Do you love teaching indoor cycling? Teaching is not only a fun career but it is incredibly rewarding when you help others feel confident about themselves and help them reach their goals.
The most common problems for indoor cycling instructors generally appear to be:
- strained voice boxes
- plantar fasciitis
- emotional burnout
- hip problems
- boredom teaching
- knee pain
- frequent illness
- rotator cuff issues
- personal fitness plateaux
So how do you enjoy a career teaching cycling without feeling burnt out, getting injured, or losing that love and feeling for instructing? The answer isn't a simple one, but here are a few tips to help you have a long rewarding fitness career as a professional.
1. The Voice Box - How to Save Your Voice
Your voice box is precious and you do not need to yell to motivate or cue your drills. Motivation comes in many non-verbal forms such as a smile, on point drills, energy from music, team races, and enthusiasm.
When it comes to verbal cueing, less is better. When you constantly talk through a drill, you are overusing your voice box and lowering the energy of the class. Simple three word cues are powerful when said with conviction (not yelling). Try cues such as, "let's own this hill", "race your neighbour", "bring it on", and my favourite "you got this!"
Here are a few more tips for saving your voice box:
- Find the right time and place to cue during a drill.
- Keep the music at a volume where your class can still hear you speak.
- Use a microphone to teach with and save your voice.
- Use your body language to balance cueing.
- Resource: Annette Chatterton from the Australian Institute of Fitness SA offers advice on how Instructors can protect their voices in group fitness classes in this article.
2. Love Your Feet - How to Keep Your Feet Happy
If you have ever suffered from plantar fasciitis, you can testify that it is painful. "Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining the ligament that supports your arch. Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament. These can lead to pain and swelling." Prolonged plantar fasciitis can also lead to time off teaching and who wants that?
For cycling instructors, this is more likely to happen if you are wearing shoes with little to no support; especially if you are teaching several hours a week, regardless of how much you weigh. Shoes such as the Nike Free brand or equivalent do not give you the support you need to ride with.
Here are a few more tips for saving your feet:
- The best shoes for cycling are clip-ins. Hands down these will save your feet and a worthy investment.
- If you prefer not to teach with clip shoes, use a hard sol court shoe (same goes for your participants).
- Roll your feet out at the end of the day with a lacrosse ball.
- Ice your feet by using a frozen water bottle and roll your feet out at the end of the day.
- Get a massage for your feet once a month because you deserve to have them cared for.
- Stretch the arches of your feet (check out this video with 5 stretches you can do to strengthen your feet.)
Second to spinning shoes is a hard sole athletic shoes used for sports like basketball, tennis or court sports. A court shoe will have much more support for your arch and will last a lot longer than a running shoe.
3. Avoid the Burnout - How to Keep Loving Cycling
Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to: physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
When you are physically teaching (which requires you to participate on the bike) your body is still working, even if it's not your workout. The repetitive motion can take a toll on your both physically and emotionally and it is something to be aware of.
One factor to also consider is being "on" the whole time. This means you are energizing and motivating your riders but this can take a toll on a person over time (even when you love what you do). Make sure you schedule some down time for yourself.
Here are a few more tips to avoid teaching burnout:
- Create a balanced schedule for your work week.
- Limit the number of classes you teach that require more energy.
- Say "no" to subbing if you are tired and need a break.
- Plan days off and get outside of the gym and enjoy mother nature.
- Take a sabbatical for 1-3 months if you have been teaching for over 5 years.
- Talk to a therapist and see if other things in your life is affecting a potential burnout.
- If you burn yourself out, you will lose your participants and your classes. Balance is the key to avoiding burnout. Your participants would rather have you well rested and engaged in teaching then burnt out and low energy.
4. Injuries - How to Avoid Teaching Injuries
Have you ever noticed that fitness professionals put so much effort into helping others but when it comes time to care of themselves they are the last to feel the love?
Injuries arise from repetitive movements, overuse, or accidents. Common injuries for fitness professionals are sciatica, back pain, rotator cuff damage, knee pain and hip pain to name a few.
If you get hurt, do not put it off - go see a professional right away and take care of your body. The faster you care for yourself, the faster you will be back in the saddle riding again.
Here are a few more tips to avoid injuries:
- Stretch frequently by taking the time to stretch your muscles properly between classes and at home.
- See a chiropractor and/or physiotherapist when you notice some irritation. Get ahead of the issue before it gets worse.
- Foam roll on a regular basis.
- Warm up before your classes.
- Take time off if you feel an injury starting to become irritated, your body will thank you.
- Be aware of how many classes you are physically teaching, as over teaching can lead to injuries or prolonged recovery.
- Teach a variety of classes so you are not overdoing one style of fitness.
5. Teaching Boredom - How to Find that Loving Feeling for Teaching Again?
Have you ever lost that loving feeling for teaching fitness? Boredom happens to the best of us and is the result from doing things over and over again. After a long period of teaching, you can feel bored with the music and the drills. This is why it is so important to continue your education in a way you find enjoyable.
Sometimes it is a simple as learning a few new ideas to spark your love for teaching again.
Here are a few tips to avoid boredom:
- Attend a fitness conference and take a variety of different workshops.
- Sign up for local workshops.
- Check out videos online.
- Look for eBooks or online courses with ideas for classes.
- Attend a local class and see what they are doing for music and drills.
- Have jam sessions with fellow instructors over wine and appies and share drills, ideas, and music.
- Take advantage of free online fitness professional communities to ask questions.
I highly recommend conferences that leave you pumped to teach! In July, I will be headed to the Idea Fit Conference (save $30 with this link).
Every year I choose an organization and workshops that will keep me excited to teach and offer something new to learn. Last year, I attended the NSCA Personal Training West Conference and loved every second of it. It doesn't have to be only cycling workshops, get out there and learn about fitness in general as it makes you a better instructor.
6. Get to Know Your Cycling Community - Keep the Fun in Fitness
Fitness is an industry where getting to know your participants is a good thing. When you build a community within your fitness facilities you look forward to teaching fitness because it simply becomes more fun with people you know well. If you are asking how does this impact the longevity of my career, here is something to ask yourself - have you ever thought about opening your own fitness studio as a long term plan? If you have, building a community who will come with be part of that long term plan will pay off.
No matter what life has thrown at me, I always know I have a community of amazing people waiting for me to cheer me up, laugh, have fun with, and try new things with.
Teaching fitness is way more fun in my classes because we know each other and when new people walk through the doors, it is my community who invite them in and make them feel welcome.
Here are some tips to build a community and make fitness fun:
- Plan a community outing outside of the spin studio.
- Go for an outside bike ride instead of a class in the studio.
- Invite people out for a social event like dinner, coffee, wine.
- Do a charity event together.
- Go on a fun hike together.
- Sign up for a fun run or activity like Foam Fest.
- Hangout after class and get to know your members.
- Start a secret FB group where you can all chat between classes
7. Your Own Personal Fitness - How Avoid Personal Fitness Plateaus
The hardest thing about teaching fitness is finding time for your own workouts. While spinning classes are awesome for getting your own sweat on as an instructor, you are still teaching, therefore it is hard to push yourself and reach your own personal goals. Overtime your workouts tend to fall to the side with a busy schedule and then you lose your own motivation.
Here are a few tips to avoid personal fitness plateaus:
- Schedule your own workouts
- Attend other people's classes for your workouts
- Set your own fitness goals each month
- Find an fitness accountability partner
- Reward yourself each month for accomplishing your fitness goal
- Do something for your fitness other than cycling.
- Get outside and enjoy fitness in a different environment.
- Do a 365 fitness challenge for yourself.
Longevity as a fitness professional starts with taking care of yourself. You cannot care others if you cannot care for yourself. If you are love what you do, think about the longevity of your career and plan for the future. What can you do now that will have a positive effect on your career in the long run? What do you need to change in order to love what you do for a living?