I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I come from an athletic family. My grandparents were hikers - they walked multiple miles every day, even into their 80s - & my mom, who was a swimming champion in her teens, is big into biking.

The most athletic among us, though, are her brother & his family. They're exercise people, you know? They run for fun. They do push-ups while watching TV. They travel with workout gear. One cousin has run races all over the world, & the other started a running group in Cincinnati, where she lives.

And me? I'm decidedly not an athlete.

With said athletic fam at Thanksgiving 2011

Every year, when I was a kid, my family invited me to join them in the local Turkey Trot - & every year, I said no, sleeping through their absence & waking up at the end of the Macy's parade.

And every year, too, I felt crummy about it. I've always wanted to feel inclined & able to do something physical with the fam. What's more, I've always been self-conscious of my lack of athletic inclination, especially when stacked up next to theirs.

So this year, more than 100 rides down, I wanted to finally do something active together. I invited my family to take an indoor cycling class with me - & they said yes! While traveling for Thanksgiving, we hit up a 9:15 a.m. class at Cycle Bar Hilton Head.

We took that selfie before class started, & I was feeling so good.

The class itself was... fine, I didn't love it but was glad to try it. It felt very different from my home studio, Harness Cycle - a good workout, yes, but not nearly as fun or communal or emotionally powerful. It just felt like a workout class.

Still, we were pretty proud of ourselves when we finished. Patting ourselves on the back, we got drinks from Starbucks & sat outside, cooling off & catching up. What a great morning!

And then, I made the mistake of checking my email.

"Performance Summary," the email read, with CycleBar as the sender. Inside, a graphic declared, "Your cyclestats are in!"

Yeah, that says what you think it says: CLASS RANK 40/41.

In a class of 41 riders, I finished second to last. Behind my mom, my aunt, my uncle, my cousin, my husband, & behind nearly everyone else in the room.

Upon reading the email, my mood changed. My heart dropped. My spirits fell. What felt like a great workout & a fun family bonding activity now felt like a failure. I felt like shit. What a loser.

Fortieth out of 41?! I've ridden more than 125 classes & keep up well. Sure, sometimes I need a breather, but I work hard. And I thought that by now, I was decent at it, at the very least.

But Harness doesn't track stats. Harness doesn't have a leaderboard. Harness doesn't tell you how good you are - or how much you suck. And now I know - apparently, I really suck.

I'll be honest: I'm struggling with this & the serious blow to my self-esteem. It messed with my entire day, my entire attitude. I couldn't snap out of the funk of feeling like a failure. I was so embarssed - even though nobody even knew.

As I wrote this, I uncovered a major realization: I accidentally switched bikes with one of my relatives - someone who wasn't trying to ride to keep up (which makes the low stats much more acceptable/expected for them). Though I can't find an online layout of the studio, I'm almost positive we were on each other's bikes.

The stats for that bike, frankly, are still trash (again, because this person opted out of the instructions & just rode the bike). That bike (the one I think I was on) placed 30/41, whereas everyone else in the family was higher. My uncle, who didn't even do any of the choreography, came in sixth in the class!

Though I feel better about 30 than about 40, I'm still pretty disappointed - slightly less disappointed, but only slightly. Still, I'm trying to be realistic.

For starters, the fact that my uncle did so well - without doing any of the "moves" - tells me that the leaderboard isn't about how well you perform but how fast/hard you're riding, which isn't necessarily what spinning classes are about (for me, at least).

And second of all, since when is riding about how I stack up against others? I feel so lucky, now more than ever, that Harness doesn't track leaderboard stats or tell me how well (or not-well) I'm doing compared to others. Because I've got to keep reminding myself: That's not why I ride.

There's a phrase at Harness: "Remember why you started." And I'm trying to remember it.

I started because my body & my mind needed it. I kept going because I hate doing things I'm bad at, so I insisted on getting better - & also because I sort of enjoyed it, sort of thrived on the challenge, sort of wanted it. And I continue now because I love it.

So maybe I suck, & maybe it took an otherwise-very-fun ride at CycleBar with my family for me to realize it. But maybe it's not about sucking. Because, hey, I've always kind of sucked at it, really.

But I ride to feel great, not necessarily to be great - & I'll feel a lot better if I don't think for another second about how much better anyone else is.

So ride on, friends. I know I will.

Psst: Wanna ride with me? I'm probably not going back to CycleBar - but if you wanna hit up Harness, here's a referral link that gets you... I have no idea, actually. But it gets me $5 if you use it. And I'd love to ride with you, if you want a buddy as you get started!

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