It’s Fall Fitness time here at Dandelion Chandelier. Post Halloween and pre-Thanksgiving, there’s no better time to check in and tune up your fitness routine. Our multi-part week-long series will investigate all manner of fitness activities, news, and new trends.
First up? We’ve written about the best spin classes in the world, and about the best indoor stationary bikes for those who prefer to sweat in private. As we conducted our research, we realized that lots of our friends and far-flung correspondents are men who from time to time participate in group spinning classes. Be it SoulCycle, FlyWheel, The Dailey Method (TDM) or some other studio, they report being a distinct minority in this milieu. So what’s it like to be a man in a predominantly female exercise class? In their own (lightly edited) words, our intrepid male spinners share their personal stories from inside the studio. Here’s what our Silicon Valley Bureau Chief had to say.
First off, why spinning?
Frankly I hate spinning. If you bike, really bike, it strikes me as insane. You are locked in a dark, loud room, pedaling in cadences that have no bearing on terrain, going exactly nowhere and focused on numbers versus all the factors that make biking fun, e.g., being outdoors. So to me, certain spinning studios make zero sense. The spinning I have done at TDM, though, is a bit different – you’re not allowed to use the bike quite like a bike; posture and alignment are as important as speed and matching the required RPM’s. Basically if you bike, you almost are at a disadvantage because none of the postural things bikers do (hunching over, swaying side to side etc) work. So it doesn’t annoy me as much because it’s actually not like biking at all – it’s a thing you sit on as an exercise aid.
How many guys or what percent of the typical class you attend is male?
Like 1 for every 12-15 people. You’re literally the odd man out. That said, you’re also the only one besides the regulars who knows how to clip in.
Is the teacher ever male?
Not at TDM. There are definitely some male Soul Cycle teachers, though.
How do you feel being in the minority in this situation? Does that inform any other part of your life?
It’s hilarious. I will say, it requires some self-possession. If you were at all uncomfortable in or with your body, or leery of being awkward with your body in front of mostly strange women wearing skin tight clothing? You’d be freaked out.
For me, I mostly find it funny and humbling in a productive way. You can’t be “strong” in a typically male, physical way. There is nothing to lift, or throw, or hit with a stick. It’s far more like dance in that respect, while pedaling – it’s all about being conscious of your alignment and core, while trying not to puke because the resistance and RPMs are high and you literally don’t stop for 45 minutes. It’s humbling because without question, most of the women around you and especially the instructor appear to have bionic legs, which just pedal away automatically like it’s nothing. They also don’t huff and puff. And even when they sweat it’s no big deal. I literally get soaked. It’s disgusting. I need extra towels and stuff, which is also potentially awkward. And I always feel bad about the women near me, unless they know me, because I’m groaning and huffing and kind of spraying the area with sweat, which is more or less normal for guys, but not apparently for super-fit women. Regarding other parts of my life? The field I’m in professionally is mostly women. That probably made being in the minority around very strong women far more normal for me, at least.
What have you learned from working out with women?
They are crazy, crazy strong and exhibit the insanely high tolerance for pain you would expect from the half of the race that births kids. It’s actually slightly terrifying. In a good way.
What advice would you have for a guy thinking about starting spinning?
Check your damn ego at the door, especially if you think you are a biker.
Do you think more about your appearance at class than you would in another workout situation?
Slightly. There’s a whole fashion thing going on. Arguably every sport has it. Some people show up all geared out, but as with skiing and tennis, often those jackasses can’t actually do anything. They just spent money to look good, until they get off the chairlift or hit their forehand over the fence. So too much gear isn’t good, especially if you suck. In spinning this means I don’t show up [covered] in fancy Lulu Lemon or whatever high end TDM clothing I could buy, because I don’t want to look like a regular when I am not. I also don’t want to look like a total freak either, by wearing, say, cargo shorts and a sweatshirt. I try to literally look like a guy in a spin class – slightly out of place but not like Napoleon Dynamite.
Do you think you’re more or less competitive than usual when there is a majority of women in the class?
About the same. Being surrounded by excellence and wanting to do better isn’t really gender specific for me, at least in this context. I’d come back to misconceptions about the nature of strength. The regulars are just beasts on the bikes (beast may not be a great word in many ways, I realize) and even women who don’t go a lot are just better at what we’re being asked to do than most men. I generally just shake my head mentally and keep trying not to barf, while also pushing pretty hard so as not to look like a total loser.
What are the funniest things that have happened or that has been said to you? What has surprised you the most? What have you learned about women?
People moving far away from me because of the puffing and sweating thing. Being patted on the head like a small boy and told it’s cute that I am there “supporting my wife.” Deliberately selecting the tiniest, pink weights because those are all I can handle, despite having seemingly larger arms than most people in the class. Regarding what surprised me, see above regarding strength. The thing about TDM is that few folks there have so-called “perfect” bodies. But they all are in sick shape. It’s a great reminder not to judge books by covers.
What have you learned about yourself?
Spinning’s not the best activity for me. I like hitting things with sticks better.