A Fitness Indoctrination and Drug Time Warp

Posted July 19, 2015

On Saturday at 4:30pm, I unknowingly became part of a cult.

It starts innocently enough, as I assume all cults do. I’m looking for a way to burn off some of the Vermont beer I’d been generously sampling over the last three days without putting too much stress on my old man back that had begun creaking. I click a few things on Classpass and then walk into an only-in-New York-style boutique gym.

After I walk under a ridiculous chandelier, in a gym, and down some marble steps, I’m asked to slip on the preferred footwear of the cult (customary cycling shoes) and click my way into a darkened room, illuminated by the faintest of black lights, where I’m helped into my pedals like a obese child trying to climb onto a horse. Humiliation over, I look to the front of the the room and see Tyler (his name, Twitter handle, Instagram feed, and e-mail address all scrawled on the mirrored wall behind him). As the last shoes click loudly into place, everything changes, like a roller coaster safety bar locking into place before the slow climb up. You think you’re about to make faces and yell things that you hope none of those stupid cameras capture and project for everybody to see once you’re done.

Tyler, complete in green head band, suddenly morphs into this:

The indoctrination has begun.

Look down at your fingertips. You have all the power in the world in those fingertips.

We pedal our feet to the ever-changing beat, asses rise and fall off of always-too-small bike seats, and people start to scream, unprompted, like teenagers at a Taylor Swift concert. Things are energetic and sufficiently challenging, but pleasantly low on the cult factor (aside from Taylor earning his title of “Cycologist” with a few key philosophical turns of phrase). Then, I’m told to grab the white towel off of the handlebars in front of me and all hell breaks loose.

Push passed the discomfort. Push passed anybody who has ever told you to stop or made you feel like you couldn’t do something.

Towels begin flying in the air as the lights dim to nothing but the faint purple glow of black lights. A few regular riders have dressed accordingly in glowing neons, as the towels wave above heads like we’ve just dropped tablets and wandered into a rave.

Up and down, side to side, the towels swing to the rhythm of the music, while I try to figure out what the hell is going on. Listlessly waving my towel to not immediately target myself as an outsider, I spend most of my energy focusing simply on not falling off the bike whilst raving. With my feet clipped into the pedals, and my body forcefully connected to this contraption, I know a face-first tumble due to lack of coordinated towel waving will  definitely give me away as a newcomer to the group.

When the rave finishes, we’re instructed to pick up small weights on the front of our bikes and dribble them to the left and right like a basketball. So begins the “sports movement” portion of the hour.

You’re not dribbling a basketball; you’re pushing away the fear and regret that keeps holding you back.

The music continues to pick up. The wheels keep turning faster. The cheers become louder, yet more breathless, as we complete other spots moves, like the overhead chest pass, which is apparently a basketball pass invented specifically by Tyler since it has never been performed in any actual basketball game.

A mind filled with fear has no room for dreams.

BOOM! BOOM!

My head lifts up to see Tyler hovering above a steel drum, literally pounding out in rhythm to the electronic music pumping through the speakers.

Come with me on a journey.

He points the mallet in the direction of a particularly enthusiastic women sitting front and center. She screams.

Come with me on a journey inside yourself. We’re going into the ocean within us, and we’re leaving behind everything that does not support us. 

While I contemplate the specifics of the analogy, Tyler spins a knob and this song kicks in. Go ahead, listen to it as you read the end of this piece. Give yourself over to it.

A mind filled with fear has no room for dreams.

More screams.

The way you lift yourself up is the way you lift up others; it’s the way we lift up the world. 

The towels come back out again, this time unprompted. They wave side to side, their now purple glow the only light filling the room.

The way you lift yourself up is the way you lift up others; it’s the way we lift up the world. 

The music begins to dim. The towels fall. Our feet keep flying faster until the sound of the wheels turning is the dominate noise in the room.

The whoosh from the wheels is the wishes of the world. Listen carefully. 

The music fades out, the wheels slowly come to a stop. One more enthusiastic cheer fills the room.

The way you lift yourself up is the way you lift up others; it’s the way we lift up the world. 

The shows slowly click out of the bikes, or click out with great effort in my case. I’m free from the contraption. Just a short walk in pseudo-tap shoes left to finish my effort to blend in.

The doors open and light floods the darkness. I blink twice to adjust back to the outside world. I have no idea where I’ve been or what the hell has just happened.