Health Science

Spin Class: A Cautionary Tale

Statistics say that spin class burns between 500-700 calories per class. Statistics say that spin class is designed to bring about your ultimate cardio workout, and that spin class is designed for people on all levels, beginners to advanced. Though they say it, doesn’t make it true.

I’m 25, I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs of any sort. I am active and I have always held a healthy weight. In high school I was involved in sports and various other active hobbies, however lately I have found myself bored with the usual workouts.

A friend of mine at work suggested spin class as an idea, saying that it was becoming extremely popular and was extremely effective.

I figured it couldn’t hurt, and it should keep me on track because now I had a class to physically go to with people that were counting on me to be there.

My first class was quite interesting, there was no introduction at all, it was get on the bike and go! Luckily I had my friend to help point out that I was new to the class I didn’t so much as know how to properly adjust my bike. While adjusting my bike the instructor confidently states that I am clearly an athlete. Having not so much as run a mile since high school, this instructor was clearly not the best judge of character.

During the spin class, you were told when to increase the resistance, and when to peddle faster or slower. If it is noticed by the instructor that you have not increased your resistance, it would be yelled from across the room for you to do so. Peer pressure to encourage you to do something you might not be able to do.

Exercise, yes. But this?

After what seemed to be the longest 60 minutes of my life, I shakily got off my bike almost falling and wobbled over to my belongings. As I was heading out the door I was asked to sign a waiver for the class: probably something that should have been done before participating.

Nothing in the waiver mentioned anything about harmful effects that this class could cause, only things about if you have previous medical conditions that you would be participating at your own risk. Did I have any previous medical conditions? Of course not! So I signed the waiver and went on my way.

I needed help climbing the stairs from my friend to reach the parking lot, as my legs literally felt like jello and were completely uncontrollable.

The next day I woke up in an extraordinary amount of pain, but I thought, “No pain, no gain right?” Everyone is always sore after a workout. But I could literally not even walk, sit, or move my legs at all without being brought to tears.

After two days of this extreme pain which seemed to only get worse by the day I decided to go to my doctors for pain killers so that at the very least I could work.

The doctor took me right in and after I explained the situation asked for a urine sample, a step I thought was irrelevant but okay!

It was relevant. My urine was black! Without even testing it first my doctor immediately sent me to the emergency room.

After three IV’s, antibiotics, and six days spent in the hospital I was diagnosed with Rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases a damaging protein into the blood. The most common causes of “rhabdo” is use of alcohol or illegal drugs, or extreme muscle strain. Since we’ve already covered the fact that I don’t drink or do drugs, my doctors pointed at spin class as the culprit.

Recovering from a healthy lifestyle…

My six day nightmare consisted of more fluids than any bladder should ever be allowed to handle, three IV’s,antibiotics, two kidney specialists, and my doctors telling me that they have not seen numbers this high in the history of the hospital.

Luckily, my kidneys were not damaged due to this condition. Both kidney specialists, my doctor as well as consulting doctors from another hospital were flabbergasted that my kidneys weren’t damaged due to the amount of toxic proteins in my blood. Thus this landed me the gimmick of hospital anomaly.

My CK protein levels, the dreaded toxic protein, peaked at 400,000. Let me give you another statistic, CK protein levels range from 30-135 for women, 55-170 for men, and 68-580 for newborns.

At 400,000 they wanted to send me to the ICU. Luckily this didn’t happen due to the fact that my organs were all working fine.

Fast forward, six days later I was released from the hospital and my CK protein level was at 22,000. I had the order to see a neuromuscular specialist, and have blood taken once a week for the foreseeable future.

Spin Class Rhabdomyolysis? Only Your Lawyer Knows for Sure:

I got home, slept for a day and emailed my spin class instructor, harboring no ill will but instead just wondering if I could have a refund for the class as my doctors obviously said I could no longer continue.

I received a letter from the owner of the spin class that noticeably did contain a check with a full refund. The letter itself was a snarky rebuttal, saying that their attorney did not believe that rhabdomyolysis could be caused by spin class. That in fact, they both had never even heard of such a thing.

I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that an attorney was an M.D.! My mistake. I found this letter appalling as I never mentioned sueing or anything like that, I just wanted my money back. I did however mention the fact that as my doctor pointed out this condition is becoming more common and can even happen to professional athletes, so maybe it could be mentioned in the waiver that needs to be signed your first day of class.

Almost a month later, my levels have returned to normal however I still need to see a neuromuscular specialist to determine if there is any muscle damage.

I am writing this to warn you about the dangers affiliated with spin class. It is not for everyone and at least for the class I took, beginners and advanced riders are not given different lessons. Rhabdomyolysis is real, it is painful and it can even in rare cases lead to death if not treated by a hospital stay.

Exercise is good, staying active is good but I am here to tell you that pain is NOT gain! Pain is pain.