves and I enjoyed practicing them on people in full body armor. I felt like something was missing though.

 

The instructors gave us good skills but there was little or no mention of when and how to tap into our instincts. And the instructor did not seem to understand that as women in their thirties and forties we couldn’t necessarily follow the same rules for walking down the street safely as as he could as an advanced black belt male in his 50s. Basically, the class was great but limited. The instructor was missing the cultural and social context of when and how most women would need to use these skills.

 

The author, a white woman in her mid forties, wearing sunglasses and a red tshirt that reads 'patriarchy got me drove' Grey siding is visible in the background.
My local women’s centre was selling these great shirts this past summer. I think ‘patriarchy got me drove’ sums up the basic issue here.

One of my TKD instructors is working on this issue already. She has lots of great self defense skills to teach but it is really hard to teach women to defend themselves in the sort of situation they’re most likely to encounter. It gets into that grey area where you need to teach skills beyond the physical.

After all, how do you learn to defend yourself against someone whose nose you don’t want to break or against someone that you’re going to see again (and probably not in a court of law)?

Last week I was talking to a friend of mine who teaches women’s self-defense and again she was concerned with that same gap. Her practice is able to address it a little more directly but since every student has individual things to overcome, it’s tricky to address in a wholesale way.

 

This is one of those situations where physical fitness and training will help. After all, both of those things bring confidence and give you physical leverage. However, the problem is broader than being confident and physically capable.

 

How do we teach women to further develop their instincts, to trust them and to act on them?

 

How do we find ways for women to defend themselves when causing physical harm will have additional social repercussions? (I know that defending yourself should be your first priority and the repercussions should be your last concern but that social conditioning to be a ‘good girl’ will get in the way.)

 

How do we help other women (and ourselves) to recognize that a threat is a threat, no matter who it comes from? That the harm that comes from someone we know is as bad as harm from a stranger? To recognize that we should be allowed to protect ourselves,  no matter who is hurting us?

 

It’s hard enough to learn that it is okay to say no.  And to understand, on a fundamental level, that we have the right not to be harmed in anyway. How do we help women to reinforce that no without creating further danger for them?

 

How do we address the fundamental changes in thinking (and in social  indoctrination) that all of this requires?

 

I know that the answer lies in the social change we talked about. I know that it is really men that need the lesson about doing no harm and taking responsibility for their actions. And there are tons of changes above needed above and beyond that.

But those are long-term changes and waiting for things to get better is not a viable option.

I want women to be equipped to deal with the things they have to face now. I want them to have the skills they need and the confidence to use them. I know a lot of people are working on it, I just want to be part of that working group, too.

 

 

 

The embedded video below shows a Women’s Self-Defence Tutorial from 1933. It is in black and white and features May Whitley demonstrating jiu-jitsu.

athletes · competition · fitness · inclusiveness · running · training · triathalon

By the way, fat people also aren’t lying about exercise either

Earlier this week, I talked about the lack of credibility given to fat people when it comes to what we eat. You can tell people, if you’re me, that you’re a non drinking, non fast food eating, vegetarian but people don’t really believe you.

But it’s also true that no one believes what we do when it comes to activity either.

This week Ragen Chastain appeared in People Magazine as the heaviest woman to ever complete a marathon. She’s actually completed two because the first time she didn’t know it would put her in the Guinness book of records and she didn’t notify them.

She’s not alone as a larger endurance athlete. See my post (Updated) Plus sized endurance athletes, we exist!

What gets me about Ragen is not what she’s done, though that’s remarkable at any size, it’s the lengths people will go to deny it. Tracy blogged about it here, When “pathetic” loses its irony. It’s a post about a Facebook group she was in that allowed a lot of Ragen trolling, bashing, and skepicism to go unchecked.

You can follow Ragen’s journey to Ironman here at her blog IronFat.

The Ragen haters have their own blog IronFacts, which is a debunking blog which supposedly tells the truth about Ragen and details her lies. It was last updated in May 2017. Since presumably People magazine has its own fact checkers maybe that’s shut them up. I don’t know. I find the whole thing puzzling.

Like, why would you even doubt that she’s telling the truth?

There are medals, race finishing photos, pictures of completion times. She’s never claimed to run the whole thing. Instead Ragen like lots of amateur athletes runs and walks her marathons. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

To me it can only be explained by a kind of prejudice against larger bodies, that those of us who have them can’t be trusted and shouldn’t be believed. We set out to lie and to cheat people. I’m not sure why people believe this but they seem to.

What do you think? Do you also find out puzzling?

The sun setting over Mo’orea, an island in French Polynesia
cycling · fitness · fitness classes · gender policing · training

Why I Hate Spin*

*If you’ve not already done so, please have a look at Cate (Fieldpoppy) Creede’s wonderful and inspiring post about loving the gym (the YMCA in her neighbourhood), which went up on Wednesday. I know I feel about a thousand times better for having read it. And yes, I’m going to check out my (new) local Y this weekend!

Ok, so I don’t actually hate spin. I came to road racing through spin! I met brilliant, smart, funny female athletes through spin. I still “spin” every Tuesday evening in the basement of my friend Chris Helwig’s house, along with others he coaches, and with other friends. It’s a terrific, supportive, entertaining 90 minutes of pain.

But last night, I went to a class that reminded me of what, at its least positive and supportive, spin can be. This is a post about that experience, and I’m writing it to remind us all that we do not have to put up with this kind of crap when we are training, exercising, or just trying to have fun on a bike. We can avoid it; we can call it out; and we can resist it in many other, tiny ways.

5974fba52100001800fc845a

There’s more than one way spin can hurt you. This image features a cheeky drawing of a woman in traditional Victorian dress comforting a man, seated, with the words “I’m sorry you almost died in Spin Class today.”

There’s a large, independently owned bike shop near me, where I stop sometimes after a ride, and where I’ve bought quite a few accessories and had a couple of tune-ups. The team are friendly, and the shop is well stocked. I like it, as a shop.

Back in late autumn I learned that they host spin classes, so I tried one out. I had been told that, although I could not bring my home trainer (they have spin bikes, and only X number of bikes, to keep numbers in check), the class was geared for cyclists, so I’d feel at home and it would fit in with my training plan.

This was not my experience at the first class, though I had fun. It was taught by a funny woman with a good play list; everyone seemed to be enjoying their time on the bike (a plus!). I was clearly the only serious cyclist in the room, so I had to adapt her instructions to make them more sensible for me, but I know how to do that so it was fine. It didn’t affect my fun, or anyone else’s.

(What do I mean by adapting for my own training needs? For example, if we are going to go all out for 30 seconds, I need 30 seconds of actual recovery, about 20 beats per minute down or more from the 30-second max. Because when I go all out I am actually trying to hit my V02 max; there’s no point otherwise, from a training perspective. Many spin instructions are based on the assumption that students are not, actually, going all out when they are told to go all out – which is fair if you’re exercising but not training to a plan. I use a heart rate monitor to keep myself on track, and if I need to adapt a spin instruction to ensure my HR recovers properly, I do. It’s a safety thing as well as a training thing.)

I chalked the quirks in this first class up to the fact that it was super-early in the training season, and vowed to come back at some point to try again.

That some point was last night. It’s now February; the list of others signed up for the class online was long, and was largely male. Though that didn’t impress me, I took it as a sign that I would be riding with others training for cycling season. (Alas, men continue to outnumber women on the MAMIL circuit. It’s a gross reality – though my new local club is way more gender-diverse than my old local club. More on that in an upcoming post, once the season kicks off.)

When I arrived, I noticed I was not only the only woman in the class, but one of only two women in the entire space. (The other was working the cash and cleaning a bike in the shop.) The man in charge, moreover, was obviously someone for whom my presence was a bit of a surprise. He didn’t know me, and he definitely did not know how to read me.

But this, I should add, he should have done. After all, I arrived wearing my bib shorts from a race in 2016, a headband, with cycling shoes and a camelback water bottle. One look at those accessories, let alone my body, can tell you I’m in training: my leg muscles show the evidence. I set up my chosen bike with total confidence, knowing exactly how to fit it (right down to the seat-stem distance) to my frame.

What happened next? First, the instructor/dude in charge (DiC) asked me if I’d been to a class before. I told him I’d been once before at this shop. He asked if I had a card – that is, if I had bought multiple classes. I said no; I have a home trainer and prefer to train on it. He made a big deal of how much easier it is for them (the shop) if one buys multiple classes. I told him I would be more than happy to pay for the class in cash. I did not have a use for multiple classes at this time.

When we went down to the cash so I could pay, I had to sign a waiver; I hadn’t recalled doing that before, though I suspect I did (I mean, it’s a policy for anyone new in a gym/in a class, for safety reasons). While I was filling the form out, he said to me:

“when we get up there, I’m happy to help you set up your bike…”

Remember: I’d already done that. TO SPEC.

I told him: “don’t worry, I’m very experienced. But thank you very much.”

I did not look up from the waiver while I said this; I didn’t meet his eyes. I’m pretty sure I would have smirked at him, and I didn’t want to be rude. But I also wanted to be very clear: that’s a condescending question and I’m not taking time away from this task (filling out the form) to address it.

He reacted respectfully, but he did throw his hands up. Uh-huh.

Once I got onto the bike, things got worse. He made a point of coming up to me, not once but twice, before class started. First, he wanted me to set the “touch pads”: the point where the flywheel touches the pads to indicate you have resistance on the bike. I had already more than found it; I was already at this point warming up (a spin instructor can tell when you are warming up properly, by the way). In fact, my heart rate was up to a good 118bpm (my low zone 2).

As a result of his meddling, though, my HR dropped into zone 1. Thanks, DiC.

A minute later, he came up to me AGAIN. This time he asked me to stop the flywheel. (I suspect this was a test to see if I knew about the emergency stop mechanism – I’m pretty sure I was being “tested” the entire time, though probably he was not conscious of doing this, as most DiCs are not.) He asked me to put my pedals “at three and nine” and he looked me up and down from the side of the bike, sizing up my form. Super comfortable for me, btw.

“Perfect,” he declared. Then he said, “From the front, it looked like something was off.”

Nope, I repeated once more. I’M FINE. I know exactly what I’m doing. I know my own bicycle form.

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Thanks for that super helpful mansplain! This Mad Men style graphic shows a man’s upper body, in a suit and tie, and part of his face, with his left hand up and mouth open, clearly explaining something to a woman in a green blazer. Her arms are folded and her head is turned away.

The class was OK; it was a hill repeats class and I adjusted instructions as usual to follow the indicators my HR gives me. The others in the class were mostly in cycling kit, but I was, once again, the only person with a heart rate monitor. (The fact that I arrived to the class with my Garmin Edge should also have told the DiC that I was an actual cyclist, with actual experience, but whatevs. Reading obvious cues hard when blindsided by strong woman, clearly.)

There was a lot of yelling; DiC kept shouting “HALF A TURN UP!!!!!!” really, really loudly. It’s the kind of loud that makes you think, I’d better do this! Mostly I did. Honestly, I just didn’t want to give him any reason to call me out or come over to my bike again. I wanted to be left alone to train as best I could under the circumstances.

When the class ended I did some of the stretches, again trying not to stand out as a dilettante. I was fed up by this point and wanted to go home, but I didn’t want to garner any snide or overly-patronizing, “supportive” comments at the end. Finally, as I left, he said: “thanks for coming” in what I can only describe as a very strained, kind of uncomfortable voice with a bit of an uptick at the end. I don’t think it was an angry voice; I think it belied his ultimate confusion over what to do with me.

Maybe not a lot of Lady Cyclists go to this shop’s spins. Or maybe I was new and confident and a girl, and that was weird for him. Or maybe he has no clue whatsoever that he behaves this way around strong women.

Maybe I just caught him on an off night. Though I doubt it.

Whatever. Not my problem.

I did what I could to have a good class. I stayed in zone 3 a good part of the time and jumped into zone 4 a reasonable amount, but not too much – I had done a concentrated anaerobic workout on my trainer the night before, while catching up on Master of None (TOTAL IRONY ALERT). I stood up for myself as best I could, and I tried to keep it comfortable for myself under the circumstances. For that reason I resisted engaging the guy in a private conversation afterward about his practice as an instructor (which, truly, seemed too fatiguing at the time, and perhaps would not have had any real point).

I do wonder if I should have called him on it. But I think I’d prefer just to share this story, remind us all that we are strong and mansplaining at the gym is ALWAYS out of order, and never, ever go to spin at that shop again.

/rant over.

Kim