I'd like to welcome Chuck Cali as an official member of the ICI/PRO Team! - John
By Team ICG® Master Trainer Chuck Cali
When asked by ICG® to write a post for ICI/PRO, I thought, “OMG.” 🙂 Seriously, as Jim Karanas or John Macgowan can attest, I have a lot to say. So choosing the topic for my first post was daunting. I”™m the new guy, after all -- now sharing screen space with some of the country”™s premier indoor cycle instructors.
What could I say that would be of value to the indoor cycle instructors out there in the trenches?
It felt right to start with the simple things that mean so much, the least common denominator, the place from which you can become a star, ‘the”™ instructor everyone talks about.
John calls it community. I say connections. Making everyone feel part of something bigger. No matter how great your music, how structured your profiles, how clearly stated the class objectives, or how perfectly timed your cues, the success of your class comes down to how well you connect with your riders.
When I talk about connections, I can”™t help but think of James Cameron”™s great movie Avatar. Consider how the avatar learned to fly the winged beast. Plugging in solved only half the problem. Once plugged in, the two had to become as one. Showing up prepared and on time and engaging the crowd is plugging in. CARING is becoming one with your class.
This simple fact seems to get lost in the training: class focus, music, lighting, power, heart rate, base, strength, cadence, climbing, speed, endurance, ad infinitum. Showing up and executing the perfect profile to the best music, with spot-on cueing, the best indoor cycles, the best studio set-up will get you nada from your class if you don”™t connect with them.
Dr. Shannon”™s earlier posts on being “the instructor your students can”™t wait to see again” discussed how to connect with our riders. Ultimately, as she points out, passion, honesty, encouragement and gratefulness create the connectivity. My word for all that is “caring.” It”™s not about you.
The recipe for connecting is caring. How do you run a great class? By caring. How do you get your riders to connect with you? By caring. The fact that you”™ve set the world record for climbing L”™Alpe d”™Huez is of little importance to them 10 minutes into class. This is indoor cycling.
My experience may be somewhat different from others posting here. I”™ve spent many years studying this industry and the people who make it work. The best of the best were incredibly adept at connecting. It seemed that they spoke to and cared for everyone in class on a personal level.
Only when this connection is made, so that the riders understand at the most fundamental level that you care about them first, can you successfully demand the highest efforts or introduce complex profiles.
How do I do it?
1. I remember it”™s not about me -- except to establish that I”™m running the class through unambiguous yet non-inflammatory requests.
2. I try hard to get to know my riders: Introduce myself. Ask their names. Find out if they”™re new to indoor cycling. Give as much personal attention as possible.
3. I keep it simple and explain in simple, fun terms what I plan for the ride.
4. I empower the class with options that accommodate all fitness levels. I steadfastly encourage good form and never use contraindicated moves.
5. I give positive feedback during class to as many as possible, using their names (which I mostly get wrong).
6. I let them know they can do it. I believe in recovery and let them know when it”™s coming, so they don”™t have to hold back or fear they won”™t last.
7. I lead by example. I”™m happy to see them and, as a general rule, work as hard as I ask them to work.
8. I”™m sensitive and don”™t go on autopilot. I recognize early when I”™m losing them and adjust.
9. I never take myself too seriously. I poke fun at my mistakes -- when I blow a cue or get the timing wrong.
For new instructors, I suggest learning and integrating these skills before going for the complicated ride profiles. Once you do, your class will confidently follow you.
For veterans, look back and revisit what got you to the front of the room. We like being there, but shine does fade. Reconnect.
Trying to reach the pinnacle of our profession is important. The journey teaches me so much. What I”™ve learned can be distilled down to one word: Caring.
Nothing surpasses the feeling of seeing the enjoyment my riders take from my efforts -- not only during class, but what went into making it great. “Great class!” are words we never tire of hearing.
Care. Connect. Teach.
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Congrats, Chuck! Super exciting!!