Paean to Peloton: Sanity Savers #1
For as long as I'd heard of Peloton, I'd maintained that it was a trend. A fad. A craze.
And then covid, and I'd only committed to personal training at a gym for a year anyway since it wasn't cheap but I justified it because I didn't know how to do anything strength-related even a basic squat or a lunge, and my year was up but I couldn't bring myself to leave as I'd fallen in love with it after having to give up running when my body started producing a two-day sneezing-snotting fit following every run which my allergist concluded was "vasomotor rhinitis" when she couldn't cure it with allergy meds or a battery of shots (later she refined her diagnosis to "You're just weird"), and while all that was doable for a while, I started losing my shit everrrr so slightly and was a teensy bit testy in a text exchange with my brother, who got me into running about a hundred years ago and coached me through my first marathon and is also a firm believer in biking and wondered out loud if I maybe could use a Peloton to discharge some of that squirrelly energy, so I thought it over and did a little online reading and talked to a couple of trusted friends who loved their Peloton and finally I bit the bullet, and though the bike was on backorder for months because of all the supply-chain issues, the company ponied--or airplaned--up and shipped their wares by air instead of sea, and my Very Own Peloton was delivered and assembled right in our Very Own Bedroom in February, and thus began a new chapter in my fitness history.
I'm not an athlete. I proved that to myself via the swim team in junior high and the track and cross-country teams in high school and then lots of NYRR races in my thirties. I'm middle-of-the-pack at best. But I enjoy exercise. I appreciate it for the mental and physical strength, the cardio fitness, the muscle firmness, the stress release. I also really like being on the other side of a workout. There are precious few feelings more virtuous than sweaty exhaustion after you've given a physical endeavor your utmost.
My very first Peloton class was with Jenn Sherman, a twenty-minute '70s pop ride. She noted, "This is what we call a fun first ride here at Peloton," and while the app may have suggested the class for me because she's my demographic, it couldn't have known I'd love her simply for saying "Get your shit together" and for "ridin' to the rhythm" of Dr. John's cover of "Iko Iko." Output, leaderboard, and merit badges do very little for me, but music provides a natural high and makes me push myself harder than anything, with the possible exception of a medal. During another Jenn Sherman class--a 45-minute Women's History Month ride--she played Beyoncé's "Run the World (Girls)" and I found myself bursting into unexpected tears. Music + girl power + sweat + endorphins = a powerful, inspirational spell.
It also didn't hurt that Stevie kept me company on the ride that day.
Cell phone photo. Sweat doesn't agree with my DSLR.
I'm not alone in tearing up during classes: Jenn Sherman herself got emotional after Peloton secured the rights to play Bruce Springsteen and she was the first instructor to debut his music, with "Jungleland."
I also love Denis Morton's classes for his emphasis on music and its rhythmic relationship to the workout. I wasn't even deterred by his hard-rock ride that featured Metallica, Pantera, and Audioslave, artists I don't typically go out of my way to listen to, but damn, they have an irresistible beat.
Yoga classes also use music, of course--during in-studio classes, I've heard a lot of new-age instrumental work, most of which didn't stick with me. So I was delighted when Denis's thirty-minute slow flow moved from Ramin Djawadi's orchestral version of Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box" into Satie's No. 1 in D Major: Lent et douloureux. (Note: Though this classical piece is familiar, I didn't actually know its name until I looked it up on the Peloton app, which lists every workout you've ever done and, most importantly, the set list.)
The instructors' vibe is upbeat and inspiring. As Cody Rigsby says, “You've made it through a hundred percent of your bad days.” I like that. It’s so basic that it almost reads as silly, and I don't need the admonition in order to survive my workouts--if I'm gasping for breath during a class, I'll slow the fuck down before giving myself a coronary--but I for sure appreciate its simple emotional support on a tired, rainy Monday morning.
After nearly a hundred cycling classes (at which point I'll join the “century club” and receive a T-shirt, no fooling!), I have concluded that while Peloton might very well be a fad, it's a lot more useful than a fidget spinner, and I fell for that trend too, and acquired more than one, though only one still resides in my desk drawer and the others grew two short legs and walked away.