Sweat Stories: Tasha Bryenton

I most definitely did NOT fall in love with my first spin class.  Or second. Or third, or fourth…eleventh… yaaa, we’re going to call it at least a good solid four weeks’ worth of sending my heart into prolonged runs of SVT, constantly thinking “I’m-dying-I-hate-this-why-am-I-here-everything-hurts-I’m-still-dying”, before I started getting maybe, ever-so-slightly, a little bit hooked on spin.  I mean, who doesn’t love that oh-so-metallic taste in your month because your lungs are protesting by flat out exsanguinating on you, right? Right, me too.

First things first: I am an ultramarathon runner (and yes, it is ABSOLUTELY as disgustingly long as it sounds). Ironically enough, I actually hate running. Well…mostly. To clarify: I love being ABLE to run, and it has always come easily to me – however, not only does it all but wreck my body, but it is mentally and emotionally draining…I swear I’ve still yet to find that ‘runner’s high’ that everyone goes on and on about. Currently I have finished three half-marathons, seven marathons, one ultramarathon, completed Canadian Death Race ultramarathon (as a team) and attempted to finish solo Canadian Death Race (once) and Sinister 7 Ultramarathon (twice). Just a few miles, eh. Growing up, the rink was my second home: I played AA ringette for thirteen years, and traveled to the Czech Republic with U-19 Team Canada West for the World Ringette Championships in 2009.  I played with Edmonton WAM! in the National Ringette League (NRL) for three years, before hanging up my skates and retiring so that I could fully commit to completing the remaining two years of my nursing degree.  I completed my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2015, and landed my dream job in the General Systems Intensive Care Unit (GSICU) at the University of Alberta Hospital the same week I passed the NCLEX to obtain my Registered Nurse designation. I absolutely, hands down, whole heartedly LOVE my job (plus..my casual/Type A/OCD/nerdy personality not only gets to run wild, but is also encouraged and accepted haha!). I don’t look like your stereotypical nurse; I was definitely the black sheep of nursing school, and I would say the same holds true post-graduation compared to other RNs. While the countless, endless, outrageous hoops I had to jump through during nursing school were nothing short of brutal, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am the nurse I am today because anything less than perfect would have been unacceptable. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m THE biggest nerd – I missed going to lectures and learning so much that I enrolled in an organic chemistry course this past semester (because who doesn’t love crying themselves to sleep at night, right?) and am planning on taking biochemistry/more organic chemistry next year! What can I say – I love learning! I’ve written the MCAT exam (twice actually, and even before writing the NCLEX), and I may or may not be writing the MCAT exam again this August… ;)

When I was seventeen, I blew my knee out (repeatedly), ripping ligaments and cartilage to shreds.  I was told post-surgery that not only would I probably not be able to run any sort of long distances (which was absolutely gutting – my heart was set on running and finishing my first marathon ten months down the road), but that I had also signed myself up for the Total Knee Replacement Club by age forty. At the latest. But I hate being told what I can and cannot do… I rehabbed that knee HARD – three hours a day, every day, for at least six months.  I finished my first marathon that summer in just over four hours, and I’m pretty sure I still hold the fastest ACL recovery time at my athletic therapist’s clinic (four months instead of six).

But, back to my hate turned love for spin. I had gone to the odd SpinUnity class over the past couple years (either with teammates or a friend), but always found excuses not to go consistently.  It wasn’t until a couple months ago when I jumped in and committed to going, never looking back, flat line or finish mentality.  So, what was the difference this time? Reason #1: injuries.  If you’ve ever had shin splints, you know how great those feel.  Progressing to a stress fracture? Just fantastic.  Re-fracturing a stress fracture? Rainbows and puppies. Which is exactly what I did this past year attempting to finish Sinister 7 Ultramarathon solo – I timed out at the second checkpoint/aid station on Leg 5 at 4AM, completing 105/161km in 21hrs.  I was proud, yet disappointed, frustrated, and ultimately gutted about not finishing the full distance. So, like the year before, I was back on no impact training in the months to come – however, this time it was taking longer.  I fell into a rut – I was mentally exhausted trying to stay positive , but lacked any and all motivation to keep training.  I had endless excuses for not completing the workouts my trainer uploaded for me, whereas the year before when I started training with Tight Fitness, I had unrelenting motivation and drive to hammer out each and every workout.  And cue reason #2: I felt overweight, heavy, and unhealthy –  I was the definition of whale mode.  I had to make a change; I had to dive in and lose myself in something. Soloists I had spoken with this summer about crosstraining had all mentioned spinning at one time or another, and since I was still riding the pine due to injuries, I figured I had nothing to lose.

It took me about two weeks to actually get the courage to go to a spin class – I get anxiety over absolutely nothing, and this was no exception – I felt like a whale, I was nervous about not setting up the bike properly, or looking ridiculous, etc. etc. The first class I hit up back in January was one of Jilly’s, so naturally almost went into cardiac arrest a couple of times. Well…maybe more than a couple. Okay, the whole class, whatever. ;)  It was one of the hardest workouts of my life.  Let’s be honest, I was the absolute opposite of stoked to be there at the start.  However, I was definitely inspired from day one: I remember looking up during class and seeing Jilly, full beast-mode, with so much passion and fire, and thinking “I want to be like her; I want to be like that again”.  So, day after day, excuses be damned, I hauled myself back onto that bike, losing myself in the wicked music (seriously, the instructors’ playlists are like no other!) and after about a month of going ~4x/week, I started looking forward to going to spin class, or rearranging other things in my life to make time for spin. The workouts are ALWAYS challenging (we’re talking sweat-your-weight-and-then-some killer workouts); I still make “are-you-kidding-me” faces or drop some colorful vocabulary whenever standing sprints make their appearance during class. The spin community – instructors and riders both – have been nothing short of motivational and uplifting. I have met some truly amazing humans in the spin community through SpinUnity, and have made some lifelong, irreplaceable friendships (especially with my twin!). 

While it may have taken me a bit longer to fall in love with spin, and despite the less than ideal circumstances that initially brought me into spin, I can absolutely, without a doubt say that it has had such a positive influence on my life.  While letting my injury heal, I have still become physically stronger (so much in fact, that I can hammer out 13 miles after not running for MONTHS…I mean, check out THAT cross-training!), my mental game is back on track, and most importantly, I am still motivated to keep going and keep getting stronger.  Spin class is also my escape from life when I need a break –my sister and I live together, along with our two large, noisy dogs and two kittens – needless to say the only time our house is slightly less than hectic is in the ugly hours of the AM.  I started out this fitness journey having to force myself out the door to get to class, whereas spin class is the part of my day I look forward to the most! For anyone who is on the fence or unsure about it, my advice is: just do it.  Don’t look back, don’t find an excuse, just dive in and give’er your all and get on that bike.

All photos above provided by WeAreYEG.

#ridersforlife #spinunity #sweatstories