Some people compare the role of an indoor cycling instructor to that of an entertainer, a DJ or a performer. It certainly has some similarities and it definitely shares two important aspects with the acting profession: auditions and having to cope with rejection.
I wrote a three-part piece about auditions for ICA and you can read the articles here. What I would like to tackle today is the rejection element. There are two types of rejection we face as instructors.
First, failing at an audition and not getting the job. Second, getting a class but being rejected by the clients.
This is the most common form of rejection and it can be soul destroying. I have been extremely lucky to have landed all my classes at the start of my career through a FB cover group: if you were certified, had up to date insurance and were free, you got the gig. There was no audition as it would normally be a one-off cover. As a new instructor hungry for experience, I was covering tens of classes.
It gave me a massive exposure: teaching new people every time so learning to adapt, using various bikes, sound systems etc. It was stressful on one hand, as you had no idea who you were going to teach but also you knew that if it didn’t go too well, chances were, you were never going to see these riders again.
After the first 6-8 months of mainly covering classes, the word got out that I was reliable and people enjoyed my classes so I started getting offers of permanent classes. I had been teaching for over 3 years before I attended my first audition and it wasn’t the best experience.
Having done few of those since then, I can say I am definitely NOT an audition person. I struggle selling myself in 3-10 minutes. I much rather someone attended any of my regular classes – even undercover – but see them through from what I do before we start to what happens once the music stops.
Anyway, we are talking about rejection here and after an audition you may get an immediate answer or you get the ominous “we’ll get back to you”. Let me tell you, neither feels nice. (Unless you have witnessed that your format does not really fit with what the studio is looking for, in which case you feel like you had a narrow escape).
What makes auditions even harder to stomach is (if you are, like me, a keep-it-real instructor who teaches with power and is big on education as well as fun) seeing fellow auditionees with bold personalities, shredded abs and amazing make up yet delivering a weak workout. Still they get the gig and you don’t.
How do you deal with it?
Well, if you have a style that is a total opposite of what is being taught at the studio, you wouldn’t have fitted in anyway. If, however, the place does offer your style of classes it is important to get a feedback from the person who made the decision.
Be prepared for a double rejection though. Even those who say: “If you would like a detailed feedback, drop us an e-mail and we will respond”, in 99% of cases they don’t.
These are the worst to get over. I don’t want to come across as an instructor who thinks they are the best, but I do know I am bloody good so if someone says I am not good enough I would like to know in which areas, so I can work on improving those or understand why our views differ.
What helped me in the past is talking to other instructors I hold in high esteem to check if they had auditioned for the same places. Let me tell you, if my mentors get rejected at the same place, I have no time to waste on wondering what I did wrong – it wasn’t a place for me.
Another coping strategy is looking at the high attendance of my regular classes. Clearly, I must be doing something right. Just keep educating yourself and attending other people’s classes. Keep learning.
What goes around comes around…
There are also the reviews on my FB page. On that topic, here is what happened to me recently. Almost a year ago I auditioned for a boutique studio and I was treated appallingly. After giving them 3 full days for training (unpaid) I was offered 5 classes a week (in writing). The final step was to teach a 15 minute class using their software/screen system and then I was to start. I was getting on the train to deliver that final element, when I got a message there were technical difficulties and they would give me a call with another time and date. That was the last communication. They stopped responding to my e-mails and phone calls. I was fuming. A few months later I learnt that one of my mentors auditioned for them and didn’t not get the job either.
Then, about 4 weeks ago I got a message on FB from someone at that very studio. The message read they found my FB page, looked at pictures from my busy classes and read all the great reviews from my riders and they “could not understand why I did not work for them yet?”. I must say it felt good responding that due to the way I was treated by them in the past I was not interested. Karma?
Overall, auditions toughen you up but if you lack confidence they may be a boost or go completely the other way. They will forever be part and parcel of the fitness industry though so unless you manage to avoid them they way I did, you better get used to them.
REJECTION BY THE RIDERS
We all experience this type of rejection especially at the beginning of our careers and whenever we cover for a popular instructor. You know, the situation when you walk into the studio and people start leaving or they walk in, see you setting up the instructor bike and walk out rolling their eyes despite never having seen you before.
Both the cases described above cannot be avoided. Instructors have following and if riders don’t know what to expect they don’t want to risk having to sit through 45min of something they don’t enjoy and make the decision to leave before the class starts.
I used to take these incidents personally when I started as an indoor cycling instructor but then I learnt this is part and parcel of the business and I do not waste my energy thinking too much about these riders.
What is harder to take is when you start a class and then someone leaves 10-15 minutes into it. Again, you never know what happened, but the first thought is that they really hated the class. The way I deal with that is either get over it and leave it or after the class is finished I chat to members about the class to work out why someone would have left.
How do you deal with it?
The hard truth is – you will never keep everyone happy. It may be your music, cueing or anything else that just doesn’t gel with a rider. Focus on the remaining riders in the room. Put it down to experience.
We all know it’s extremely tough to step in for a popular instructor who has a big following. Chances are people will not be happy seeing someone else up there and having to get used to the way YOU teach. Recently I had to give up my classes for a few weeks and the management found a cover. When they told me they did that, I was extremely grateful for their help and asked them to pass my details to the new instructor, so she could contact me and get am idea of what music people are used to, what type of classes etc. It would have helped with the transition – teach the first couple of classes resembling my style, get people to know you, then you do you.
She chose not to take me up on the offer. She came into the studio knowing nothing about the bikes, the type of class people have been used to for over two years or the type of riders. As a result, a whole bunch of people left the studio after about 15 minutes as the difference in the styles and content was so great. This could have been easily avoided. Don’t be an easy target. Give yourself the advantage of research and preparation.
In summary, if you are a group exercise instructor, rejection will be a part of your career and all you can is be prepared, keep developing and be smart but as the cliché goes: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.