Tonight after an early dinner I sat on the sofa enjoying a class-free evening. I decided to check Twitter as I didn’t log in for a few days and I saw a posting of my guest blog on the ICA page: https://www.indoorcyclingassociation.com/27105-2/
It made me realise how I have missed writing my blog. It’s just that the last few weeks have been a bit manic what with the Sports Massage course in full swing and having to do the actual massages in the week on top of my work and classes. Plus trying to ride my bike outside in an attempt to get some miles in before the momentous Etape Scotland that is in just about 2 weeks’ time.
This post is a reflection on my journey as an indoor cycling instructor so far.
I don’t mean to sound like one of those 20 year olds writing an autobiography: I do realise that 3 years as an instructor is nothing in comparison to one of my mentors and colleagues who has recently celebrated 20 years of teaching – congrats Neil! Check him out here.
Still I have taught over 1,200 classes which is not bad even if I say so myself. Have I changed as an instructor? If yes – how?
Does it take less time now than it did 1,000 classes ago? Yes & no. I know my music back to front so can prepare a mixed fun class or one focused on hills/speed etc in 15-20min as opposed to 1 hour it took in the first months.
But over the years I have kept about 40 profiles which have been tried and tested and I can shuffle these without getting bored. To spice things up I change warm up or cool down tune or replace something in the middle and I am ready to go.
Still when it comes to creating complicated profiles or even learning one someone else has created, it takes hours. Learning the music, trying it out. I take a great pride in what I do and if I am not sure I know the profile & music 100%, I will not use it.
I love music. I like riding to music. I enjoy using the changes in the song to change speed, movement, terrain, focus. I find it hard just having music as a background or riding without it. However I now feel spoilt as in most places where I teach the bikes have consoles so people don’t have to have a great ear and I don’t have to spend hours with a metronome trying to find exact bpm of a song if I want to do a cadence drill 🙂
I have become much more adventurous with my choices and love classical as surprise factor. I also use much more music without lyrics.
I now teach with power so my profiles changed quite a bit as I have developed my skills as an instructor.
At the start I used to do mainly intervals as I did not have enough experience to create any other profiles like endurance based. The basic training sometimes only lasts half a day and it simply does not equip you with the right skills.
In my first months I would just get 45min worth of my favourite songs and ride to them. Most of chart hits are based on whatever beat then 15/15/30 or 20/20/40sec that you can use as intervals. Simples.
I remember I had this irrational fear that people would find my classes boring unless I kept changing things so intervals had to be short. You are up, down, fast, slow, hill, sprint. I worried that if I get people to do the same thing for 1 min, they would walk out.
If you are a new instructor and you are nodding now – fear not: enjoy the learning curve. With experience AND further training comes confidence that you can do a 5 or 7 or even 12min track. It all depends on what you say to the people and how you say it. How to make the 12min climb challenging but achievable.
These days I teach interval based classes only every few weeks. I thrive on classes focused on skills that require mental challenges: strength or speed endurance, speed drills etc.
Now I make a point of stating the focus/point of my class before I even turn the music on. I still do classes from time to time where we do a bit of everything and the goal is to enjoy yourself. But I also do FTP testing ones.
We all ride too hard and speak too much when we start as instructors. We fear that if we don’t talk people will say: “What is that dude there for?” And that’s fine.
Even learning when to breathe and when to speak so you are not wheezing into the mike is a fun experience. Suddenly all the stuff you were planning to say when preparing your notes in your living room is cut short to: “And now…get ready…15 sec…go!” And the whole quote by someone famous that you were planning to mention is out of the window. Fun days 🙂
I still talk too much – sometimes. But I have improved. I had a regular in my classes who would always comment how he loved my music and my enthusiasm etc. Then after probably a year he came to me 15min before the class and said: “I can’t do it anymore. You keep talking ALL the time. You keep mentioning the shoulders and the feet and I just want some time to ride with just the music in my ears! I can’t do it anymore!”
Yes, it was harsh. I felt hurt. But I took it on board. He didn’t come to my classes for about 6 months. Then one day I saw him coming in. I went up to him and said: “It’s been a while. A lot has changed. I am sure you won’t be disappointed”. And after the class he gave me a high five then sent me a long e-mail commenting on how great the improvements were. Then proceeded to sending an e-mail to the gym management suggesting I should be taken into consideration as the person to take over the cycling department at the gym. Result!
USING MY VOICE
I know many new instructors say they don’t need a mike. So did I. Until I got 7, 8 and finally 13 classes a week. When you have that many and 45 bikes in some, however booming you think your voice is, it will not carry to the back of the room. With 3 classes a day if you have to scream even in one, you learn the hard way. Cherish your voice.
I have still overdone it just because I get overexcited. My voice has changed a lot. It’s a bit raspy and when I sing (in the shower only) I cannot get anywhere near Celine’s range as I used to…
Always carry any type of battery as an emergency for the mike. But if it dies completely – lower the music if you have to explain something. Your voice is more important than your legs in instructing your classes.
TEACHING OFF THE BIKE
I LOVE it. I am actually veering to teaching more off then on. I wrote a post about teaching off the bike so won’t elaborate here. It took a while to acquire but it’s an invaluable skill that suits my personality.
WHO COMES TO MY CLASSES
Oh, still a variety of people. Beginners, recreational indoor cyclists but also people who like training rather than exercise and what makes me especially proud – outdoor cyclists. They are not an easy crowd to attract indoors. They need to see a value in spending time on a stationary bike when they could be outside.
When I started teaching I was petrified of having cyclists or triathletes in my classes. I thought they would shake their heads and think my classes were too easy or not serious enough. Now it’s attracting them in that is my biggest motivation when creating class profiles.
Only one thing to say here: keep learning. It’s invaluable. Use any resources available: books, podcasts, webinars, membership of professional organisations, fitness conventions, additional certifications etc. Try and get certified on any bike that’s available in your area as you never know when it becomes handy.
If you still don’t, learn how to teach with power. It took me over 6 months to actually get to the point when I understood it enough to enjoy teaching with it.
ANYTHING THAT IS STILL THE SAME SINCE DAY ONE?
Yep: still turn up to teach at least 15min before – usually 30. Still know what I am going to do in the class -all be in with a plan B in case there is only 1 person or only beginners.
Still go through the bike set up. Every. Single. Class. I feel like a flight attendant. You know the people nobody listens to? So I am trying to make it as fun as I can.
I only carry 1 emergency CD rather than 10 as before.
Still have beginner hand outs, feedback forms, power zone charts, business cards, spare AUX cable, many batteries, mike shield, deodorant, spare top & at least one pen with me. Every class.
Still love teaching. Every time you get someone come to you saying: this is my husband. I told him he has never done a proper class until he tried yours!, you really pushed me today. I can’t believe I rode that hard; I can’t believe you have noticed I have a problem with my left foot! Thank you so much for your suggestions; “I have no questions. I just wanted to say you are awesome 🙂 or I really feel like a cyclist in training in your class, it makes all that hard work worthwhile.