Final Freedom Ride
PHYSICAL FITNESS AS SPIRITUAL AWAKENING
For many people, a cycling or “spinning” class may be about physical fitness. For me, a class with our instructor Freedom is a spiritual awakening. As she guides us through the morning’s ride, I journey through my heart and soul. My muscles ache. My heart pounds. I discover the small, yet spacious calm, a stillness deep inside where voices of intuition and inspiration reside. As I trek uphill or push myself to pedal faster, I am consistently inspired, making broader connections about my life and the lenses through which I view the world. I emerge from the 45-minute class each Tuesday and Thursday deeply connected, a whole new person—one who is more “me”—with a greater sense of my place in the world and a clearer vision of my purpose.
As the summer season ramps up, my morning responsibilities and routines change, as do my instructor’s. She will be rooted deep in the earth, caring and tending plants. I, too, will connect with nature; exploring the biking trails behind my house and joining my inner mermaid for a morning swim.
Today marked my final “Freedom Ride” before October. We progressed through a series of increasing efforts followed by short periods of complete recovery: a seated climb that got progressively longer after each one-minute rest period, a speed section that did the same, followed by a standing climb (a “mash”). Between each effort, we took a recovery period—giving our bodies a chance to recuperate. We breathed deeply, calming our respiration and our heartbeats. These finite periods of complete rest and recovery inspired me to reflect on my life in a similar manner.
As I go about my day-to-day activities, it often feels like I am efforting—for increasingly longer periods of time—perhaps changing positions or activities, but efforting nonetheless. What I often forget, however, is the recovery period. I neglect to insert periods of rest and recuperation that are necessary in order to face the next task, overcome the next obstacle, climb the next mountain of laundry. that refused to budge despite all of my best efforts.
When I remember to breathe fully, to laugh deeply, to lounge in my pajamas with a good book—to completely recover from one effort before I tackle the next—then, the mighty efforts that follow feel like accomplishments to celebrate rather than another drudgery to be faced. . .
In life, you may say, there isn’t time to recover. We find ourselves running from one fire to put out the next. Freedom guided us through this, too. In our final series of efforts, when we were at the height of exhaustion, counting the minutes until the end of class; she instructed us that we would do the final group without any recovery in-between. As I was longing for a massage, she was leading us into a seated climb, followed by a speed segment, followed by an intense “mash”. We dug deep, she turned up the music, voiced encouragement, and we rode. . .hard. I found myself counting—over and over again—one to four and then back to one again, metering out our final minutes with the beats of the song that rang out. As long as I kept counting and envisioning the road moving behind me, I could continue efforting; knowing that, soon, Freedom’s voice would join mine and together we would reach the final countdown: . .5…4…3…2…done.
Spinning easy, I allowed my breath and respiration to return to their natural state of ease. Taking my time, I stretched, chatted with classmates, and then indulged in a leisurely shower. I luxuriated in the recovery before returning to the hills and speed of my everyday life: a run to the grocery store, kids to guide (or coerce) through morning routines and into school, an egg casserole to deliver for teacher appreciation week, a meeting with the plumber, an article to write, a family to pack for the trip that begins tomorrow. Can you feel your heartbeat increasing just reading the list? My heart is constricting as I type. Then I pause. I remember—recovery. Even if just for a minute, like in class. That one minute makes a world of difference. It separates the effort from the release. It acknowledges completion; it celebrates accomplishment. If I run my life as a journey from one difficult task to the next, I begin to grow resentful, overwhelmed, grumpy and no fun. Today, I will pause—not for a 2-week vacation—or even an hour’s nap—but for a few minutes between each task, placing my hand on my heart and breathing deeply, honoring the effort.