Unexpected Instincts

Recently, I came in first1 on the ridiculous “Torq-board” at Flywheel,2 which is this massive chain of weirdly number-driven biking classes. I left class feeling weirdly proud of myself for doing something I honestly didn’t think I particular cared about, which was strange.3 It’s not that I’m “above” caring about a spin class. In fact, aside from the fiction-y research parts I’m looking for, I try really hard to be mentally present in class because these bike classes have been way more effective than the attempts at “meditation” I’ve tried in the past to combat OCD. It’s more that I just never thought that I cared enough to push myself in order to win something like a race.

Back story: Flywheel rates you in how much power you put out, which they call a “Torq” score or something. They also do these races where you put out as much “Torq” as you can in 30-60 seconds. That number is how they determine what place you’re in.

Through sheer weird luck, in this particular class I happened to be about evenly matched with another girl who was literally right next to me, and we were both right about in first/second place for women. But I saw, at some point, that I had “first” on my little screen, telling me I was ahead. And for reasons I still find somewhat mystifying, my brain just decided that I was going to beat her no matter what.

This was not some kind of, “I’m going to be the best I can be, because I’m really racing my own limits,” pursuit of a high number. No, this was, “I am going to go faster than this girl next to me if it kills me.” For this totally arbitrary number, in this totally arbitrary set of humans who happened to show up to this class. Like, I definitely thought I cared more about the joy of listening to shitty music,4 about movement, about health, etc. Apparently, I underestimated my cutthroat instincts.

It actually felt, at the time, like it did nearly kill me.5 I always feel like that after these spin classes, but this time I realized that I was going to be eating a banana in the shower, I was so totally beat. It was, according to whatever that Torq number actually is, a record for me as well. But that fat fucking grin on my face was not because I beat myself. It was because I beat Girl #2, and I definitely know it.

I sort of got a weird preview of this when I ran that 5K a while ago. “Go run because it’s good for you,” is one kind of motivation. “Run the speed your watch is telling you to run,” is another. But when I saw this guy pushing a stroller going faster than me, the absurd injustice of stroller-guy beating me is what sped me way the hell up.6

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Fencing is literally about killing the other guy, and I loved the hell out of that. It’s just weird to suddenly have it click that this arbitrary thing, this number, means winning, and that you want to win even if you know it’s completely meaningless.

So, that’s a weird thing to know about myself.

P.S. I’m in Greece and I wrote this before I left. Haha! You were fooled by past me.

  1. Of women. Which was way behind all the men.
  2. I don’t know if I particularly like Flywheel, I honestly just needed to try biking for a fiction-related thing and was too scared to get on a bike that actually moved. Zengo is a little more my speed.
  3. My other victory was using a blowdryer, which honestly I’m not sure I was doing right. I don’t think you just hold it and shake it at your hair. There’s got to be more to it than that, as evidenced by the result.
  4. Kissing Strangers
  5. The most useful affirmation I’ve heard at Zengo is, “You feel like you’re dying. And yet you always recover.” Which I like to think I’m smart enough not to be lifted up by, and yet somehow think about when I want to quit running. Stupid self help aphorisms, being effective when they shouldn’t be.
  6. I did not beat stroller guy, and I’m still mad about it.