I’m in a spinning class ( group of people on exercise bikes following instructions of instructor whilst music popular exactly four years ago plays loudly in the background. Some times referred to as RPM or ‘why don’t you just go out for a ride on a proper bike’ ). This particular instructor, his name Dave, is very keen on announcing percentages indicating the effort level you should be putting in. ‘We’re going up a hill and I want you all at seventy percent’ he announces. I turn the resistance on the bike up and speed up my legs movement. My effort is more or less at seventy percent I believe, though I’m sure none of us know quite what that really means. I expect to be chastised at any minute for running at seventy-two. Gradually there are further calls – eighty, ninety percent, then in a voice reminiscent of Braveheart with a recently stubbed-toe, ‘ONE HUNDRED PECENT – SPRINT!’
I close my eyes summoning every bit of energy I can find. That last flake of pastry from that dodgy sausage roll, those last millilitres of orange juice from that glass that was too warm; all of it burning in the furnace of my tired body, accelerating my pale legs into a milky blur. Sweat throws it self violently off me’ there’s steam rocketing skywards towards the dirty air-conditioning units as all of us push and push and push.
Dave maintains control, cycling hard but with poise in his smug dead eyes. ‘OK – right, really go for it…FASTER’ he suddenly shouts.
I try to push it harder, to go faster, but my body refuses – in fact it informs me quite forcefully that ‘I must be having a fucking laugh.’ It’s right of course – I’m already going at one-hundred percent. This leaves me exactly zero percent available for increase. I look around and I can see that many of my fellow classmates have actually upped their level. I feel cheated – the bastards, they weren’t going at one-hundred percent. My legs are slowing. ‘Keep up the speed’ barks Dave, and I’m sure he must be referring to me.
I want to explain how I was previously one of the small sub-group of the class who were actually going at one-hundred percent. I want us to be recognised as heroes, talked about in pubs, discussed in GCSE history classes. I want to shout and scream at the dirty cheating ninety percenters scum who laughed as we gave it our all.
‘OK ease off’ Dave says finally, twisting down his resistance and we all follow suit.
‘What back down to one hundred percent’ I almost say before realising I don’t have the physical energy to say anything, or in fact even think up the line.
‘Right in the next track I want to see every one upping it by a notch’ Dave calmly announces, as the Artic Monkeys start their song. ‘Time to take it to the next level!’