A Tale of Two Cheeks: A Peloton Review

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year at PHS, I shed my big brown plastic-framed glasses and frizzy perm, and as both departed, my dorktastic ugly-ducklingness followed. This didn’t go unnoticed for long.

One afternoon, while walking along the banks of “da crick” below my house, two of my male classmates said something to me that’s stuck with me all these 25-odd years.

“Your butt,” one began.

“It should be hung in a museum for perfection,” the other finished.

They weren’t being leery or particularly creepy. They weren’t hitting on me in the least. This statement was made matter-of-factly, delivered with no more and no less aplomb than a mention of Greg Gagne’s latest stolen base numbers.

Huh, I thought, and filed the compliment away to pull out on low self-esteem days.

In the decades since that creekside convo, my regard for my rear has been wide (no pun intended) ranging. I’ve loved it. I’ve hated it. I’ve showed it off in tight Editors and hid it away under shapeless tunics. I’ve even quite literally frozen it (link to post) in an ill-advised attempt to shrink this little fat pad that forever lives stubbornly underneath it, the pudge refusing to budge no matter how far I run or how deep I squat or how hard I show-diet.

When quarantine (which really isn’t quarantine, btw, and the term drives me nuts, but I’m sticking with the hashtag) began, my feelings about my tuchus were … tepid. It’s suffered some sag, though it’s been slowly improving since changing jobs and enjoying 100% more free time for (cliche incoming) self-care. My moneymaker and I are back in my beloved Express work pants (though not all of them, and they don’t fit as well as I’d like), and I sport leggings in public without too much spanking pad-inspired self-consciousness.

While all this tushy talk may seem an odd intro to a review of my Peloton, bear with me. It’ll make sense soon.

Ten weeks ago, facing both of our beloved gyms closing, Tom and I revisited the Peloton discussion we’d had over the holiday season. Would we really use it? Would it be worth the cash outlay? Could we get past the infamous marketing? During the winter, we were regular attendees at crowded, thumping-90s-music studio classes, so we opted not to buy. But, now knowing we wouldn’t be doing any tractor tire-flips with Emily anytime soon, and knowing that exercise was a key part of keeping our stress levels manageable and our immunity strong, we hit the go button.

The stars quickly aligned, reinforcing we’d made a good decision.

Peloton’s customer service had initially warned Tom that it would be several COVID-congested weeks until the bike would be ours. However, the very next day, Tom got a call from the courier.

“Can we drop this tomorrow?”

Yes. Yes, you can. 

After a socially-distant delivery, we found a home for the matte-black bike in the “extra” front room, which looks out the patio doors over the expansive green backyard. This room, with its cream-brick fireplace, generally serves as a spillover seating area for gatherings and holidays, but we weren’t anticipating a dinner party would happen again anytime soon.

It was gorgeous.

The star of the bike is the huge 22-inch monitor, which powered on crisp, clear and colorful. From the home screen, you can sort workouts by classes (length, music, instructor), programs (strength, speed, yoga) or scenic rides (everything from New Zealand to Colorado).

Crisp. Clear. Aesthetically on-point.

Nostalgia Note: I used to be obsessed with Spin, back in my 20s, when my beauty booty and I used to visit the now-shuttered (permanently) Center for Personal Fitness in downtown Duluth. I would hope in the saddle two or three times a week, alternating cycling with a killer boot camp. But, that was kind of a long time ago, so I really shouldn’t have been too surprised that after my first 20 Minute Classic Rock Ride, I was gassed, and finished in the bottom quarter on Peloton’s famed leaderboard.

Rankings on that leaderboard are determined by your output, which is a calculation, measured in watts, of your cadence (speed) combined with the resistance on your dial. High resistance is brutal on the buns, especially when you’re in the standing position.

For the first few weeks, I could not keep up with most of the recommended target metrics, but for my last several workouts, I’ve been right there. I’ve made big gains in my fitness level. I’m not super competitive, so my ranking on the leaderboard isn’t terribly motivating – but working to beat the output I tallied on my last ride is.

And so is the fire in my fanny.

A sampling of class offerings. They run from 20 minutes to 90, from steady state to HIIT.

The rides themselves are a lot of fun. I have tried on several different instructors, and they all have different styles, putting their own spin (har har) on the classes. My runaway favorite is Ally Love, who has great energy, paired with savasana style “you are enough” messages. I need and appreciate both. She pushes me to top my output numbers, and then to top them again.

I end most rides drenched in sweat, similar to how I used to end a run of any substantial distance.

This @5#! is an equitable physical challenge.

Ally Love, live from home.

And, this @5#! is working.

Since beginning my Peloton partnership, I’ve been down with the DOMS pretty perpetually. It’s not all the bike; we are currently on Round 2 of the 4 week lifting program, too. As someone who has experienced all different styles of lifting, this is an efficient pounding – each 30-minute workout features a series of only 6-8 moves, so you are completely fatiguing each muscle group. So many squats. Owww.

For those of you lifters out there, you know what I mean when I say – this was, and remains, Toilet-seat Tumble level.

I’d been so stiff for so long I stepped away from the bike (and the dumbbells) for a 4-day stretch a few weeks ago, just to let everything recover.

What’s most amazing about the Peloton is that the sundry instructors and options ensure you can find a workout that will meet you where you’re at. If you’re a beginner, try a more mellow leader, or complete a shorter class. If you’re a self-motivated advanced rider, try a long scenic ride. There’s something for everyone, and you can watch your progress in hard numbers.

Plus, if you’re looking for results – assuming you haven’t completely thrown a decent diet by the wayside during the safer-at-home order – you’ll get them.

My weight has remained pretty steady, but my body composition has undeniably changed.

A few days ago, out for our regular Pokemon Go! walk with Nate, I caught a glimpse of my silhouette reflected in the window of a COVID-closed smoke & vape shop.

Huh, I thought.

I noticed shape. Lift. A … Pelo-perkiness.

And while this wasn’t the primary reason for the Pelo-purchase, it sure feels nice.

My bon-bon isn’t likely to ever be “museum quality” again – and at nearly 42, I’m OK with that. But it’s there, now feeling a little achier, now looking a little happier, quietly cheering me on from behind.

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