I wrote about it before but it’s so relevant it was worth picking up again.
If you only teach regular classes at the same regular places you are probably safe – you know your ins and outs. You know who to ask for help and what can possibly go wrong. But if you are adventurous and cover in various places, the possibilities are endless.
SOUND SYSTEM YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE
Honestly, this one applies mainly to new instructors. It used to be my greatest fear – what if I don’t know what to press, or if there is a secret button somewhere is the back room (most often with POWER written above or below it)?
TACKLE STRATEGY: get there early. And I mean like 30 min EARLY. If a class is taking place when you get there, make sure you ask the instructor if there are any tricks you need to know to make those speakers play your rocking playlist. If the room is empty, you may need to find a manager or a studio coordinator or The One Who Knows The Sound System. If the gym is big it may take time.
LEAD CABLE MISSING/NOT COMPATIBLE
Most gyms have got the leads attached to the system but please, get your own jack. Recently in a gym where I have been teaching 3 weekly classes, the lead has disappeared. After a couple of years it went AWOL.
TACKLE STRATEGY: Have your own. Always. They actually bought a replacement but it seems to be very flimsy and the sound coming out of the speakers is faint and distorted.
MIC BATTERIES NOT THERE/DEAD/ ARE THE BIG ONES THAT NOBODY ELSE USES
Yeah, we have all been there. It’s 50/50 these days with gyms providing batteries or having the rechargeable ones on one hand, and the ones with empty spaces where the suckers should be on the other. Or you get mics with the massive rectangular ones.
TACKLE STRATEGY: always carry 2 or 4 AAA & one of the big ones. I swear to God some people don’t realise that if a mic takes two batteries and upon switching the ON button the thing has flat lined, you cannot just replace ONE! You need to change both. Remember that class in primary school when they explained that? 🙂
NOTE: batteries can go dead if you keep them in your bag next to some items like phone (now, this is not scientific, just experience) so check them from time to time. Nothing worse than agreeing to cover an additional class and having to scream for 45 min.
MIC BELTS & WINDSHIELDS
You turn up and they are not there. And you have no pocket for the mic.
Vile alert! There are gyms that try to help instructors by providing these. You go to the cupboard, open the SPIN STUDIO box and there is the belt and the little sponge on the mouthpiece. Actually when I see through the box lid that it contains these items, I brace myself and stand in a safe distance holding my breath as I open the box to retrieve the items I need, LEAVING the sponge and the belt behind and closing the lid before I breathe in again. WHY, WHY, WHY WOULD YOU USE THESE, DRENCH THEM IN SWEAT AND LOCK THEM IN A BOX?! It’s like chemical waste! I would rather hold the mic in my hand then use a belt that smells like a dead animal.
TACKLE STRATEGY: please, get your own… We are all self employed and these are business expenses. Wash the belt and the windshields regularly. I have two belts I alternate and a whole heap of windshields. One lasts me a few months but I wash it after or before every class. I use soap, hot water and dry it under the hand dryer. Check your bag every day. These are not to be forgotten.
BEWARE OF WI-FI WREAKING HAVOC WITH YOUR PLAYLIST!
I play my music from my iPad with the Wi-Fi on. The other week in the middle of the class I realised the song that started was supposed to be coming much later. What the…? I looked at the iPad and saw that randomly 5 songs went ONLINE and would need to play from iCloud which for some reason wasn’t working. I could only play 3 out of 10 songs from that playlist!
TACKLE STRATEGY: Emergency plan or – as it happened in my case – know your music/playlists inside out or have them organised by Hill/Flat/Endurance etc. My profile that day was supposed to be 15 min climb. We did the first song and now I needed 10 more minutes. I simply went to the next playlist with HILL and used those songs.
Today, I had a 60 min profile that I didn’t use for a few weeks and didn’t realise that one, quite crucial song, disappeared. I had it on my phone though. I made a joke to the group saying that they would witness my smooth sound engineering skills where I would be changing music devices half way through 🙂 It worked fine.
YOU TURN UP AND TADA! THERE ARE BIKES (VISUAL SYSTEM) YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE
If they don’t say what bikes/systems are in the studio, ask. You don’t want to look unprofessional in front of your class.
TACKLE STRATEGY: turning up early comes handy again here. Bike set up never changes but you need to locate the right levers so you can help the participants in need. When it comes to visual systems like My Ride, I always say to the class that I am just covering and will keep them busy without it. If it’s just a system showing RPM, Watts etc I put it on if requested. But I never feel pressured: if you don’t know what the system will play and you will keep wondering what the movie showing behind your back is, leave it. It may not go with your class at all.
THIS IS ALL WRONG!
So you asked all the right questions and know the bikes have power meters, the class is really into training, there are many cyclists etc. You decide to do a power profile. You walk into the studio: the bikes have RPM but the power is not showing (or they are not calibrated so the numbers are all over the place). Then people come in and you get one outdoor lycra-clad cyclist, 3 people who have clearly never been on a bike before, 4 who have no idea about the set up, on the mention of RPM they look at you as if you were an alien so you abandon the very idea of talking about POWER.
TACKLE STRATEGY: PLAN B! It doesn’t have to be an easier class intensity wise, but your approach will be totally different. You can even challenge yourself and use the same playlist but use RPE as the only tool. Maybe introduce the RPM concept.
THERE IS NO MUSIC/USE THE LITTLE BOOMBOX IN THE CORNER
That’s a tough one. I had the Boombox experience a few times but has never done a silent class. I hope Deborah will share her experience below. I know she taught last week on the ‘old school’ bikes with no data with no music. On the ones with monitors I see no problem. Otherwise your cuing and the use of RPE has to be on point. Have you ever thought what you would do in such a situation? Or has it happened to you already?
Any other things to add onto the list?