But - silver lining here - finding another workout option that improves fitness and allows healing: extraordinary.
Really, it should be "xtraordinary."
The kind folks at XCycle reached out to me almost immediately after I got hurt. Gabi, a good friend as well as XCycle's studio manager/GM, suggested I try one of their classes before Boston. She assured me the workout was low-impact, high-energy, and would torched a ton of calories. Pre-race weight gain is always a concern; I worried as my miles went down, the weight would go up. She generously set me up with a five-pack of classes and before I knew, I was making online reservations. Yes, me. Kim: She Who Hates Cycling. My legs are too long; my torso is too short. I don't know how to clip in. Pedaling to nowhere sounds decidedly boring.
But I didn't have a lot of time or options. My challenge was simple: maintain endurance without exacerbating the calf strain. Sure, swimming was wonderful, but it didn't raise my heart rate the way running did. (...perhaps I'm doing something wrong?...) Plus, lap after lap in the pool was relaxing, not exhilarating. I missed my runner's high.
Also, I kinda missed...people. The pool is a lonely place at 5am.
Quite honestly, anyone that can get me on a bike deserves heaps of praise. For me to actually enjoy it? That's essentially a miracle.
But XCycle is different. They succeeded -- "xceptionally" well.
The studio's white, clean lines lean more towards an exclusive spa and not a gym. Lockers, towels on each bike, spin shoes; all very nice and needed touches. I was a bit nervous, yes, but before each class, the instructor took extra time to help me set up my bike, get it to the right height ("Ooooh! This feels much better!") and in the correct handlebar position ("My back doesn't hurt anymore!"). They offered helpful suggestions and modifications on every ride to ensure my calf experienced no discomfort or endanger it to additional damage.
Even better, gone was the harsh glare of indoor lighting and that awkward feeling of riders checking each other out. I have no rhythm; I know that. I don't need anyone watching me bob my head on the wrong beat. XCycle, however, had thought of that - instead of the unforgiving, bleaching affect of white lights, the studio was lit only by colored beams and soft candle light. It just so happen the lights pulsated with the rhythm of the music, making the room feel like a warm, inviting cocoon of motion and sound. I loved the low lighting; it made me focus on the instructor and the music, removing any feelings of self-consciousness. We all cycle the beat of our drum, okay? Mine just happens to be a half-count behind yours.
Each instructor encouraged riders to "go their own pace," a direction I appreciated. I knew I wouldn't be able to be out of the saddle as much as others but didn't want to call attention to it. The intervals varied, both in time and intensity, causing my heart rate to finally - finally! - hit that lovely high. The "sprinting" - pedaling all-out with little resistance - recruited all those fast twitch muscle fibers that went dormant since my last speed work session. We all know hills are just speed work in disguise...who knew cycling was, too? With music pumping and the lights dancing, for the first time in weeks, exercise felt fun again. I couldn't believe it when 45 minutes was over. I was just getting warmed up.
I left each class dripping in sweat. Peaceful and upbeat.
Endorphins aside, want to hear the best part?
Immediately following class, each rider is presented with a chilled eucalyptus-scented towel at the door.
Dude, running? Who wants to run? This was way more fun. I don't remember ever being handed a scented towel on the track. It was just me and a bunch of stinky high school boys. No eucalyptus anything. Just stinky boy smell.
Ultimately, I learned many important lessons in this training cycle. The first: sh*t happens. The second lesson: diversify.
Thank you, XCycle, for reinforcing the second lesson. I walked out of the studio that first day feeling euphoric - and without pain in my leg. I needed that sense of accomplishment to stave off taper madness, truthfully. It never occurred to me that I could taper via cross-training; I believe now XCycle was a critical aspect to maintaining my sanity amid the stress. Tapering is hard enough. But XCycle is intense enough to continue that lovely sweat-drenched, endorphin production, and low-impact enough to allow facilitate recovery pre-race. Win-win.
As challenging as this injury was and continues to be, I feel so fortunate I stumbled into this new, beautifully lit world of spin. I plan to use XCycle consistently in the future for additional cross-training, low-impact fitness. The best part? XCycle supplements any running program: you can cycle as many days a week as you'd like without the additional strain of running.
An injury is a depressing, disgusting event in an athlete's life. But it doesn't have to be a prison sentence. Whether you are injured or looking to add another layer to your workout routine, the care, thought and detail put into XCycle's classes are top-notch. I spoke of gratitude when I wrote about running in Boston; now, I feel nothing but gratitude when I think of cycling in Las Vegas.
Thank you Gabi, Jen, and the whole XCycle family for taking me under your wings during my time of need. I will be at the XCycle booth at the Revel Mt. Charleston expo this Friday from 10am-2pm. Come say hi!
XCycle Indoor Cycling Studio is located at 750 S. Rampart Blvd, Ste 6, in the Boca Park shopping complex. Classes are available multiple times per day, seven days a week. Check them out: www.xcyclelv.com, Facebook (XCycle Las Vegas), and Instagram (@xcyclelv).