Spin doctoring spinning

Back in July I had a strange encounter with two women I went to high school with, and all before an event called the Red Dress Run, which led me to my recent torment with the object to the left of this prose.

My friend Val, her boyfriend Doug, and their friends were coming to town for a Red Hashers' event called the Red Dress Run. One of the largest groups occurs in New Orleans and there is one simple rule: everyone (including men) have to wear a red dress. It's a pub crawl and about 3,700 showed up for the event. But this post is not to describe the event, but that the events prior to the run were the catalyst for change and the cause of my torment.

The run began early Saturday afternoon, but I wanted to get an early start. I went to Royal Blend on Metairie Road -- my weekday haunt before work -- for breakfast fuel. During breakfast I read through the Gambit, started going through the health section, and began reading an article about a woman, 38, who weighed over 400 pounds. The picture showed the woman standing at attention and looking unhappy. I've never been happy with most of the pictures taken of me, but then I'm very critical of myself. As I read more into the article, the woman's name was revealed and I was shocked. The article was about Noelie Burke, salutatorian of Immaculata High School's class of 1986 -- my class.

I tried to conjure up a memory of Noelie, but nothing came. I don't remember having classes with her or doing any of my activities with her. I put my high school tenure in my mental rear view mirror years ago. She wasn't skinny then, but she wasn't as she was in the first picture I saw of her. I read more and she was told by her doctor that she would need lap band surgery and she wouldn't have it. She tried diets that failed until she came upon one that had a website with a support crew and a meal plan she stuck to. The article described her as wearing a 7X, unable to stand for any length of time due to her weight bearing down on her frame, and health problems that were attributed to her weight. It took her two years, but she lost 215 pounds and is now at a size 14. The next page of the article showed a smiling Noelie, thinner than I had ever seen her, and she looked like she did over 20 years ago. I'm proud that she did this for herself.

I always thought of high school as a business deal. I got out of it what I put into it. I fulfilled the requirements, received the diploma, and now we're even. Despite the fun moments, the times where I succeeded and where I felt obstinately optimistic, there were bullet holes of disappointment, awkwardness, and intellectual stagnation. For the most part, I hated it. I didn't think outside of my few friends that I truly belonged or anything I did matter. I didn't think anyone would remember me, let alone care. As I left Royal Blend, I concentrated on the run ahead and put any thoughts of high school behind me, but retained my feeling for what Noelie accomplished and reminded myself that I can change my outlook as easy as my body if I applied both.

Later I went to the Farmer's Market on Girod and Magazine and then visit PJ's Coffee place a block down the street. I hadn't been at that PJ's for years. I was journaling over coffee and two dark chocolate covered pretzels (thoughts of Noelie's progress inspired me to stick to only two) when I noticed a woman in a red dress pass by. I caught her profile before she left. I didn't shout, but I spoke loudly, "Trudy?"

She stopped at the door with a coffee cup in her hand, saw me, smiled widely and said, "Kathleen!"

I got up and we hugged. Trudy Raiford was also part of my graduating high school class. I've seen her picture on a sign outside her chiropractic office on Clearview. She was featured in a fitness profile in the Times-Picayune just before our 20th reunion. At the time I had lost 38 pounds. The article profiled her as losing more weight than me, looking more toned than me, and she ran the levee, did marathons, went over Niagara Falls in a barrel (kidding, but you get the idea). I don't begrudge her now, but at the time I measured my success against hers and marked it up as one more reason I don't "keep in touch".

Through our talk, I learned a few surprising things. Trudy went to the 10th reunion...and hated it. I went to the 5th and felt the same way. There were women who got drunk, tried to put on airs, and everyone hung out with the exact groups of people they hung out with in high school. Trudy wanted it to be more of a mingling of people. She reasoned we were all different from when we went to high school and should be able to converse as adults. Nah!

We didn't hang out in high school. She was part of the SGA and I was a different breed of cat. I was captain of the quiz bowl team even though there were honor students on the team (I made honor roll once by the skin of my teeth). I earned my sports letter in Freshman year on the bowling team and was all-star twice, yet I was 110 pounds soaking wet so I wasn't a "jock". Trudy was voted "most likely to be successful" and I felt I was "most likely to be least remembered".

Time does change things and people change. Her son is 20 and graduating from UNO with a psychology degree. She insisted that he always go to a coed school. She said her days at Immaculata taught her that coed education gives a more balanced view of life and relationships. I've given that some thought since I saw Trudy and she's right. I went to Immaculata to get away from the awkwardness around boys. Instead of dealing with their behavior and getting through my shyness, I avoided them entirely.

She insisted that I look the same as I did in high school. Trudy, for all intent and purposes, looks the same as well. She laughed about the fitness article, saying she can't walk on a treadmill. She claimed that she must be ADD and needed to do other exercise classes. We talked about kickboxing and training and, through our discussion, I thought how sad it was that we didn't hang out more in high school.

Soon she left the shop as did I. I didn't see her at the run, but I'm sure our paths would cross again.

These two incidents coincided with my recent annual doctor's visit. Everything's fine. In fact, if I continue to maintain or lose some weight, I could either go on a low dose of cholesterol-lowering medication or be taken off of it entirely. I was put on it when my level in 2004 spiked at 243 and heading over borderline.

Sadly, vanity still wins by a nose in the race with health as my motivation for change. I decided to try a spinning class and give myself more cardio. Before spinning, time was my indicator of how well I was doing. Now it's measured in sweat. Not perspiration, sweat.

I tried a spinning class years ago, when spinning first came out as the new fitness trend. It was so popular you needed a special pass to attend class. You could tell the disciples of the discipline in the room. They had padded shorts, "spinning" logo shirts, and racing quickly nowhere. I had my bike set to a high resistance and pedaled for 45 minutes. The class screamed cadence and did "jumps" and it felt like boot camp. When class ended, and I got off the bike, my legs felt like painful jelly. How am I going to drive myself home, I wondered. I never went to another, until two weeks ago.

My friend Sherian taught the class and I took it easy. I sweated more than I did in kickboxing. I didn't feel any pain afterwards. I took the class the following week and then other that same week. I wasn't sure if I should get special spinning shoes. Sherian recommended getting shoes if I liked the class, but I wasn't sure until I was in the dressing room after class number three. I disrobed and caught my reflection in the mirror. I was starting to form a segmented abdomen. I ordered a pair that night.

I found the website Sherian recommended, found a pair that was reasonably priced, and it said in the ad that it was highly recommended for indoor spinning exercise. It took a week for the shoes to come in, and I had to wait until the week after Labor Day to try them out.

Monday I went in with my new shoes and I attached my pedal clips to the bike. I had my water bottle, towel, new shoes, and a partial six back (a two pack?) and was ready to go. At the beginning of the class during warm up, I heard a clicking. Click...click was under my right shoe. Sherian noticed immediately and came to me. The other members were busily spinning away. I put the pedal clips on backwards (the strap buckle goes on the outside of the shoe). She asked me to show her the bottom of the shoe.

Techno music was pumping, but she asked, "where are your clips?"

"What clips?" I had to speak loud enough for her to hear.

"Didn't the shoes come with clips?" I shook my head. She explained that there were clips that attached to the bottom of the shoe and that attaches to the bike. This made for a better, smoother ride. I thought the cool part about the shoes were that there weren't laces to get caught in the pedals and they were lighter than my sneakers.

"Just make sure you don't come out of the pedals," she warned. Great. I was paranoid for the rest of the class that my feet would fly out of the rubber baskets and I'd hurl to the ground in a face plant.

I called the bike place today to see if they had the clips. They could order them, but the salesman said that my brand of shoes' clips wouldn't fit the spinning bikes at Elmwood. He said they all go to Elmwood and they won't fit. What began as a tool for improving my health was causing me stress to train wreck it. These simple shoes were simply supposed to be on the end of my legs and work silently in unison with my feet.

I don't have an end to my story other than I might get clips for my shoes. Or I might return the shoes for the right pair of shoes. Or I may eat another piece of ice cream cake and call it a day.