I wanted to share with you and celebrate my personal victory today. It was a moment where all my anxiety triggers were pressed at once, but instead of succumbing to panic I breathed through it, I talked to myself logically about why I was ok, and I persevered while keeping my cool! What an achievement.
As you can see from the title I tried Soul Cycle for the first time last weekend. A friend has been going for months and is completely OBSESSED. Then one day she said to me “I cried at Soul today.”
“OMG why?!” I asked.
“I prefer my students in ponytails so I can imagine them…as ponies.”
She told me “The music was just so perfect, and the instructor was saying all the things I needed to hear to deal with the tough shit in my life, and I was really feeling it, so I cried. You’ve got to come. It will change your life.”
“Ok, I’ll try your cult.” I thought. I’ve seen Kimmy Schmidt. I know what goes on at these places.
So I signed up. I mean, it wasn’t quite that easy. First I had to call the studio and buy my $20 First Time Ride (a huge discount from the normal $35). Then I had to be on the computer at precisely 11:59am on a Monday so that when the clock struck 12pm I could refresh the screen and reserve a bike for a Saturday class with Pixie (yep) before it sells out within 30 seconds. Seriously. I failed at this the first week. The second week I was successful and even able to get the bike right next to my friend!
I knew the class would be hard. I was walking in with some nerves because I was anticipating challenge and I didn’t quite know what to expect. But I have been to enough yoga classes to know that you can’t let competition and ego push you to do more than you can do, especially when you’re a newbie, and I was going to stick to that. My friend was being a doll and giving me all the advice she could beforehand. “Some of these women are beasts. They’ve been doing it a long time. Don’t feel like you need to compete with them. I was sore for a week after my first time.”
Then I saw the people coming out of the previous class. They looked…awful! They were bright red and soaked in sweat. Like, somehow wetter than a fully drenched person, because they were actively producing wetness. My friend whispers to me “I feel like that teacher isn’t as good. They never come out nearly as sweaty as we do.” “Aca-WHAT?!”
Then we walk into the room and I see the real reason these people were purging bodily fluids at such an alarming rate. The room is HOT. Not heated, just not air conditioned, and it is so much smaller than I had imagined and packed as tightly with bikes as it could possibly be. And it’s DARK. The only light in the whole room is coming from about 6 candles placed around the instructor’s altar. I lock my feet into the pedals and a staffer shows me the emergency button to press “If you start to feel faint”.
These are literally ALL of my anxiety trigger words. I know right then and there that this is not my kind of thing. But what to do now? I have already raised my hand and singled myself out as the sole newbie, and the entire class has applauded for me. I could gracefully(?) leave and never come back, which would be ok, but what I really want to do is stick it out, breathe through the experience…and then never come back.
And the voice in my head said “Reba, you can do this.”
So as we start pedaling I make the choice to stay calm and not panic. First I firmly resolve that I am never going to push myself to the point of extreme exertion. I am going to ride at a reasonable pace, keep the resistance low, and half ass all the “bike-ography”. That way there’s never even a chance that I would actually become faint. Then I had to get over the less than ideal environment. Since the music’s too loud and it’s too hot and the bikes are too close I put a little invisible dome around my personal area. That is my personal meditating space. I didn’t look up and around at everything else. I stayed in the world of my bike, with my little towel placed over the handlebars just so to match everyone else, and my little water bottle in it’s holder which I reached for frequently so I would never have a reason for my anxiety monster to think I was getting dehydrated. This class is only 45 minutes! I can do this for 45 minutes! I can do anything for 45 minutes!
I made it through the class. There were even times when I thought “Hey, I’m not doing so bad at this.” Then the class finally ended, and everyone applauded for me…again. Then I walked out of the class and thought “Oh I feel bad.” But not fainting bad. And not panic bad. Just like I’d done an exercise class that was way more taxing than probably is necessary. I went home and drank 2 cans of coconut water and slept all day, but I didn’t panic! And that is my success story.
This episode is brought to you by Tina Fey, Ellie Kemper, and the number 10. Thank you ladies for one of my favorite 48 hours of TV.
Reba Buhr is an actor, singer, voiceover artist, and host residing in Los Angeles, CA and the author of the blog Millennial Zen. She first became acquainted with her generalized anxiety disorder and her proclivity toward panic attacks while she was a sophomore at Occidental College. Since then she has devoted herself to studying and sharing effective coping methods so she can continue performing for a living while keeping panic at bay.
Connect With Reba
Personal Website: www.rebabuhr.com
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