I started teaching this particular class a couple of months ago and attendance has been poor as the time slot is not the best for the location. I did have 7 riders once, but overall it is more like 3 every week, which is a great shame as the studio is beautiful. It has 30 IC7 bikes, top notch sound system, lights and air con.
On third of January I walked into the gym and asked the receptionist:
Me: Happy New Year! Has anyone booked the class today?
Receptionist: Yes! You have 20 people.
Me: Haha! Good one! No, seriously. Is anyone booked?
Receptionist: I am serious. Actually 21. If you don’t believe me, have a look yourself.
Me (looking at the booking system): I didn’t know there were that many members in this gym! The power of new year’s resolutions should never be underestimated.
I was in the studio 30 min early and chatted to and set up people as they were coming in but about 10 of them came in at the same time at the very last minute. I went through the set-up and the “any injuries” question once more.
We started the warm up and I could see there were a couple of seasoned cyclists, some recreational types, two people have clearly never seen an indoor bike before, so the usual mix. And only 4 familiar faces.
I continued the warm up walking around and adjusting set ups etc as needed.
Throughout the class a few people caught my attention. Three were men. The Newbie who was doing great, the Pro for his focus and technique and a guy who seemed to be very cautious of not working too hard, let’s refer to him as Steady Does It.
I made a point of approaching each of them at some point to acknowledge their efforts, but I wish I could have a little chat with the Newbie and the Steady Does It. Unfortunately, they left during the cool down.
The other three were women. Two of them were new faces.
The first one was killing it: focused and committed until the battery in her console died mid Z5 effort and she had to change a bike. As she started on the second one, something went wrong again so, very annoyed by now, she hopped on the third and finished the class.
I loved watching her work and was really upset for her as the technical issues really broke the flow of her workout, yet it was great to see her tenacity. I made sure I acknowledged her determination.
Second lady was very smiley but didn’t seem to me like she was putting much effort in. There was no difference in her breathing, no sweat, no sign of real work as I was cuing Z5 effort or even Z4. I approached her a couple of times and said: “C’mon, make it worth your while! Feel the difference between the efforts”. She would smile, pick up the intensity only to ease off as soon as I walked off. Then about 30 min into 45 min class she got off the bike and left.
The immediate impression would have been that she was one of the “lazy” riders who come in for no apparent reason as they don’t seem to work at all. Or that she really didn’t like the class. Surprisingly, she found me in the changing rooms after the class and said: “I am sorry for walking out of your class, but I haven’t been in the gym for months and I just couldn’t keep up. It was a great and fun class and I will be back though”.
I was really happy she made the effort to talk to me. I assured her she was fine doing 30 minute efforts to start with and I am looking forward to seeing her again.
The third one? I feel so bad about getting blinded by my own self-righteousness here… She was one of the last minute people, so I had no chance to discuss the set up or potential health issues with her. She set the bike up correctly so as we started, all seemed to be fine. Then I realised that whatever I was cueing she would follow in or out of the saddle but at extremely slow cadence of about 45-50 RPM with added upper body freeze and consequently not much intensity.
I cue relaxing upper body a lot in my classes, but she didn’t seem to be listening. I couldn’t get eye contact with her due to where she was sitting, so I walked up to reiterate my points off the mic. For a second, she seemed like she wanted to say something, but then she changed her mind. Her face was not showing anger or annoyance, there was no eye rolling but she wasn’t smiling either. I pointed to her console and said 45 RPM was really a time waste and she looked like she was getting nothing out of the class: neither HR elevation nor enjoyment. She would speed up a bit with me next to her, then revert to the freezing. I mentioned she was risking an injury but during a class it’s an empty threat as there is no time to give proper explanation behind this statement. I decided to let it go and focus on the other riders.
However, I felt that I was too harsh on her, so I wanted to chat to her after the class and ask for her reasons to ride this way. As she was leaving the studio she said “thank you” with no harsh notes but still avoiding eye contact and didn’t look like she wanted to chat. I felt bad about how I handled the situation. I collected my things and rushed off to the changing rooms hoping to catch her.
Thankfully her locker was close to mine, so I approached her by saying that I hoped I didn’t come across too harsh earlier in the class. She was very nice and said she appreciated that I cared about what she did and how she performed in the class. The reason for her not wanting to break a sweat was that she underwent a plastic surgery a few weeks back and she was not supposed to raise her heart rate for a couple more weeks hence she was going really easy and not sweating. She apologised for coming in too late to tell me all this. We then discussed the freezing on the bike and she accepted my explanation of why I was trying to prevent her from riding this way. She was ever so nice however clearly an introvert which makes it easy to misinterpret as a stand offish in a group setting.
What are my reflections from this class?
First, I did my best asking about injuries/medications/pregnancies a few times and there is nothing I can do if people come in late and/or choose not to disclose their health problems, but I wonder if they ever realise under how much risk they put themselves at by keeping this important information secret.
We need to know if you are diabetic or have had a surgery recently. All we can do as instructors is to ask the screening questions a few times as people are coming in. Do not leave it to the last minute when you are already clipped on the bike and the warm up has started. If people are not willing to tell you stuff one to one, they will not shout it out across the room.
Second, we always get first timers in our classes but in January give a special mention to new riders who decided to try spin in the new year. It may give them extra motivation to come back when their derriere feels sore after the first class.
Finally, if someone doesn’t seem to be receptive to your instructions during the class and does something that can put them at risk, do your best to have a chat with them before they leave the room. If it is too late, approach them if you see them stretching or even in the changing room. Try it before you make a judgement about a new rider.
As I see people on the gym floor, I have a habit of saying things like: “loved your focus today” or “let’s get that saddle a bit higher next week to get you more comfortable”. Sometimes I take pictures of people’s consoles after they have left and if I see them outside the studio, I approach them and acknowledge their efforts.
A lady who is always in the changing room on the day I teach, who doesn’t take my class but finishes body pump at that time, told me a few weeks back: “I really like how you always come to say nice things or give suggestions for improvement to all the girls who did your class.”
With all the virtual training options that are available on the market, the personal touch is what is going to make you stand out.
Happy New Year!