This article is very much for those ATTENDING indoor cycling or any group exercise classes but it many instructors would benefit from reading it.
I recently wrote an article for the ICA which you can access here (provided you are a member) directed at instructors about how to attract more riders to your classes. One of the points I raised was about continuous education through courses, following professional forums and taking other people’s classes.
The last point is always tricky. As instructors who often still have full time or part time jobs, our schedules are so busy we struggle fitting in the classes we teach, so finding time just to take a class always ends up at the bottom of the list. That’s why I usually make well informed choices and attend classes taught by instructors I know I can learn from.
However, recently I have had a chance to take a few indoor cycling classes in places I have never been before and taught by instructors I do not know.
I will not discuss here the differences of styles. What I will focus on instead is the QUALITY of class that people should expect and what they actually do get in various gym chains ranging from more economy class to high-end, costing well over £100 a month in membership fees.
I have now taken a few classes in the posh clubs and the budget ones. I realise that it is not a massive number, nor do I claim that my thoughts below are to be taken as a scientific research results. However, taking into consideration that these were picked totally at random, I think they gave me a good indication of the standards that public gets.
WHAT LEVEL OF CLASS EXPERIENCE/ SERVICE SHOULD YOU EXPECT?
Just to clarify, I am talking only from the moment a member/rider enters the cycling studio to the moment they leave it. Regardless of the studio size, the type of bike in use, completely disregarding things like cleanliness or changing room facilities.
This is unacceptable! They should be in that room 10 – 15 minutes before the class starts. If they stroll in on the dot when the class is to start, they are already late. If they give you an apology and it’s a one off – fair enough. Otherwise, do not accept it. Question it. Give feedback to the manager.
The instructor should be there early to answer any questions, discuss injuries, help any new riders to understand how to use the bike at all.
The instructor should give their name at the start of each class. This is good manners.
BIKE SET UP
One of my great colleagues Glen McCready who owns a studio in NI, posted a video once with one simple message. His friend asked him how to choose an indoor cycling facility or an instructor within a facility. How do you know if they are a good one? Glen’s answer was gold: IF THEY DO NOT GO THROUGH THE BIKE SET UP at the start of (every) class – leave.
This is basic health & safety as well as to ensure new riders know what to do. You have heard it all before? You can roll your eyes. That’s what we all do that when flight attendants go through the emergency procedures. But they still do it. Every. Single. Flight.
This is a bit controversial – you expect the instructor to be on time and so you should be on your bike on time. If you turn up 10 minutes late the instructor may not allow you to join in.
HOWEVER, if they do, they have the duty of care towards you. They must approach you asking for injuries and set your bike up quickly for you. If you have questions you leave them until the end of the class. The instructor cannot allow you in and leave you to your own devices with the attitude: you came late now I don’t care what you do.
CLASS PLAN/ STRUCTURE
Every instructor should know what they are going to do in the class. They should have a playlist and a plan prepared. If they keep scrolling through their playlist, leaving silent gaps and clearly making it up as they go along week in week out, report to the manager.
Whether they give you class plan at the start, i.e.: today we will be working on endurance/strength/power/you will ride 20 x 1 min intervals or whether they disclose each next element as the new track starts, is their style and choice. But they must tell you what you are about to do!
If all you hear is: “SPRINT!” without an idea of how long or how many rounds, approach them after the class and tell them you would appreciate this information. Call them out on it. Tell them you do not know how hard to go if you don’t know when it will end. The same with recovery – do you have 15 seconds or one minute?
One of the classes I took had a great structure, it was led by power zones and I loved the workout. My issue was that the instructor who was a trained ETM (Exercise to Music) instructor, kept giving the effort level expected (great!) but as for duration he would say: “Hold for 16!” I was like: “What is 16? 16 seconds?” He was apparently giving us the count of the beats (?!). Great if you are used to it – I had no clue what he was on about. It was extremely frustrating.
I did tell him that at the end of the class and he said he’s been teaching like that for years and nobody said anything. Not to him – when I discussed it with other riders they said it took them months to work out what that meant and some still did not know…
Even if there is only one new person amongst 20 regulars it is the instructors’ duty to ensure they describe what they want the riders to do in a way that the new person can understand.
BUT HOW HARD?
It is great for the instructor to say that we will be now climbing a hill. To the beat. Excellent. But if they don’t tell you for how long, you don’t know how hard you can push so you don’t pass out half way through it. And they must describe to you the effort level. There is a difference between an easy hill that you can sustain for 7 minutes and a steep, faster one for 5 minutes. If a power zone colour system is in use, they can refer to that but STILL the description of what it should feel like, what your breathing should be like etc is a must. On a scale 1 – 10 where are we?
I have noticed in a few of the classes I took that there were people who after 45 min looked destroyed, others had a bit of a workout and others still looked like they spent the last 45 minutes watching TV. And it wasn’t for the lack of trying – they just had no idea of the effort level expected.
POST CLASS FEEDBACK
It is always favourable if the instructor can give you a few minutes to discuss any issues, changes to bike set up, any problems you had with the class or just to hear that you loved the work they had put into preparing the class.
HOW SHOULD IT DIFFER BETWEEN THE POSH AND THE CHEAPER GYMS?
IT SHOULD NOT! There aren’t courses for cheap club indoor cycling instructors where the motto is “I don’t care about my job, they pay me peanuts, I deliver rubbish service with minimum effort.”
We are all supposed to deliver the same BASIC standards: be on time, be prepared, provide safe and efficient workout, respect your riders. If an instructor thinks they don’t get paid enough, they should not accept the job. It is their duty to deliver to the best of their abilities every single time in every class they teach. Whether the studio has 5 or 50 bikes. Whether the membership is £20 or £200 per month or if members pay per class. It’s outrageous that any instructor would think otherwise.
The truth is very often people who can only afford cheaper gym memberships, lower their expectations and think that instructors being late and winging it comes with the price.
Let me break it to you: THEY GET PAID THE SAME AMOUNT. Yes, those of us spending hours preparing classes and playlists to match, continuing to hone our skills get paid the same rate by the gyms when YOU get a substandard service. Now you know it, “you gotta fight. For your right”. Do it. You are worth it!