Why Are You Riding?

“Why are you here,” asks Ian from the podium, as we spin away in the dark at Soul Cycle on Union Street.

“And don’t say for exercise. That’s a given. You can get that anywhere. What is your purpose? Your goal? And not just for this 45 minutes.”

For the last weeks my goal has been to get through a few minutes without coughing and tissues. In Africa on vacation I got a cold, inconvenient, but much worse than the first few days has been the sniffling, the hawking, and the coughing.

“Post-viral cough” they call it. But I—and those around me—called it misery. In the past an albuterol inhaler has stopped it. Not this time.

Tessalon Perles, prescription cough medicine, might as well be Tic Tacs. Even cough syrup with codeine didn’t knock it. It did help me get a little rest, but that was all. She said the nebulizer breathing treatment helped–she with the stethoscope–but I didn’t see it.

Eating was actually a chore, my body objected to the disruption in its phlegm factory. But I still tried to exercise. Moving would, at least for the moment, clear out the breathing pipes.

Pilates, walking, Soul Cycle, I tried everything along with all the potions and tissues in every single pocket and purse.

“Let me know when I’m supposed to whack you on the back,” said a woman at the next table at Pizzeria Delfina.

“I know it sounds awful,” I said, “but I’m not contagious.” “Not anymore,” said the woman at the urgent care.

“Everybody up!” calls Ian, and all 55 of us in the Soul Cycle studio stand up to pedal. Surprising how exhausting a 45-minute class can be, 48 if you stay for the stretch. “If you can’t stay for all three minutes, please leave now, I just ask that you say good-bye.”
We do push-ups on the bike. Weights on the bike, always dialing up the resistance. “You don’t need me to tell you when to try harder,” calls Ian, “it’s your life! You are in charge.”

Today in fact is his four-year teaching anniversary. One of the most popular teachers in San Francisco—his classes for the week sometimes fill up within 15 minutes of the Monday noon sign-up period–“I failed the first audition to teach. It doesn’t matter how often you fail, what matters is how you get back up.”

Finally I went back to the doctor and got an inhaler with steroids. The instructions are complicated. “One puff from the albuterol inhaler, hold it in. Wait one minute. One puff from the steroid inhaler. One minute. Albuterol inhaler. One minute. Then the steroid inhaler. Do that twice a day.”

After three or four days I feel a tiny bit better. I’ve lost about eight pounds since eating is a struggle.

I have never been able to stand up for the whole Soul Cycle class. I tell myself that in the dark no one can see when I sit down. But of course I know.

And then here, now, finally, even though I’m still recovering, I actually can stay up the whole time. Feels like a big accomplishment.

“Why are you here?” asks Ian, who’s big on empowerment. “What are your goals?”

Here? Does he me mean in this room? Or in the world?

Let’s stick to the room….at least for the moment. I’ve moved from two-pound weights to three-pound. I can breathe. I can stand up the whole time…what would be another challenge?

Sometimes a rider is up on the podium, either to give Ian’s legs a break, or to make room for someone else in the class.

THAT would be a big challenge.

And so, dripping afterwards I ask about that possibility.

He looks down through ringlets. “To be on the podium, you have to be approved by corporate.”

About Karen Ray

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