How Gym Culture Went From Punishing to Meditative

January 14, 2022 by The Cut

I used to complain, very charmingly, that my competitive spin class wasn’t competitive enough, because it divided its ranking of its fastest participants by gender. My argument was less “gender is a construct” and more “put me in, coach, I’m faster than all of them.” Coincidentally, I was also dependent on physical therapy and, not infrequently, I couldn’t walk without seizing pain in my glute. One appointment, my physical therapist questioned my activity earlier that day: Had I really biked across boroughs to a spin class, then to work, then to our meeting to address muscular fatigue? Of course, I answered: Biking was the most efficient way to get anywhere; spin class was the most efficient way to exercise.

At the age of 28, I was overexerting myself. And I might never have learned my lesson if left to my own devices, but in early 2020, exercise studios shut down and I stopped hurtling my bike across the city, because I had no plans anymore. Six months later, the competitive spin chain I used to attend filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and permanently closed its studios.

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