A Ride of Emotions

It was three or four months into our Adventures in Amsterdam. I was adjusting to the cold, dark and rainy season. Learning how to force myself to get out of bed when it felt like it was still the middle of the night. I worked on penciling in some me time. A blend of both, personal and professional time was desired and needed. Finding the balance escaped me since the birth of our little one and our transition to Amsterdam. 


My release for nearly a year prior to moving. 5 am spin class was my release, my processing time, and my fuel. My release of frustrations, stress, spousal arguments or spilt milk.

My processing time. Waking up in the middle of the night to process work problems and outline projects was a common occurrence. However, when I started spinning it was like my mind could relax knowing as soon as I hit the saddle my mind would start processing.

My fuel. I used to laugh in disbelief when people would say, You really should work out when you’re tired, you’ll feel more energized when you’re done. But you know what, they’re right! The mornings where I drug myself out of bed, sometimes not even taking time to put my contacts in, I came home and felt energized and ready to take on the day.

Finding a local gym which offered a spin class was one of my first priorities upon our arrival to the Netherlands. Luckily, I found one that offered classes that were feasible with our schedules and it was only about 8 minutes away from our flat.

Fast-forward several months and I’m feeling good. Once again, my workouts were becoming routines as opposed to random happenstances. My brain was happier and so were my energy levels. And let’s not forget the other real benefit, my jeans were feeling larger.

Majority of the comments I read about Kensho were tailored to the family feel of the gym. In a diverse city, it is a place where locals, expats, and visitors can come in, be greeted by name, get a workout that meets their needs, and then sit in the lounge and debrief, vent about their spouses, or connect over a coffee or smoothie. Many of my favorite things all in one place.

Now, if you’ve forgotten, the National Language in The Netherlands is Dutch. Prior to attending my first spin class at the gym, my husband questioned whether or not I had considered that the class may be led in Dutch. Not going to lie, I hadn’t. Yes, naive of me, but to be honest nearly everyone in the city was able to speak English and they did so without frustration. I hadn’t yet encountered a situation where communication was at a standstill due to language barriers.

While I tried to let this possibility delay my attendance, I eventually forced myself out the door. Which is always a little bit harder than it was back in Nevada. Why? Well, because as opposed to getting in a warm car at 5 am I had to get on a bike. Yep, spinning to spin.

Thankfully, the instructors had learned that my Dutch was…slecht. Unlike many of us from the States, this didn’t present an issue for the instructors, they simply switched from Dutch to English as quickly as they shifted from 75 to 90 RPMs. To validate the comments about Kensho, I had found a gym that felt like home and yes, even sounded like home.

That is until one Saturday morning class.

Cooper had woken up the household at what he thought was a reasonable time, even though we tried to convince him otherwise. As the morning hustle began, Andy suggested I take some time and go to spin. Per usual, I searched for an excuse not to go, but couldn’t find one.

So, onto the oma fiet I went, spinning to spin.

After raising the height of my seat to 12, shifting the distance between the handlebars and seat from 0 to 1, taking a moment to do an overhead stretch and quick backbend, I clipped my shoes in and took a deep breath. Ahh, me time.

As the music started, I started thinking through the course of the class. Sibel. The Saturday morning instructor. Fierce, intense, somewhat of a scary individual. However, I knew after the next 45 minutes were over I was going to feel satisfied because she was going to kick my ass.

Your bike is programmed to you. It uses an equation consisting of your gender, height, weight, age, and the number of hours you work out a week to calculate the intensity of your workout. During the class, your bike lights up. The color representing the intensity of that stage for you personally. Depending on the instructor, some instructors tell you what color to be in and other’s tell you the RPM they want you in, both should lead to the same outcome.

Today was different.

It was like Sibel had forgotten the other 15 classes I had attended of her’s. Why was she yelling? Did I sign up for Boot-Camp instead of spin? She knows my Dutch is minimal. Why are the only words she’s saying in English are go and tabata? What does vierentachtig, translate to in English? Shit, she just said Come on Mandi (of course that was in English)! Ugh. This is awful. Thankfully, I can read the universal wall clock and see that I only have 10 more minutes of hell, and then I can remove my name from all future Saturday morning classes.

What seemed like an eternity later, the class ended. I grabbed my water and coat and marched out of the spin room. As I was about to storm out the door and get back on my bike, something in my mind suggested I take a minute and reflect on how I was feeling and why.

Off to the plush purple couch I went. Too fired up to even treat myself to a coffee.

Why was something I love and crave, yes even though I try to avoid it, making me so mad this morning?

Empathy, I concluded.

I was fired up because Sibel hadn’t put herself in my shoes. She didn’t instruct the class in a way that would best support me.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize this frustration was self-induced. Never had I come out and said what would be helpful for me, nor had I asked clarifying questions about the class. Instead, I privatized my expectations for the classes along with the assumptions and was now irritated that the gym hadn’t gone out of their way to individualize the experience for me.

Man, the power of reflection.

As I got back on my oma fiets and peddled home my roller coaster of emotions started to flatten like the Dutch countryside.

As an avid advocate of empathy, this experience was embarrassing for me. Empathy is defined as understanding and sharing the feelings of another. I allowed myself, and my self-induced discomfort to skew my interpretation of an individual because I didn’t think she was demonstrating empathy towards me.

The lesson relearned?

When talking about empathy, it shouldn’t be a one-way street. So next time your mad or frustrated that someone isn’t demonstrating empathy to you, stop to take a moment to see if you are demonstrating it to them.

Let’s recap: Sibel is teaching a spin class in her native country, where the native language is Dutch, and the majority of the members are also Dutch. For some reason, I am upset that she’s not accommodating me, the only one in the class who doesn’t speak Dutch. I left being pissed about it, even though she called to me by name to motivate me…

Thanks for the reality check, self. 

One thought on “A Ride of Emotions

  1. This is a lovely post of the truth behind the frustrations we have daily ! And how indeed the warmth of kensho is something that gives us a wonderful kick up the backside… I’m
    So sorry to say that Sibel committed suicide during the Netherlands lockdown period … the gym is coping with the changes but nothing feels like it once did… I guess we all have our demons to deal with but sad that she felt this was her only choice xxx

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