It can be intimidating and awkward to instruct an indoor cycling class when not on the bike. Our bike seat can become a security blanket — a comfortable, happy place. However, getting off the bike and mingling with our riders can enhance their experience and allow them to draw closer to us as their instructor or coach. I find it to be an excellent way to engage riders and keep them focused on the objective of the class while adding a more “personal touch” to an otherwise group format. Here are 3 ways you can start to mingling with the crowds during class.
Introduction and Warm-Up
I love starting class OFF the bike. It gives me a chance to pace the room and stir up some energy as I introduce myself, learn who is new, and explain the objective of our time together. It is not uncommon for me to spend the the first 3-5 minutes of the class nowhere near my bike. As I”™m rambling on about all of what we will experience, I randomly say “hey” to people as I pass their bikes. I also find this an effective way to bring an overly energetic class to order. Instead of trying to get their attention from the instructor bike (usually farther away), I”™m in the crowd and in their face (strategically close to those with the greater tendency to continue chatting once class has started).
Some instructors may find it easier to be off the bike during times of recovery. One usually doesn”™t have to keep track of detailed timing and cues for 2-5 minutes and can feel free to move around the room. Similar to the introduction and warm-up, I use recovery times to explain what”™s ahead. As I”™m talking and moving around the room, I will often pause next to a rider and give them some encouragement “Abby, you looked like you were really focused during that last drill, how are you feeling?”. Abby may say “yeah, that was tough, but I was able to hang on until the end”. I would then say something to include the entire class like “Abby, you certainly got the most out of it. So how about everyone else? How are we doing?”. Remember, as the instructor, you are standing in the middle of the class. This puts you in the action and better connects you to your riders.
In many of the surveys I”™ve conducted, a greater percentage of riders prefer to see the instructor on the bike during hard efforts. It is motivating and an example of good form and technique. I don”™t often get off my bike during climbs or when visualizing a road or certain terrain (feels like I”™m being left behind), but I do find getting in amongst your riders during intervals can be very motivating. Instead of being in an educational mode, I go full-bore into coach mode. For example, during a 3-minute strength interval, I”™ll walk from rider to rider “Joe you are crushing it! Keep your foot on the gas!”.... “Anita, you are a machine...unstoppable...unwilling to back down! You”™ve got this!”....”Alright everyone, we”™ve only go 45 seconds left, dig down deep and finish what you”™ve started!”. Again, you can use a combination of personal encouragement and group motivation.
EXTRA: Get Physical
I will often make direct contact with my riders as I walk around the room. Sometimes it is as simple as solid eye contact as I stand in front of their bike. However, other times I may put my hand on a rider”™s shoulder as I”™m giving them some words of encouragement. Obviously, you as an instructor need to be comfortable with this and be aware of those who may want their personal space. In general, I usually reserve physical contact for my “regulars”. Those who attend often and who I”™ve spoken to on an individual basis. 99.9% of the time, if you act with the proper intentions, it will be received as positive personal attention and yet another way to draw yourself into your class. However, if you are uncertain — DON”™T DO IT! If you want to give it a try, choose one of your best friends in class to be your first victim.
Get off your bike, get in your class and get connected!
Originally posted 2011-12-01 20:26:59.
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Timely post. I had to give up my bike the other night and it was a little uncomfortable, however I think it made me paint a better picture of the ride and was able to connect more with some of the new riders that came that night.
Keep up the good work,
Thank you Tom for the post, I have been getting off my bike more and more to connect with my riders, especially those in the back row. We have 35 bikes with 3 rows and I find myself teaching to the front row riders who are also my veteran riders.
Love the idea of walking around the room during warmup, I did it today and it really help to relax them for our very challenging power focused profile.
I am told that during a cycle class, members expect the
instructors to work hard with them. However a few minutes
off the bike is also recommended. An entire time off the bike is not so well received (I’m told).
I have found that people DO appreciate a little extra attention when we get off the bike to cruise the room.
It will also motivate them a bit more when we do – (depending on the style and personality of the instructor)
and isn’t that what they all want – a little extra motivation???
Happy Holidays, ICI/Pros!
Last February I broke my leg and was forced to ‘get out of the saddle’ for about 6 weeks. I made me rethink my approach to leading the class and these classes really responded to my more up close and personal classes. My leg has healed and I’m back to full strength but I remind myself to get off and get close to folks form time to time. They appreciate it!
Great comments and additions from everyone! It is definitely interesting to see how instructors and riders respond to both teaching on and off the bike. Per MrWilson’s comment, I’m going to dedicate this week’s article to “How Hard Should We Be Working When Teaching?” – Thanks Everyone!