It happened. After weeks of attending a cycling class—often at the crack of dawn, with an instructor who was waaaay too peppy for 6 a.m.—I did it: I cried on my spin bike.
From the moment tears fell, I knew I had become one of them. One of the women I used to back away slowly from at parties whenever they got talking about Spin class. The women who described Spin with such color and flair, you would have thought they were describing a religious experience after a few large chugs of Kool-Aid. What a load of crap, I used to mutter under my breath.
And yet here I was, sobbing on the bike.
A powerful pump-up song was playing, smacking me right in the feels, and, oh yeah, everything was exacerbated as I was currently going through the worst, most soul-crushing breakup of my life. Luckily, I was far enough in the back that no one could see my face.
It was actually my therapist who recommended exercise to help cope with the breakup. She believed that working out would distract my mind, and the movement would convince my brain that I actually was moving on. Plus, it couldn't hurt to do something other than crying and drowning my sorrows in wine and Ben & Jerry's ice cream (#noregrets). I had to start the process of healing somewhere, and so, after our session, I decided to go on a run.
It wasn't easy—I was hardly able to get out of bed, let alone go jogging around the block.
But I somehow managed to wipe my mascara-stained tears away, find a Spotify playlist with the least amount of love songs, and hit the pavement.
Like any run, the first few minutes were tough. I wanted to quit, to cry. Every part of my body screamed for me to turn back and crawl into bed. But the more I ran, the less and less I thought about him. For a little while, I even believed that I would be OK.
Wanting to chase this newfound high, it felt like divine intervention when I spied an unlimited monthly membership at a new Spin studio that had opened up down the road. The price was astronomical, but I considered it a necessary investment in healing my broken heart.
I'll never forget that first class—I felt insecure and out of place as I struggled to figure out how to adjust my bike. There I was, a chubby girl among a sea of skinny, beautiful girls who all had on expensive-looking Lululemons—mine were from the bargain bin at Walmart. Even their perfect ponytails seemed to bounce just right (if there is such a thing), while mine just slapped me in the face.
The class was already in full swing by the time I finally got set up and my shoes locked into the shoe grips.
I looked up to see the instructor at the front. "Do you believe in yourself?" She asked as I started pedaling. She spoke as though she moonlighted as a motivational speaker.
I looked around the room as people screamed, "Yeah!" What had I gotten myself into?
But when she asked again, with even more conviction, I weirdly felt compelled to join in. "... Yeah!"
"Forget about everyone else. This class is for you! To put in the work and to love yourself. Are you with me?!"
"Single ladies, give me a what-what!"
OK so, that last part didn't happen. But that first class was transformative. I felt strong, energized, and even a little bit like myself again—an impossible concept during heartbreak.
From that first class on, Spin class became my refuge.
I clung onto it the way Eat, Pray, Love's Liz Gilbert clung onto pasta and meditation during her divorce. Like clockwork, I was up at 5:45 a.m. every single day and was on my bike by 6:15 a.m. ready to feel good again. The instructors got to know me by name, I felt more energized throughout the day, and as the weeks passed, I hurt a little bit less until I began smiling or laughing on my own.
Gone were the days of hiding my tears at work, feeling hopeless, and using every ounce of resistance in my body to not call him. Even the girls I was once intimidated by in class became a support system for me. Weeks went by like this until the moment I found myself on that fateful day, crying on the bike. I'm talking big, fat tears—the kind you get when watching the last scene of The Notebook.
That moment went like this:
You are strong.
I kept pedaling.
You are beautiful.
Get over that hill!
You are worthy of love.
I kept going, my heart thumping loudly in my chest. My legs kept spinning until it felt like I was flying away from the old Sarah—the one who, 11 weeks earlier, could barely make it through her first class. The one who woke up feeling terrible, only to go to bed feeling just the same. The one who never thought she would find love again, much less learn to love herself.
I had surpassed all that by becoming a part of a community and the version of myself I always hoped I would be: someone who was strong, happy, and, most of all, capable of embracing and thriving at being alone.
Sarah is a writer, editor and cat mom. Lover of wine, rom-coms, and all things self-care, she’s inspired by mindfulness and helping others feel balanced in their lives through meditation, self-love and, of course, self-care. To learn more, you can find her at sarahkester.com.