I’m not one to get down on myself, but the cycling class I took the other day was seriously humbling. The instructor, Matthew, had us tackle the final section of stage 18 of this year’s Tour de France, the (in)famous Col du Galibier, a mountain pass high in the French Alps. An average incline of 6.9%, maxing out at 12.1% at the summit. A monster hill.
I love a hard climb and normally keep up with the strongest riders, increasing the resistance (which is how you increase the incline on a stationary bike) whenever the instructor calls for it. Each time I take it up a notch, I get a surge of power and positivity.
Not this class. Not this climb. By the end I just wasn’t able to turn up the resistance any more and keep pedaling at the right speed. I finished the ride feeling not my usual exhilarated exhaustion but a defeated kind of exhaustion.
I staggered out of the cycling studio onto the main floor of the gym to stretch. There on the mat next to me was another rider from Matt’s class, a woman who’d been on a bike near mine. “That was brutal,” I said.
“The hardest class I’ve taken in months,” she agreed. “Maybe ever.”
“When Matt had us crank up the resistance six full turns, I couldn’t stay on pace. Not even close,” I said. “I guess I’m just not that strong.”
“You’re kidding, right?” my classmate said. “Every time I felt like giving up, I looked over at you, and you were still riding hard. I got strength from you.”
Hmm. Maybe I’m not as strong as I’d like to be, but I’m way stronger than I used to be back when I was new to cycling and to working out. Progress, not perfection—that’s what matters when it comes to getting fit or staying positive or working through any other challenge.