The same way I was somehow surprised by an all too familiar fitness phenomenon after my early morning swerve session last week, this week's ride helped me re-learn another important exercise lesson. One that I've learned plenty of times before, but that still seems to take me by surprise every time I experience it again.
I'll start off my story by sharing that with this class I committed a serious group exercise offense. I was late to class. Only 2 minutes, but late is late and Trisha was ready to go at 6:30 p.m., so her warm-up had already started as I rushed down the stairs to the studio. She continued leading the warm-up as I quickly strapped on my shoes, powered up my heart rate monitor, and hopped onto my bike. Once I clicked in my shoes and began pedaling I found my pace and was ready to ride.
One of the best parts about Trisha's class is that she gets you warmed-up right off the bat. It only takes two or three minutes before she'll have your heart rate quickly rising and your muscles warm and ready to work. And right after our warm-up she took us straight to work with challenging hill climbs and exhilarating interval sprints.
Even though I know and have experienced first hand the effects of progressive exercise, during class this week what took me by surprise was that all of sudden, reaching the benchmarks ("give me 95 RPM at level 4") that Trisha requested of us suddenly felt easier. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying intense cycling is now easy for me; it's still a hell of a challenging workout. What I'm saying is, compared to my first and second Swerve sessions, my third felt less difficult. Still challenging, but less difficult.
And that ladies and gents is what we call conditioning. The method of pushing your body beyond its limits with the intent of improving your athletic abilities. Having gone through the challenge of learning to run (which sucked at first, but now is something that I love to do) I knew before I started that this is how it would go down. My own previous experiences, plus my knowledge of the way exercising generally works meant that before I started Swerve I knew that with the more time I put into it, it would continue to get easier. Yet when this happened, I was still surprised.
Exercise is pretty amazing that way. Because there's always room for improvement, whether you're a beginner or veteran, it has the ability to make you feel really good each time you make a new breakthrough. Granted, those breakthroughs are much more frequent when you're just beginning. It's not everyday you can say, "Wow, I feel like I made progress!" And for the most part progress comes slowly and in very small increments.
But the best part about working out is that no matter what—even if you don't immediately feel like you got better, stronger, or faster—you'll still feel good afterwards anyway. Enorphins are pretty powerful that way, you know?