The Best Gift I Gave Myself This Year

I inadvertently gave myself a great gift this year.  There was no pre-planning involved. I didn’t buy it in a store or online.

You see, the beginning of 2018 was rough for me. After suffering some injuries, I was told by my doctors that I could not run anymore.  And due to a recent bad bicycle crash during a triathlon, I was petrified to ride my bike on the road again. So after over 20 years of being an endurance athlete, and the last eight as an Ironman triathlete, I had the grim task of saying goodbye to my beloved passion.

I was depressed for months.  If I wasn’t a triathlete, who was I?  I’m a mom and a wife, but other than that, I had lost my identity.  I had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that I could no longer compete, that my triathlon days were a thing of the past.  Friends and family assured me that I was still an Ironman, whether I was racing or not.  It took me a while to process and accept that.

How would I move forward?  I have been an athlete my whole life.  That is how I’m made; It’s what makes me happy, helps with stress and makes me … well, me.  What athletic endeavor could be my passion if I couldn’t run or bike outdoors anymore? Would I ever emerge from this rut, this period of mourning for triathlon?

While whining about this to a friend one day, she helpfully threw out ideas of what I could d o.How about a triathlon coach or a personal trainer? Nah, I need to stay active. Maybe you could work in a gym and soak up the workout atmosphere? And then the lightbulb went off.  I will train to be an indoor cycling instructor!

Let the Googling commence. I found several companies that provide certification.  I had no idea what was what. I called a few nearby gyms that offered indoor cycling to learn about the required certifications. Once I understood that I needed a universal certification, I researched locations and timings. I was ready to go.

I waited a few months to find a spin certification class that fit my schedule.  The wait gave me time to get back into spin shape. I visited a handful of local gyms besides the one at which I was a member, (thank you, free trial memberships!). Going to different gyms helped me in several ways: I got a vibe for the different types of classes and gyms in my area, plus I could decide whether I wanted to apply for a job there eventually.

Though I’ve taken many spin classes in the past to train for a triathlon, I was now evaluating the classes with a new eye — what were the demographics of the class? What kind of music were they playing (hip-hop, top 40, oldies, classic rock, electronic)? How were people responding to the instructions? Was the music too loud? How personable was the instructor? Did the music correspond to the workout?

An interesting thing happened. As I got back into shape, I felt empowered.  Without my even noticing, my grief over losing triathlon had not only retreated to the back burner, it had fallen off the back of the stove.  As someone who had thrived on competition, I was surprised to find that my mojo was returning when I trained for spin classes!

I finished my 9-hr certification class. Within two weeks I auditioned for two gyms.  I was hired at both. I started teaching at one of them right away; I was put on the sub list for the other.  

I was nervous to teach my first class.  At 50, I’ve never taught a class of anything in my life. Would everyone in the class know I was a newbie, or worse, would students feel that it wasn’t a good workout?

I’ve been teaching for about a month now, and I love it.  It’s fun, and I find that I am achieving what I had hoped: I pass on my enthusiasm for good health and fitness, and help others achieve their goals.  

People who have taken my class have been kind enough to offer positive feedback.  And yes, I get paid to work out. (Hello? What could be better than that?!)

What an amazing, unexpected gift this has been.  If you had told me earlier in the year that I would teach indoor cycling and love it; I would have laughed.  I fervently believed that nothing could replace my beloved triathlon.

But somehow, when I wasn’t looking, teaching spin crept in and brought me joy and purpose again.  I’m grateful that the universe sent me this gift.


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About Ronni Robinson

Ronni is a member of the Sandwich Generation; she's the tired lunch meat layered between two children and aging parents. She is an eating disorder recovery coach, a 3-time Ironman finisher, and is a certified spin instructor. Her first book, Out of the Pantry: A Disordered Eating Journey, can be found on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can find more of her professional writing and coaching info on her website (

2 thoughts on “The Best Gift I Gave Myself This Year

  1. What an inspiring article! Sometimes, when I’m running on the treadmill, I look at the swimmers in the pool below, and think – that will be me when I can’t run any more. Always good to have Plan n B!

    1. Thanks, Emily! It’s great that you already have a Plan B in place! Hopefully you won’t need to use it for a while.

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