This is a weird time for me. Ordinarily I'd be overseas right now, playing international basketball like most other WNBA players. Instead, I'm looking at perhaps the longest off-season I've had in recent memory and I'm not exactly sure what to do with all of that time.
See, most of us professional women players play through the four- to five-month WNBA season, then hop onto planes and head abroad to Europe or China to play another six- or seven-month season. In most cases, the wages in Europe are higher, and that is THE reason we go over there and play. It certainly was the reason I went to Poland, where the sun does not shine. I seriously think I did not see or feel the sun for my entire duration in Poland. I've also played in Italy and Israel, where the sun came out far more often.
The WNBA and European seasons follow one another so closely that the average player gets less than a month of an off-season. And although playing year-round can be physically and emotionally demanding, it has an obvious benefit: You never fall out of playing shape.
This year, I decided I needed more than a one-month off-season to focus on recovery, training and life after basketball, so I decided to give Europe a rest. Now I have a little under eight months to train for next season.
I'm trying to take the long view of this relatively long time. When you're an athlete, you don't want to exhaust yourself by getting super hardcore about your training regimen too early. At this point, I feel like I'm still in recovery mode to a certain extent. I am just getting back to doing consistent cardio. I find that the best forms for me are low-impact—pool workouts, the elliptical and bike workouts. And at the recommendation of Ray Allen, I decided to try a new workout that combines cycling, weight training and a little bit of yoga—SoulCycle.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about SoulCycle. All the cool kids are doing it. Bradley Cooper does it shirtless. Katie Couric is a regular. And since I'm pretty cool myself (at least I like to think so), and I'm always up for seeing shirtless A-list actors, I thought I would give it a try.
I didn't want to try it alone, however, so I asked Seattle Storm star and New York native Sue Bird to come along. She'd been to SoulCycle a couple of times before and agreed to join me so I wouldn't embarrass myself. I'm in pretty good condition, but I've mostly been doing elliptical workouts for the past month, so I was not in spinning shape.
I was also a bit apprehensive about the music. Your typical spinning class blasts high intensity rave music that makes your brain want to explode. When I walked into SoulCycle in midtown New York, I thought it wouldn't be too different. The studio was jam-packed, and many people were on waiting lists for classes with their favorite instructors.
My instructor, Kiane, announced that our class would be her last for the next 12 months and that she wanted to go out with a bang. That's about the time I started getting nervous.
The room was dimly lit and had a calm, yoga-studio-esque feel. With hallways jammed and chaotic, I did not expect it would be peaceful inside the studio. There were about 60 bikes, and I sat next to Sue so I'd have a friend nearby. Pro tip I learned from her: choose a bike near a fan, because once the class gets started, it gets toasty.
My shoes clipped in to the bike. At that point I knew I was literally locked in and could not back out. We did not ease into the workout at all. The warm-up was intense and difficult. They eventually shut off the lights, so we were riding in candlelight broken up by the occasional strobe light.
Other than the unique atmosphere, what makes SoulCycle different from your typical spinning class is that it gives you a full-body workout. There are two 1-pound dumbbells behind your seat, which may not sound like much, but they feel like forty after you've held them in the air for five minutes. Throughout the workout, we did Bicep Curls, Shoulder Presses and Tricep Presses—all while pedaling 70 beats or more per minute.
Perhaps the best part of the workout was the dope music. Gone was the awful ravey cacophony of the typical spin class. Instead Kiane had us pedaling to Kanye, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga and the Honorable Queen Beyoncé.
You can always tell a good workout by how you feel when you leave the gym. When I left the studio, I was drenched in sweat from head to toe, but I felt more energetic than I had when I arrived. SoulCycle seems like a great workout for me to do when I want to mix it up and have a little fun burning some serious calories—which I'll probably need to do after Thanksgiving.
Later, Sue told me she has another workout I should try if I really want to challenge myself. It's called FlyWheel, and in it, apparently your resistance is measured digitally and you compete with other riders. Your scores are listed on a board in the front of the class, so you can tell when someone is kicking your butt.
Let me get a few more SoulCycle classes under my belt first, then we can talk.
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