10 tips to make your classes better than anyone else's. ;-)
by Angela Reed-Fox
We're creating the next generation of indoor cycling instructors. Put your class on the map by including these top ten features:
Riders look to their instructor for inspiration and for energy. If you're not a morning person - don't do morning classes. Riders want encouragement, entertainment and excitement - and you need to give them what they want. We heard a horror story from a class at a local gym where the instructor introduced the session by announcing ‘I feel sick’. Hardly inspiring, and certainly not likely to tempt customers to come back. How do you do it? Well, as an instructor it is exciting to see your merry bunch of riders arriving having chosen (and paid) to join your class. Take the compliment, and return the blessing. Give them the ride of their lives - they're on your side after all!
Change the record! Music helps to add power, drive and ambience to your session. The right music can have a profound effect on riders - getting in a really rocking groove can enable your riders to do far more than they thought possible. Keep it fresh though and change your music often; we are familiar with an instructor (elsewhere, naturally!) who used the same playlist every week for three months! That should never happen. Aim at building up a wide selection of different sessions so that you're able to rotate them - if you know what track's coming next, it's definitely time for a change. If they know what track's coming next, that's really not good! Research new music- YouTube and iTunes are brilliant places where you can look for new stuff and get inspiration (and it's fun as well!)
Have a purpose or a theme - a focused class feels more cohesive. Perhaps it's a HIIT class, maybe it's hill climbs today, or how about multi-terrain but with a theme? Themes are fun - you could use music with perhaps a 'one hit wonders' theme, or use film music, or even more fun have a secret theme where as they pedal, your riders are trying to work it out (and you can always throw a few red herrings in there!) For example a 'Christmas' theme might have no actual Christmas tracks, but might have songs with festive motifs such as stars or angels, or cold weather... At the end of last year, we ran a session where each track reflected one of the big news stories of the year. Explaining what the theme was at the beginning made the session fun as riders tried to work out what each tune related to - it also took their minds off a rather juicy hill climb right at the end!
Make your classes the most positive place to be. It is highly likely there are riders in your class with low confidence or negative body image. Never single out those with poor form – highlight the stars that are nailing it. Inspire others to emulate good technique, and keep up flagging spirits and tired legs with a well-timed and personalised encouragement – use names. Everybody will be doing at least something well. Be careful though that your encouragement is encouragement. If a rider feels like the most unfit person in the room, they’d probably get more of a kick out of the instructor asking the class ‘Can you keep up with Wendy?’ rather than saying ‘Nice try, Wendy!’ which could make Wendy feel that others think she can’t keep up.
Wall-to-wall service – be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Trotting in with a cuppa and a couple of minutes to spare just isn’t cricket. Get there early to set up and ensure that everything is working; then when riders start to appear, there is plenty of time to greet and ensure everyone is correctly and safely set up on their bikes. This is the perfect time to get to know new riders' names and make sure they are safe to ride and that you know of any issues. It's not just about injuries - of course you should know which riders have these, but also if any rider is going to struggle to keep up for any reason (recent illness, sportive, etc) and then you can provide options.
Be prepared to make last-minute changes - or change things on the hoof. Most classes (even those that are pitched at a particular level) will have a variety of riders, so you can prepare alternative options beforehand - but you won't be able to prepare for everything, so be flexible enough to make changes as you go; perhaps shortening some intervals, or maybe changing some team activities around. From greeting your riders you'll know if any rider needs something special from the session. Being prepared is important, but equally so is the ability to give your riders what they need when they need it - and it might not be what you think!
Don't forget what it's like to be new. Be as clear as you can with instructions, and be aware of what might need explaining! Also bear in mind that you'll need to be ultra clear when riders are working hard; it's a lot harder to concentrate when you're breathing through your ears! As well as what riders are supposed to be doing they should also know how they're supposed to be feeling (besides epic!) Use whatever you can to give riders measurable achievements; a combination of cardiotraining (heartrate) and power (watts) is ideal, but if your studio is not equipped with these, riders will need to know where abouts they should be on the rate of perceived exertion (RPE). It's not enough just to give an rpm guide - they could keep to the required cadence and still have a useless workout! Don't forget to tell them how their legs should be feeling, and how their breathing should be feeling. That way, as long as they follow your directions, they'll be getting a good workout.
Regardless of whether or not you run dedicated sessions for newcomer, advanced, etc riders - you're going to get a mixture. And an important part of the job is to make sure everyone gets a good workout. Going for the 'two turns up' approach isn't going to work. That will be too little resistance for some and too much for others. As instructors, the last thing we want our class to be described as is 'too easy' - likewise, wouldn't it be awful if a rider was put off coming back because the resistance was just too much for them? More modern bikes with power/watts or numeric gears are ideal - but if you don't have that? You'll need to make good use of RPE. It's not just a 'seven out of ten' for effort - that's too subjective. RPE details at what points your heartrate is increasing and what it feels like - whether it's like a brisk walk, whether you can talk in complete sentences etc. Click here for the whole scale (it will open in a new window so you don't lose your place).
It's everyone's job to add value. If you're the sort of person who recognises value, you're more likely to be the sort of person who is keen on going the extra mile for others. Studio cycling is an amazing thing because it is so efficient and effective as a form of exercise - and instructing it is even more amazing because you get to not only see lives changed, but you get to be part of making that change. There are two types of instructors - those who get excited by riders' successes, and those that don't. Those who are there to help, and those who are just there to show off. If nothing else, always seek to offer value. Ask for feedback, ask riders how it could be better. Be human. Be interested in your riders; help them, encourage them, and find yet more ways to help them.
Don't stop learning. As soon as you think you know much pretty much all there is to know about studio cycling/instructing - that's your cue. Avoid going 'stale' by keeping on top of your learning. Not only will your riders benefit from a more knowledgeable and enthusiastic instructor, you'll find so much more enjoyment as you're able to keep on giving extra value to your riders. Share ideas with others, share resources, and share knowledge. Always remember to check up on new ideas though - sometimes the new 'thing' isn't all it seems, and just because someone else is doing it or 'the riders like it' doesn't mean it is safe or effective. Keep them safe, keep them fit, keep them loving it!
See how amazing it can be? If you'd like to take your instructing further (or if you fancy taking the plunge for the first time); join one of our courses. Our courses are packed with content to help you futureproof your career and stay ahead of the rest. To be trained as an indoor cycling instructor, you don't need prior fitness qualifications - you can start right here, and we'll ensure you get the most comprehensive training available in the UK. We also offer post-course support so you're not on your own.
Check out our courses in the menu above, or contact Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details - or encouragement!