By Team ICG® Master Trainer Chuck Cali

“Indoor cycling instructors!! As you 'teach' your class this week ask yourself- am I using this time to effectively TRAIN these people or am I using every trick in the book to just be an 'entertaining distraction'?? And yes, there is a BIG difference..:)”

I saw this statement on facebook on a recent morning.  Lately, I”™ve thought long and hard about this philosophy. Allow me to reason out with you another possibility.

At the end of your classes, did your riders notice the “BIG difference”, or indicate they cared?  Why were they there in the first place?  What did they come for? What do they expect?  Do you have an obligation to deliver what they expect or subject them to what you think they need?  As indoor cycle instructors, do we really know the answer to the question of why all these people are sitting on stationary bikes in front of us?  These are not new questions. Jim Karanas posted on a similar topic last year (“Susan and Bob”, 11/28/11).

Here are my thoughts.

If you”™re reading this, you care enough about your craft to, at minimum, stay informed. For years now, you”™ve read on this site all the facts necessary for delivering a safe, training experience for your riders.  ICI/PRO has also delivered hundreds of “how to” audio profiles and podcasts on teaching certain profiles or training objectives, or a specific class focus.

Yet that information is really for and about us, the instructors. It comes from people like us, doing what we love to do and always striving to get better at it. Let me add that all of it is safe, founded in the fundamentals of outdoor riding.  No contraindicated movements.  And it”™s incredibly useful in enhancing our abilities.

But striving for never-ending improvement compels one to ask such hard questions as:  What”™s the fundamental reason people participate in group exercise?  I”™m reasonably sure that for every rider there”™s a different answer.  What do we really know about these people and why they”™re here?  Still, this isn”™t about us, but about them. They pay for what we give them, which is important to remember.

Recently, I”™ve been reminded that indoor cycling is also an industry. What makes the gears of any industry turn is a demand for a product or service, which ultimately turns into profits.  We should all be ok with that.  It”™s why our paychecks don”™t bounce.

With that said, it becomes easier to work within the framework of “happy customers” rather than appropriate training. It has also been stated in these cyber pages that indoor cycling and, by extension, indoor cycle instructors have been commoditized. I believe that”™s true. But it can be a good thing if an instructor understands the commercial value of happy customers.

If “effective training” is producing happy customers, by all means create your class profiles to produce the desired training outcome.

But most of us in the trenches (indoor cycling studios around the world) face riders everyday who are doing mindless exercise.  One club manger explained to me, “They check their brains at the door, let us do what we do, and go home feeling that they did the right thing.”  They come back because they like us.

My experience is they come to our classes not because they”™re training — most don”™t know how to prepare a training plan, or care to — but because they”™re exercising.  Why?  Because everyone from the President of the United States to Jane Fonda has said it”™s good for them.  We all agree.

While a few Master Instructors are making a living teaching us how to train our riders or selling new equipment that will aid in the same, most of us are holding onto our part-time jobs by keeping our customers happy.

And this is where I see the BIG difference between effective training and entertaining distractions.  Our riders are not really looking for effective training,  even if they pay lip service to it.

They”™re looking to get through 60 minutes of hard work that they know is good for them, rather than training with an outcome in mind.  (I know many will argue that if we do our job well, the riders get the known cardio benefits, too.)

Among other things, happy customers add the greatest return on investment to facilities adding new equipment to their studios.  High ROI allows the riders, who seek exercise, to become involved in a new, dissociative activity while exercising.

At our initial certifications we learned about dissociative cueing, the act of diverting our riders”™ attention onto something other than the pain of the exercise.

As a Team ICG® Master Trainer using MyRide®+, I”™ve seen first-hand how forward motion video can take riders on a new journey while they get their exercise.  It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for them and us.

The same is true for the new bikes out there. The new consoles on these bikes provide multiple metrics:  cadence, heart rate, time, miles or kilometers per hour, lap times, gear setting, calories burned and power.

The options for using such metrics during class are many.  One option is to use them for training.  Some do.

If one is lucky enough to have forward motion video and new bikes, well, then our world has changed to provide many more opportunities to make our customers happy in ways never before possible.

Our industry needs to understand and embrace this concept if we”™re to compete with Zumba and U JAM, among the new activities now found in group exercise.  I could go on about whether those doing Zumba get any real cardio benefit, but, bottom line, this is about happy customers.  The cycle studio needs to stay competitive with other group activities.

One could call all the new technology an entertaining distraction. Sure. I consider it a collection of extremely useful tools for providing exactly what our riders want. A good reason to come back!  What they get from it is up to them.

It always has been.

Chuck Cali
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