17 Pieces of Advice for New Cycling Instructors
Indoor Cycling is something I am passionate about. I have been teaching for 18 years and have certified over 1000 fitness professional in Indoor Cycling in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Often I am asked, "what advice do you have for new instructors" and so I wanted to take a moment and share what I have learned from teaching over 35,000 hours and I hope you find something that helps you.
Teaching is an incredible experience. People come to you to feel better about themselves, to feel happy, and to become healthier. As an instructor, you are going to have a huge impact on their life; whether you are aware of this or not.
As a new instructor, teaching can be overwhelming and downright scary at first! There are so many things to think about from drills, cueing, music, timers, bike set up, bike safety, program design, and oh - having fun! It is no wonder that people take the courses to become a fitness leader and soon quit. But I hope you don't quit.
If you are reading this, I hope I can help you find some common ground to build from so you too can discover a love for teaching indoor cycling.
- Practice Makes Perfect
When you first get certified, start by practicing as often as you can. Find an empty studio, set up your music, layout your drills and begin with practicing your classes before teaching to an audience.
Visualization is a powerful tool. Imagine you have a full spin studio, your class is pumped and your are giving participants the ride of their life. Build on that energy and bring it into your classes.
- Never "Wing" a Class
I cannot count how many classes I have attended where the instructor has been unprepared to teach. They fumble with the music, they don't know which drill is next, and they think they can just throw a song on and hope for the best.
Most new instructors wing their first class because a sub was needed and they did not want to say no. It's okay to say no if you do not feel ready to teach your class.
If you are brand new to teaching, set yourself up with an experienced instructor and begin with a warm up or a couple drills in class in their class. This way the experienced instructor can give you feed back which allows you the ability to ease your way into teaching a full length class in a prepared manner.
- Someone's Opinion of You is None of Your Business
The fitness industry is full of participant "experts". You know the type - the one who has religiously attended the cycling classes since the facility opened and knows everything about fitness yet has never taught before.
These types of people will criticize the drills, the music and just about everything a new instructor does in class. Please do ignore their opinion. Focus on what you know as an instructor and what you were taught in the courses you completed. You can still be open to hearing participant's thoughts and views - perhaps they have a song suggestion or a drill idea. It is okay to hear them out, but if someone is being overly negative, focus on the positive people in your class.
Remember, the criticism doesn't stop at the cycling studios, there are thousands of online critics who claim to be "experts" and seem to have more courage behind a computer screen than face to face. Feel free to ignore them too!
There will always be critics in your "arena" and you can welcome them, invite them in. Critic will force you to constantly improve. But remember the wise words of Brene Brown, "I see you, I hear you, but I am going to show up and do this anyway. And I have a seat for you and your welcome to come, but I am not interested in your feedback."
- It's Not Your Workout
Teaching is not a license to get "paid to workout". Teaching fitness is a skill set and a professional position that needs to be respected. If you want a workout, go to someone else's class and get your workout there. Never make your class a time for your workout. This does not mean you won't be super sweaty after teaching a class, it simply means you are not getting "paid to workout."
- Show Up Early and Leave Late
You have been hired to keep the participants safe and help build a community in your spin class. This means showing up early to help new riders get set up on the bikes and taking some extra time after class to help anyone who needs help. Is this outside your "pay", perhaps, but the long term payoff is there and it shows you care and this will set you apart from other instructors who are in it for the pay.
- Keep Your Tool Box Open
Spinning has evolved over the past 30 years and if we only did what we were taught in the 90s, it was be a scary industry. When I first started teaching we were doing figure 8s, dropping the seats, and loading the bikes with weights and tubes. Now we know all of those methods are dangerous for the participants, so we evolved the way we teach as better practices came out.
On the flip side, the fitness industry is changing at a rapid pace. Every week there seems to be a new concept, style of training, or piece of equipment only the "best" instructors use and it is exhausting and costly to keep up. To not get sucked into the marking hole, be aware of marketing gimmicks and methods that have not been studied or practiced, this will limit the likelihood of getting sucked into the marketing hole.
Tip: Keep the benefits of the drill high and the risk always low.
- Just Because Something's Popular, Doesn't Mean It Is Safe!
We live in a world of marketing and it is easy to get sucked into the beliefs of companies who are out there to make a quick buck off you. Just because something has spread internationally or "everyone is doing it" does not mean the program is safe. By all means, try new things, but use your judgement when it comes to safety.
- Use a Variety of Music Genres
It happens all too often with new instructors - they have a certain genre of music that pumps them up and then they attempt to put it into a spin class and it fails miserably.
The key to a successful class is a variety of music from all genres. I use everything from Metallica, Flo Rida, Pit Bull, Marilyn Manson, Elvis Presley, Beyonce, and more! The fresher the music, the more fun the class will be.
There are literally millions of songs to choose from, keep it fresh, upbeat and fun! My favorite thing to do is collaborate with my friends who teach spin and ask them what songs they are using, sharing helps too!
Tip: Use music from the last 6 months, and from over 2 years ago. Everything in-between has been played out on the radio.
- Invest in an iPad or Tablet
I use an iPad with the app "Tabata Pro Timer" for my timer drills. In my studio I have also set up a TV with an apple airplay device so I can put the timer on the big screen for the members. My members love to see how much time they have left with timed drills and it makes teaching easier for you when you aren't messing around with a watch or stop watch.
- Take a 30 Day Challenge
For all of my graduates, I recommend taking a 30 day challenge. The goal is to do something cycling related every day for 30 days, such as:
- preparing a drill
- attending a spinning class
- viewing a spin class YouTube video
- reading a research article
- reading a blog
- spending time finding music
This will help propel you forward teaching and immerse yourself into Indoor Cycling right away. To this day, I still do one thing every day towards teaching.
- Get to Know Your Participants
Take the time to get to know your participant's names and who they are as people. You never know where it will take you. I was able to build the studio of my dreams because I took the time to get to know people and I do it because I genuinely enjoy their friendships and they have helped me grow as a fitness professional and a person. I have made some of my best friends from people who simply walked into my class one day.
- Practice Cues
Cueing is the art of communicating with your class. If the cues are complicated they will be glossed over! Use cues your riders can identify with such as:
- Ride like you stole it
- Proud chest
- Light on your grip
- Get uncomfortable with your breathing
Cueing must stay in a positive light. Avoid words like "don't" when you cue. Try and find a way to cue in a way that encourages participants, not demotivate them. Cues such as "Come on, you can go faster than that!" is rude and does not motivate a person. Be a better coach!
There is also a time and a place to cue. No one wants to hear an instructor yapping through the whole class. Participants are there to be guided by the instructor and motivated by the music and drills. Insert a few motivation, safety, and instructional cues with good timing throughout the class and you will have a class people love to attend.
- Ask For Help
Never be afraid to ask an instructor with more experience to help you get started. The worst they can say is no or they do not have time, and if that's the case, find someone who will make the time.
Generally, people with experience love to share what they know, but don't ask them to do things for you. Simply ask for advice or see if they can look over a drill idea you have.
Tip: Do not ask a person to come up with a drill or give you their drills. Nothing drives me more nuts than someone who does not want to put the effort in and takes from others. Have a jam night where you can come together and share ideas rather than taking from others.
- Add Variety to Your Classes
Have you ever been to an instructor's class where the drills feel all the same? How about when there is a 20 minute hill climb that does not inspire you? Try using a variety of teaching drills such as timed drills, choreographed drills, profiles, and interactive drills called games. Adults want to enjoy their workouts too and variety is the spice of life.
- Don't Rely on the Facility to Fill Up Your Classes
While it can be discouraging to not have high numbers, take a moment and ask how can you help fill the classes for your studio. Start by welcoming people into your classes and getting to know people who come to the facility. If you notice someone is always looking into the class, take a moment and invite them in or ask if they have questions about the class.
Other ideas include creating a beginner class or Intro Series to help take the fear factor out of spinning. Try a Spin Open House or Try a Spin Class Party one day and encourage people to try it or bring a friend. There are lots of ways to fill up your classes!
- It's All Going to be Alright! Roll With It!
The worst finally happened - you screwed up a drill or the timer. Not all is lost. Sometimes you simply have to roll with it. If you can have fun with screwing something up, so can your participants because they will follow your lead and laughter goes a long way!
Even with as much experience as I have, things will go wrong. One night we lost our power in the middle of class but I turned the class into games and just rolled with it. Another time, my bike pedal fell off, I jumped off the bike and kept going by coaching from the floor. Stuff will go wrong, so go along with it and try your best to turn it around.
- Be Aware of the Music Volume
This is a big one with new instructors, often they are fired up to teach and they blast the music. No one wants to have their ears ringing in spin class. There is a point where it is too loud. So take the time to set the volume so the music is motivating but not distracting.
Finally - Have Fun Teaching!
Teaching is fun and leading classes is an awesome experience. When you walk into a classroom and are prepared and on time, you will have a great class!