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Spinning and Mindfulness

When I relaunched this blog a few months ago, I had a few intentions:  1) publish a new article each week, 2) cover topics that interest me (and hopefully others), and 3) have fun. I have not always been able to meet the first goal, but I have been pretty consistent with the second and third.

Which brings me to this week and this article. Right now, I have approximately five or six different proposed articles in my “Idea” queue. I’m planning to look at a couple more pilot episodes of TV shows, two movies, perhaps a favorite album and, in another Nerdy Dad blog, a classic episode of Twilight Zone. I look forward to writing each of the ideas, but I realized earlier this week that I have no interest in writing any of them at this moment. They just don’t sound like fun right now.

I know myself well enough to recognize that I need a palate cleanser and, if I need one, perhaps, you do too.

With that in mind, this week’s article will focus on two services about which I have been pretty passionate for the last year:  Peloton and  Headspace. Both have helped me with my overall physical, mental and emotional fitness, especially as I progress in mid-life.

PELOTON

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If you have spoken with me over the past year, in all likelihood you’ve heard me rave about this product and service. Peloton is a digital exercise program centered around a stationary cycle with a video screen attached to it (although Peloton also recently released a treadmill and a program for it). With a streaming subscription and wi-fi, riders can access live classes or previous classes available on demand.

There are several options to use with the Peloton cycle. The primary option is the spin class program led by various trainers. These classes can run at various lengths:  10, 15, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90 or 120 minutes. Each class has a theme to it, either tied to a certain genre of music (such as 80’s, 80’s pop,  Electronic Dance Music, Rock, alternative, etc) or a certain exercise routine (High Intensity Interval Training, Tabata, Intervals and Arms, etc).  The other options include an open ride with a blank screen and “scenic” rides with videos of various beautiful locales.

The spin classes operate rather simply. The trainer will call out a cadence (speed) and resistance levels (usually a range, such as 25 to 35) which the riders match. The rider changes the resistance by turning a dial on the bike. Often the cadence will match the beat of the music currently playing, unless the class features intervals where the recurring cadence/resistance levels will be harder for a period of time (say 45 seconds) followed by a recovery interval. The screen also displays a leaderboard listing everyone who has ever taken that class or is riding at that moment. The screen also tracks miles cycled and calories burned, and, if you have a bluetooth heart monitor, it will also track your heart rate.

I bought this bike a little over a year ago and, at the time, my wife was worried that it would become the most expensive clothes rack ever. The cost of the bike itself is around $2k, although you can pay it off over time. The streaming subscription is $500 year, plus costs of weights, shoes, etc.

No clothes have found their way onto my bike, though. Instead, I’m practically addicted to the bike. I use it approximately 4-5 times a week and I’ve lost about twenty pounds over the last year. I’m probably in the best shape that I have been since I played college athletics, and that includes the time I was running marathons.

I’m also a nut about the Peloton swag. I have cycling shoes, shirts, shorts, weights and two baseball caps. Yes, I’ve drunk the Peloton Kool-Aid and it tastes quite good. If you’re on the service or about to buy one, look me up at BulldogSpinner and we can cycle against each other.

HEADSPACE

Headspace-logo

One of the mental health trends over the past few years has been the concept of mindfulness, which is the psychological process of bringing one’s awareness to experiences occurring in the present moment. Most often this process is achieved through meditation. Psychologists and other mental health professionals have recommended mindfulness meditation to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, addiction and other psychological conditions. My old job with a health care management company even offered mindfulness sessions each week to assist employees in maintaining focus and efficiency.

I first heard about mindful meditation about six years ago and, at the time, I was  skeptical, as probably many in the West are. The idea of meditation is intimidating and brings to mind Buddhist monks who have spent a lifetime learning how to practice meditation to achieve “Zen.”

Despite my skepticism, I tried it for a week or so. I quit, because, despite my best efforts, I would often become distracted. Sometimes, my mind would wander seemingly for minutes before I realized that I had been distracted. When this happened I would become discouraged and convinced myself that meditation was not for me.

Last year, though, following a recommendation, I downloaded the app Headspace, which provides guided meditation sessions. From the first time I used Headspace, it changed my perception of meditation. As a result, today, I meditate almost every day.

In the first session, the Headspace meditation narrator, Andy, explains that it’s completely natural to be distracted by thoughts. The trick though is how you deal with the distraction. Andy explains that it’s important to be gentle with oneself, rather than berating or judging yourself for failing to maintain a complete calm. In virtually each session, the guide reminds the listener that it’s completely normal for the mind to wander. The guide then advises to bring the mind back to the focus, which may be the breath or a visualization that you’re engaging in.

In the past year, I’ve found that using Headspace has helped me tremendously. I’m not a completely different person who has achieved some type of Zen state. I’m often distracted and overwhelmed by anxiety or stress.

However, if every morning or so, I meditate for ten minutes, later on in they day, I’m often able to recognize what’s going on in my head and calm myself, achieving some “space” between myself and these thoughts.  With this “headspace,” I become calmer and more in control of what I’m experiencing.

As Howard Stern once said, ““People shouldn’t think that [meditation’s] a religion or anything like that. It’s just like brushing your teeth.”

Headspace offer thirty free basic sessions that can be used over and over again.  For a monthly or yearly fee, it also offers packs of guided sessions that deal a variety of topics, including depression, anxiety, relationships, and creativity. It also has single sessions that help one wake up in the morning or fall asleep at night. There are even programs designed for kids

I can’t promise you that Headspace will give you “total consciousness” like the Dalai Lama promised Bill Murray in Caddyshack, but if you try out Headspace for a few minutes a day, I believe that it can be a good tool for dealing with stress or anything else bothering you.

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If you’ve liked this article or any of my other articles, please sign up at the right side-bar to receive email notifications every time I publish an article. Feel free to leave a comment below as well if you have your own experiences with meditation and/or physical fitness or if you have any questions for me about Peloton or Headspace.

Next week, I plan on writing two articles, one looking at the pilot episode of “How I Met Your Mother” and another column about a classic movie for July 4th.

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