The Case of the Spinning Smiter: Chapter 2

It should come as no surprise to you by now that the good Dr Smiter has at last figured out a way to acquire injuries in a spin class.

Now, before you reach for your wallet to collect on your bet (or your mallet and your car keys to head over to the Swamp to give Smiter a wallop across the cranium), let me assure you that I have not (touch wood) actually acquired said injuries.

However, last night’s class did present a golden opportunity for tears and mayhem, in the form of a loose bike seat. Dr Smiter was comfortably aboard, water bottle stowed, towel at the ready, and had just settled into the task at hand when suddenly the bike seat reared crazily backward and then abruptly forward again, nearly tossing Smiter in every conceivable direction.

Luckily two opposing forces were at work. First, one’s feet are secured to the pedals during a spin class by little devices called “cages”, into which one slips the toes of one’s shoes, providing a bit of extra “bang” for your pedalling buck. This, however, can be a hazard for the uninitiated, as one’s feet remain in place on what is essentially a wildly spinning piece of machinery as the rest of one’s body does a sort of dismount. This is the athletic equivalent, I think, of exiting a moving car while one’s feet are glued to the gas pedal. (Or, if in a Toyota, to the brake.)

Second, Dr Smiter has had some experience not only with bizarre accidents but with horses (I am not making this up) so with a startled shout of “WHOA UP there, Trigger!” she clutched the handlebars and rocketed somewhat abruptly back into position.

By this time, of course, the class was more or less full and very much underway, so your heroine bravely called on her reserves of British stiff-upper-lip (and a variety of seldom-used muscles and tendons that, in the interests of this remaining a family publication, must remain unmentioned) and soldiered bravely through the rest of the class without further incident.

After class I sidled, somewhat bow-legged, up to the instructor, a fine fellow named Jon, and pointed out that if he had a spare few moments he might want to take a socket wrench to ol’ Trigger in the event that future participants were not in possession of Dr Smiter’s equestrian skills.

Jon, by the way, is now Smiter’s new best friend, as (besides his promise to repair Trigger) he told me in no uncertain terms that I had done really well, and that I obviously had an “excellent cardio base.” Suffice it to say that were Smiter the marrying kind, the wedding invite would be attached to the bottom of this post. Coming as this remark did on the tails of my “Fat Bastard” post yesterday, it was a much-needed reminder that all is not lost for Smiter in terms of physical prowess.

Back to the matter at hand, however, which is the very real possibility of injury even in something as seemingly innocent as a spin class. This is, of course, in addition to the unlikely event of an “equipment malfunction” as described above — Smiter, as I’ve said, is accident- and incident-prone, and the giddy-up moment with the bike seat was not much of a surprise in most respects.

And by “injuries” I don’t mean the initial saddle-soreness one experiences after the first couple of spin classes. Embarking on any sport, whether it be running, swimming, hiking or rowing, often initially makes the participant feel rather sore as previously unused muscles are called upon to do their thing. Cycling, however, is probably the only sport where (how do I put this delicately) one is tempted, for the first few days afterward, to give complete celibacy a sober second thought. I have no idea how the gentlemen cope with the aftermath of a bout of  vigorous cycling  (and believe me, in the longer moments of a spin class, one’s mind does wander into peculiar territory) but for us girls, well, let’s just say that loose clothing and a lukewarm bath (and possibly a discreetly placed Do Not Disturb sign) are strongly recommended.

Anyway, those issues aside, one of the biggest risks I can foresee is something called overtraining. I first encountered this term when I was covering the Athens Olympics for CBC Sports in 2004, and it was an issue that athletes and coaches alike were beginning to take very seriously. Competitive athletes are extremely prone to overtraining, for what should be obvious reasons, and the consequences can be dire:  physical injury, persistent fatigue, elevated heart rate, insomnia, excessive weight loss/body fat loss and increased susceptibility to illness and infections, just to name a few.

And Olympic-calibre athletes are most definitely not the only ones prone to overtraining. Basically any one of us who undertakes any sort of physical activity, from triathlons to aquafit, is a sitting duck if we go at it too hard, too fast or too frequently. And let’s face it, our collective obsession (mine included) with fitness, weight loss and general over-achievement provides the perfect breeding ground for injuries and overtraining.

I have suffered from it myself exactly once, while training for a half-marathon in Toronto, and it is unmistakeable and hellish: it feels like a combination of jet lag, influenza, caffeine overdose and (for the ladies) PMS, rolled into one ugly wallop.

The only remedy is to knock off training at once, and then rest, drink plenty of water, bump up your calorie intake a bit, and visit a sports physiotherapist or massage therapist if you can, to help squish out those aching muscles.

Which brings me to an aside concerning first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Although it is a pet subject of Dr Smiter, this is actually not so much of an aside as it seems: every year, one or two unlucky people die of cardiac arrest during the marathons here in Toronto, and probably in every other marathon on Earth. Most of these poor souls are later found to have been woefully unprepared for what is one of the most physically brutal events a body can undertake, and they pay a horrible price for it.

And certainly when one’s heart rate hits the upper 100s during a spin class for the first time, one’s thoughts do drift uneasily into the realm of “what if” and wondering whether one’s legal affairs are in order.

At any rate, I firmly believe that everyone over the age of about 3 should have at least some rudimentary training in how to administer first aid and CPR. My own acquaintance with this started when I was a hatchling of eight, during swimming lessons at the Thames Pool in London. I believe my enthusiastic response to the mouth-to-mouth session was “Ew, gross, cooties!” but over the years,  as I trained to be a lifeguard and then a first-responder at my various workplaces, this sentiment has mellowed to “Ew, cooties. Well, let’s get out the sanitary mask then, shall we?”

Anyway, I do firmly believe everyone should know at least the basics. Think of it this way — in the unlucky event that you choked on your next Quarter Pounder or were hit by a car (in the ongoing Toronto pedestrian vs. auto event), I’m sure you’d want at least one bystander to stop gawking and actually help you until the paramedics arrived.

St. John’s Ambulance offers an excellent first aid/CPR course, as does the Canadian Red Cross. Many workplaces pounce eagerly on employees who want to train up, so ask your boss or your HR person whether they offer on-site training. Courses cost about 100 bucks, and your office may pick up the tab for you. Worst to worst, go to your local library and at least glance at a book about first aid and CPR, or visit a website. There was a famous case a few years back of a toddler who did chest compression on her mother with a toilet plunger, after seeing CPR demonstrated on TV, and saved her mom’s life after she collapsed from a heart attack. If that little squirt can do it, you can do it.

And with these words, Smiter will now dismount from her soapbox and prepare for her noon spin class. For those of you who are again (or still) laying bets, be advised that Smiter is (slowly) learning to take her own advice: despite her eagerness to be more fit and less porky, she is reluctant to venture ever again into the waiting jaws of sports injury or overtraining, and to that end she does actually take it easy(ish) in class, and she is eating properly. Hell, she even had a nice little  scoop of ice cream last night.

For the rest of you, keep a weather eye out: word has it that Trigger is feeling frisky today. I’ll wave as I go galloping by!


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