You would think that as an intern for a sports website, I would be like an overused C3P0, clunking around an office, slightly confused and two steps behind everyone else, making copies, buying coffee and organizing email contact lists. In reality, I'm given the opportunity to write about my passions and be sent off on "press assignments." It's the dirty work no one wants to do, but hey, someone must.
So this past Tuesday, Ed The Sports Fan, too busy to get out of the office because he's updating the website, asks me if I could attend a spin class event put on by Kaiser Permanente and Flywheel Sports called #OWNNOW at the Yerba Buena Gardens in downtown San Francisco. I agree, knowing that it would be a great opportunity for another piece. As I read the description further, I realize this is no ordinary spin class. Stephen Curry and Chris Paul would be participating by helping lead the class. Even better.
I park my car at the 5th and Mission garage and walk toward the gardens in my workout half-pants and tie-dye San Francisco Giants tank, expecting only to be there for the workout. When I reach the woman with the clipboard to sign in, my name is not on the list. Mentioning I'm here with The Sports Fan Journal, she offers me a press pass. I hesitate, ask to be put on the wait list and decide to put off the press pass until the last minute. No way would I be sitting and watching people work out, especially after showing up ready to sweat.
The wooden benches seem like a decent spot to check my email, so I plop down and open the envelope icon on my iPhone after familiarizing myself with the surrounding buildings. Luckily for me, the first email I read provides a number for one of the event managers, and she is able to get me some shoes and a bike. At this point, I believe that I have successfully completed my mission and am on my way to getting the real experience of "working out with athletes."
Of course, the athletes are a little late; they must always keep us waiting with anticipation and giddy excitement. Otherwise, their entrance would not be as grand and brilliant, right? As I wait, I adjust myself on the bike, lock my feet into those weird block contraptions they call pedals and start pedaling to warm up. Just in case. But really because I have nothing else to do.
Finally, after a good rally with the three Flywheel instructors, who, by the way, are extremely energetic and motivating, especially the blonde chick who is screaming into her mic and showing off her ability to dance and pedal at the same time, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul finally step on stage. I must note that the majority of the participants are women, and thus, the sight of these two athletes animates the group incredibly. It is like the feeling you have when you are waiting for pizza following a night at the bars and you finally hear the doorbell ring after waiting for what seems like five days.
After introductions and the drop of a very pop-electronic song, we are off, flying on our bikes, never coasting. I have already "warmed up" for 30 minutes, and my toes are going numb from the strange spin shoes they gave me. But once the toes are completely numb, there is not much feeling anyway. So I ramp up my torc and RPM and smile through the beads of sweat running down between my brows to the tip of my nose, for I am having a fabulous time. Especially because I am actually participating in the event versus standing behind the arc of bikes like the other press folk. What fools.
For 45 minutes, I pedal while grooving to the tunes and feeling energy from the entire group, which encourages me to pedal faster — oh, and the fact that Stephen Curry and Chris Paul are 10 feet away on a stage pedaling as well. Straining themselves is not an option for they must conserve strength and stamina for the upcoming game, but they participate regardless.
The hardest part of the workout comes when the instructor guides the group to extract the weighted bars from the holsters on the side of the front wheel. Immediately I know my chicken arms will not hold out the entire time. That does not matter though because the vibes are so strong and positive. At that point, I am feeling like I am at the top of a free-fall drop amusement park ride, awaiting the release of the lock that suspends the cart.
The lock releases, and a surge of enthusiasm escapes as Stephen Curry and Chris Paul whip out the bars with the rest of the group and lead by example. Once we are in the third set of this upper-body workout, (mind you we are still pedaling), my arms begin to give. And when I look up, I see that they are slightly struggling as well. Wait, aren't these guys supposed to be in top fitness shape as professional athletes? This arm workout is definitely challenging then if these two are having to pause for one count.
I have never been to a Flywheel class, but this is one of the best group fitness classes I have attended. Yes, this particular one is great because I am spinning with a couple of celebrities, which enhances the experience. But it is the passion from the group, from the instructors, from the athletes, from the spectators, from the fact that the event is outside that makes the class feel so stimulating and explosive. The entire experience is like the first shot of tequila in your life; it's tricky and makes you cringe a bit, but the warmth of it down your throat and success of not spitting it up again makes you adrenalized for what's next.
And what happens next is incredible, at least from an intern's perspective. There is no way I would leave without a picture, so I manage to free my feet from the lock-mechanism pedals, lace up my own running shoes and waddle over, shakey legs and all, to the roped area they have in place for the press gathering after. I stand on the side for a while, trying to get a good shot, but without much success. Remembering I am there as an assignment, I try my luck at the press line and explain who I am, an intern for The Sports Fan Journal. My karma must be good because I am given a couple minutes to ask questions and snag a picture with Stephen Curry.
When I ask what they think about the event, Chris Paul speaks up:
"It's intense, and it's not too long, which is another thing that is great. Most people only have an hour to two hours in a day to work out. This is something that is perfect, high-intensity, a lot of fun and gives you other people do it with. I'm a big fan of always working out with somebody else."
Even as a professional athlete, Chris Paul recognizes the difficulties of incorporating a workout into a busy lifestyle. Having someone else or a group to keep you on track, consistently motivating you and encouraging an activity can be extremely effective and help with creating a healthy workout routine. Getting active for 45 minutes or two hours every day to stimulate blood flow to the body and brain is a habit that changes how you feel physically and emotionally. Furthermore, it helps build a connection, a community, where you can rely on others to support and push you to continue striving for your fitness goals.
Before I leave, I manage to slip in a second question and ask what they thought was the hardest part of the workout. Without any hesitation, they laugh, nod and bring up the bars. Stephen Curry vocalizes his perspective by indicating:
"That's the part that sneaks up on you. You focus for 30-40 minutes on your legs, and the bars come out. Doing curls, lifts, shoulders, it's tough. Everyone thinks that because you're a professional athlete you're going to be able to do that."
It's not easy staying active, being consistent and remaining confident when results seem nonexistent or exhaustion from the daily grind sets in. It requires determination, passion, tenacity and a craving to get better. You've got to want it. And if you can find a place or a group of people who want it as badly as you do, there's absolutely nothing that will hold you back.
Find that team. Find that comfortable niche. Find that activity that drives you to attend two to three times a week. #OWNNOW as Kaiser Permanente would say. It doesn't necessarily have to be spin class or yoga. It can be pickup in the park, an adult sports league or a group of runners training for a marathon. In the end, it's all about fun and living a healthy lifestyle.
Known as The Intern,
Translating sports craze to ink,
Aim is empathy