How to Run a Successful "Intro to Cycling" Class for New Riders
Too often people believe teaching a beginner class is easier as opposed to teaching an advanced class; however, in my experience, I find quite the opposite to be true.
Teaching advanced classes can feel easier for the simple reason being - your participants already know what they are doing (for the most part). They are ready to be cued into position, bike set up is easy, and they are aware of their body and intensity.
With beginner riders, they need help with bike set up, tension guidelines, body awareness, endurance for the class, and how far they can push themselves on a spin bike without getting sick (to name a few). All of these things take time, and as an instructor, we don't have 30 minutes before class to help the a whole group of new riders.
Which leaves the a few questions ...
How do we help new riders love spinning?
How do we eliminate the fear of the bikes and "sore butts" which many newbies have?
How do we help them enjoy indoor cycling classes for many years to come?
How do we educate them on the benefits of indoor cycling as a form of cardio?
One solution is to host an "Intro to Indoor Cycling" class.
There are two reasons to run an "intro" class:
The first is you may have many people at your facility who are curious about indoor cycling but are nervous to try a class.
The second reason is your facility is introducing cycling to the facility so they are getting the ability to participate in a cycling class for the first time.
Intro to Cycling Guidelines
1. Class Name: Be clear in the title you give for the class. Something like "30 Minute Spin" doesn't make it welcoming for new people. A simple title can make a huge difference. Here are a few suggestions:
- Learn to Ride
- Beginner Cycling
- Intro to Indoor Cycling
- Intro to Spinning
- Level One Indoor Cycling
- Boomers Ride - 55 + Class
2. Duration of the Class: Again, be clear in the description of the class. Here is a sample format you can cut and paste in your marketing campaign.
"Learn to Ride with Us! This class is designed to introduce you to the world of indoor cycling. We will start with a 10 minute bike set up and teach you how to set up your own bike and show you the positions we will be riding in, along with a few safety tips. The best thing about indoor cycling is you are in control of your workout because you control your tension and we encourage you to go at your own pace. As the class begins your instructor will take you through a few flat roads, a couple hills, some fun team drills - all to some awesome tunes! Let's take out the fear of the bikes together and see why this low impact workout can help you reach your goals this year!"
3. Class Breakdown: 45 minute class (total time), ride time 30 minutes. You can use any format, here is simply a few ideas to get your class started.
- 10 minutes - bike set up and safety
- 5 minutes - warm up
- 5 minutes - flat road to a fun tune
- 8 minutes - Standing and Seated Climbs* "Rolling Hills" (30 seconds seated climb, 20 seconds standing climb, 30 seconds recovery, repeat for 8 minutes)*
- 4 minutes - a HIIT drill**
- 3 minute - flat road
- 3-5 minutes - cool down and stretch
- Post class: leave time for questions
*Standing Climbing: Something to take into consideration is with new riders and the standing climb position. Sometimes new riders who are not fit or who have never worked out before, struggle with any standing positions and this is because they have not built the leg endurance and strength they need for the climb. Always give the option to remain seated and increase the tension or let them know their legs may feel "weak" and to monitor their intensity.
**HIIT Drills: HIIT drills are awesome for getting the heart rate high, however, something to note with new riders is their fitness level is low and a drill like a Tabata (20 seconds hard work/10 seconds rest X 8) can be too intense. If they peak their heart rate and cannot recover you will have a lot of sick riders and risk fainting. This piece is about educating your riders. Let them know during the "hard work" phase to go by how they feel and to progress their fitness each week, not all at once. Education is the key to a successful beginner class.
4. Encouragement Will Make or Break New Riders: We all know our job as a coach is to encourage and motivate our riders, but the new riders need to hear and feel your support more than ever. Simple things like high fives and personal comments after or during class will make a huge difference in their experience with you.
5. Saddle Soreness: Be straight up - Yes, their butts are going to hurt and that comes with indoor cycling but let them know it will get easier to sit in the saddle as they participate on a regular basis. For whatever reason, giving them the heads up on the sore saddle butts before the class starts helps them prepare for it instead of focusing on it during the class.
6. Educational Handout: Take the time to put together a "Benefits of Indoor Cycling" handout for your riders after class. Add a few tips about why adding cycling to their fitness can be great for their joints, reaching weight loss goals, and improving their cardiovascular fitness. Make sure to add your contact information in case they have questions.
Side Bar - Marketing Brain: On the educational piece, add a "Bring a Friend" coupon they can give to a friend of family member who may be interested in joining your class. No matter what business we are in, we are all in the business of marketing and referral marketing works wonders for fitness facilities. If they try a new class and love it, they will want to bring their friends.
Final Thoughts ...
How often is it suggested to run an introduction class?
Think about your audience. Do you have an influx of new members weekly or riders who are generally level 1 riders?
You can run weekly "Beginner Cycling" or "Learn to Ride" or "Boomers Ride" 30 minute classes for people who enjoy spinning but don't have the fitness level to participate for longer such as seniors.
Another suggestion is to run an intro class once a month so it is part of your schedule but not as frequent.
You can also pair the intro class with a special event or seasonal busy time of year like January when the numbers in facilities are much higher.
Take a look at your audience and what makes sense for your facility. Marketing and advertising will be key to a successful class. Put up posters, connect with gym members, and post on your social media site or create an "evite" to plan ahead for the class numbers.
Remember, new riders will become long term riders if they are introduced in a way that encouraging, fun, and they feel they can do the class.
BCRPA Certified Group Fitness & Educator & Presenter
Schwinn, Keiser, Spinning, and Reebok Certified