Tag Archives: ecumenism


About two and a half years ago, I began taking indoor cycling classes at our local Y. After my first few classes I wasn’t sure I would continue. The days of standing for long periods of time out of the saddle and charging up hills on a bicycle–whether a simulated or real experience–seemed long gone after those first few tenuous classes. And don’t get me started on the effects of long seated climbs on my backside!

Once I registered for the 2010 Chicago Ride for AIDS, however, Spinning classes (the trademarked name for indoor cycling classes) became the foundation of my training program during the Chicago winter. I dutifully purchased padded cycling shorts and proper cycling shoes, faithfully attended classes three to four times a week, and by the time spring rolled around I was ready for outdoor training. I’m convinced, too, that without the investment of indoor training my first Chicago Ride for AIDS experience would not have been nearly as enjoyable as it was.

What I discovered over time was I actually prefer imitating a hamster wearing spandex spinning on a wheel over dodging people, cars, joggers, walkers and other cyclists on the streets and trails of Chicagoland. I can take indoor cycling classes year round, get an excellent workout in an hour or less, avoid potentially life threatening accidents and reduce my financial investment in the appropriate equipment necessary for safe outdoor cycling.

In fact, I enjoy indoor cycling so much that I am considering starting a new religion–“Hamsterism.” In Hamsterism you get to your final destination quicker and with killer legs and tight glutes to boot! And the only “hell” in Hamsterism is the embarrassment of wearing padded spandex cycling shorts.

Of course it probably sounds strange for someone whose blog contains the words “Losing My Religion” to actually considering starting another one. And I’ve already thought of a few very valid concerns with Hamsterism. First, it sounds a lot like other organized religions at times; that is, you’re on a wheel going nowhere fast. Second, you’re in a very controlled environment. Third, most people wouldn’t practice Hamsterism outside of its immediate environment. Yep, sounds like some forms of organized religion to me!

Before walking away, however, let’s look at Hamsterism from another perspective. First, as anyone who takes indoor cycling seriously will tell you, it requires commitment. You have to commit to getting on the bike more than every now and then if you really want to see changes. So while it may seem like you’re spinning your wheels sometimes, healthy commitment brings changes–slow and almost imperceptible sometimes–but changes nonetheless.

Indoor cycling is less controlled than you might think, too. Yes, there are a few basics you have to know; still, how you practice those basics and build upon them is largely up to you. Effective instructors give riding options because they know people are all over the map skill and experience wise. In other words, there is more than one way to travel your path and reach your destination. Hamsterism would follow these same precepts. Challenge yourself, yes; still don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed. Learn to step back and breathe when you need to do so.

Indoor cycling is available in a variety of places at a variety of times led by different people with different ideas who are leading tiny to huge groups. Although there are certification programs for instructors, there is no one “orthodox” indoor cycling body that tells everyone when and where they can meet, what music to play, what program to follow, and how and how often they must practice to be “real” indoor cyclists. Hamsterism would train its leaders, then set them free to develop their own communities and to establish relationships with other communities–both Hamsterarian and non-Hamsterarian–all while providing updated, relevant continuing education opportunities. The other side of this coin I will call “radical freedom” is, with such freedom from the “Home Wheel” (denominational/regional/district governing bodies) also comes the great responsibility to form healthy interdependent communities of faith without the expectation of rescue from those bodies if we “break our own wheels.”

Finally, the primary teaching of Hamsterism would be to learn methods of healthy interaction and cooperation with all those “outdoor cyclists” to make the world a saner place. We would invite them to enjoy and participate in our indoor communities without requiring them to covert to Hamsterism–and we would join them in their healthy, life-giving outdoor activities as well.

Now that I think of it, we probably don’t need Hamsterism. All the world’s major religions have some great indoor classes already. Perhaps all we need to do is consider taking some time “off the wheel” and begin sharing those amazing indoor skills and knowledge with the great outdoors–and in the process learn a few new skills ourselves.

Besides, I don’t think a rodent on a spinning wheel makes for a very inspiring symbol of faith. Do you?

Blessings on your journeys!