By Heidi Lasher
I was never the home-gym type. I wasn’t even the away-gym type. If there was an option to exercise outside, I took it.
In winter, I flew down ski trails, wore spikes on the local trails, and walked the dog down the road after dark. In summer, I rose early for mountain bike rides or trail runs. I hauled out the canoe, paddle boarded, or swam.
My dog got plenty of exercise, and aside from a few dull weeks in winter, I did, too.
But toward the end of 2020, my appetite for outdoor exercise began to wane. All at once, I became intolerant to the cold. My fingers turned white and my toes blistered. I developed a Pavlovian shiver at the thought of exercising outside. I tried going to a gym, but felt uncomfortable breathing en masse.
In January 2021, my husband tore his ACL. Despite my misgivings about home gyms, by the time my husband bought a set of weights, a treadmill off Craigslist, and the pinnacle of modern home-gym equipment—a Peloton—I was there to help him haul the mattress out of the guest room.
Peloton bike sales spiked in unison with COVID cases. In April 2020, when a record-breaking 23,000 people attended a single live class, the death count in the U.S. reached the same record number.
Hiking with Fernie, the family dog (left). // Photo: Shallan Knowles; Angie runs with her dog, Honey, in Spokane’s Garland neighborhood (right). // Photo courtesy Angie Dierdorf.
I took my first Peloton class from an instructor who winked at the camera and told me to dig deep. I tried not to fall for the false sense of community, the culture, the pretense of belonging to something that didn’t belong to me.
But I grew to love the predictability of it, the metrics, the certain outcomes. I could choose my own instructors, music preferences, and classes that fit my time budget. I could be in and out of the guest room in 30 minutes—no coat or hat, no drive, no pleasantries at the door.
In an age of uncertainty and anxiety, the home gym became my refuge of control. But for the dog.
Through it all, he followed me to and from the home gym with long, deep sighs. When I tied my shoes, his tail wagged. Then stopped as I entered the guest room.
My dog’s sad brown eyes lifted when I whipped my cadence into the 100s. His bodily needs became his final bargaining tool, the only way he could get me outside through the dark months of winter.
Eventually, I came to appreciate the effort he made to cheer me on. He celebrated each of my reluctant outdoor steps with twists and leaps. Whenever I decided to take the long route, he rewarded me with exuberant wind sprints. With admirable impatience, he showed me the world I’d forgotten.
In January, we found a bull moose in the woods. In February, we tracked the moon as it arced across the sky in all its phases. By March, I found myself enjoying our walks together; the unpredictability of the weather, the lack of guidance, the uncertain outcomes.
The home gym kept me fit in the winter, but I might have forgotten how great, how messy, how terrifying and glorious the world is, but for the dog.
List of Spokane-Coeur d’Alene metro area businesses offering indoor cycling classes.
Published in the March-April 2022 print issue in the Health & Fitness department.
Read Health & Fitness articles or stories about biking from the OTO archives.