This Monday started off really well despite me not having much sleep the night before. I put it down to the excitement of being interviewed later that morning on my local radio station Wandsworth Radio by Laura who comes to my classes and has taken part in my fitness challenges.
My 6:45am class was busy but I felt my energy a bit low. I blamed the lack of sleep. Then off to work I went.
When Laura called me at 10:30 I was excited. Nervous but excited. I tried to be articulate and not blab too much. Has anyone heard me? I talked about indoor cycling, obviously, my 50 Class Challenge and fitness in general. Anyway, I was sweating profusely thanking God it was not a TV interview. Loved the experience though so thank you Laura.
Then it was time for my lunchtime class but before I left my director called me to say he wasn’t feeling well and he was going home. He sounded awful.
I went to teach my 12:10 class but by the time I got to them gym I knew something was not right. I felt weak and off colour. I thought: “That’s it. I am not riding. I will be teaching off the floor”.
The class went well as usual. But even though I was on the bike for all of 5min, I felt really dizzy. I had one more class to go through in the evening but I knew that whatever was getting hold of me was working fast so I found cover. By the time my director called me at 4pm we both sounded really bad.
This is where the instructor dilemma came in: should I teach when I am unwell or should I find cover?
As a professional you do not want to disappoint your participants. At the same time is it more responsible to turn up and teach when you are spreading germs to everyone in the studio?
From my experience (when I almost fainted while teaching as I insisted on riding despite feeling unwell) I would say: if you are not coughing or sneezing but your energy levels are low, you can still teach off the bike. Provided you have done that before and your participants are used to it.
Teaching off the floor gets a lot of stick. There are people who say they would never do it and those like me, who really enjoy it. It’s undoubtedly a great skill to have in case you are injured or feel a bit unwell, or even quite unwell but it is too late to find a cover.
This week I taught my Tuesday morning class totally off the bike. I chose my profile carefully so I knew it well and explained it before I turned the music on. I explained why I wouldn’t be on the bike and why I wouldn’t be talking much so I asked the class to really watch my hand signals. And you know what, the class was great. 30 people left happy and about 10 of them came up to me to express how much they appreciated the fact that I did not cancel the class.
This is how I see teaching off the bike:
- You can approach everyone & give 121 feedback, especially to people who sit too far to see you well (in big studios with 30-45 bikes).
- You can adjust people’s bike set up even once the class has started.
- People feel that you care and that you actually can see them.
- There are those who don’t keep eye contact with the instructor at all or find it hard to understand what you say with the loud music playing – just tapping them gently on the shoulder or pointing to their heel dropping makes them correct their technique.
- Long tracks 8-10min off the bike when people know what they are supposed to be doing (climbing or racing) you have plenty of time to work with deconditioned or new people.
- You can see the group’s response to the intensity level/profile type. You can modify the class accordingly.
- You can get your personality to shine.
- You teach people INTRINSIC motivation (provided you say the right thing at the right time and you learn to stay quiet long enough). When you equip your riders with it, they don’t need to see you at all on that bike.
- You are not losing your income.
- Some people need to see the instructor in the front to be motivated. However, you would be surprised how few.
- Some people come to the class to be able to update their social media status with “At the gym”. They don’t want to be corrected or care about their results. They will not like the attention. You will quickly learn who they are by the energy around them: The force is strong with them. Do not approach.
- You need to know your profile really well so you know how people should feel at a given moment.
- You need to know the music well as you are away from the stereo.
- Your class structure has to be clear and so do your instructions. No fluff.
- You have to be energetic and give the right vibe out. It’s not about standing still, leaning against your bike barking commands.
- It will not suit everyone.
The skill of teaching off the floor is one that takes a long time to practise but I think it’s one of my main tools as an indoor cycling instructor.
Do you teach off the bike? As a class participant, do you feel the need to see the instructor ride throughout the whole class?