Take out the lights, put on some make-up and setup the cameras. You are about to be the star of your next class. Since joining Cycling Fusion, I”™ve been thrust into the world of video and spend more time in front of a camera than I like. Between our digital classes, virtual rides, ads and hours filming for our on-demand workshops, I”™m not sure how much more of me I can take. OK, I AM having fun, but I”™m also learning a ton about my ability to present, teach and coach.
Be Prepared to be Embarrassed
Yup, if are willing to film yourself and watch in an unbiased way, you will notice some “quirky” things about your mannerisms and presentation skills. It can be quite embarrassing. I remember John Macgowan filming a segment on explosive power I did during a 2-day workshop. When I watched it, I could not get over how much I moved around while teaching. I”™m not just talking about moving around the room, but rather moving frantically in a 1-foot radius. How did John put it? “He is like a caged lion”. Now don”™t get me wrong, there are certain quirks about us that....well...make us...US. They are unique qualities that add flare and style and keep people engaged. Our goal is not to morph ourselves into plastic-looking anchor people, but rather refine our teaching and coaching style for a greater impact.
So What Should We Look For?
Your Form on the Bike
We all want to model good form and technique on the bike, but it is not uncommon to pickup little habits along the way, particularly when dealing with repetitive movement. Last winter I noticed that I was flicking my elbows slightly when riding out of the saddle indoors. I”™m not sure where I picked that up from, but can only figure that I was trying to over exaggerate my upper body to illustration side to side movement. I needed to correct that. Are you moving in any way that would not be considered proper on a bike? How does your setup look? Are your seat and handlebars at the right height? How about knee alignment and ankling? If you notice something, don”™t be afraid to get a second opinion. Ask another instructor or cyclist what they think of your form and position.
Where are You Looking?
It is interesting to see where our eyes go OR don”™t go while we teach. I always thought I made good eye contact while I taught, but found that I only looked at people for a split-second and then would look down repeatedly. Ugh, I hated that and changed it. NOTE: if you are an instructor who is also an athlete, you may find yourself entering that training cave during intense efforts in class. You know the look — it”™s the intense, blank stare we tend to get when we are focused and digging deep. It can look cool when we are training on our own or trying to intimidate the competition, but it can appear disconnected if we are leading a class. Try this if you dare: look directly at a person in your class and let them be the first one to break eye contact. Don”™t get weird and try to burn a hole in their head — act natural.
How Expressive Are You?
When you instruct, are you animated or are your lips and legs the only things moving on your body? Do you talk with your hands glued to the handlebars or do you gesture and maybe sit up from time to time for emphasis? Do you have any interesting facial expressions, funny ones or none? Try this — turn off the sound while you watch the video, do you have any idea what”™s going on? From your movement alone, are you engaging?
No, not fiddling as in fiddler on the roof, but fiddling on the bike. Are you constantly moving your towel, playing with the resistance knob or lever, “fine-tuning” the stereo (if you can reach it), repositioning the mic, shifting your cue sheet around, flipping your hair or adjusting your shorts (yes, I went there)? I found myself fiddling with stuff when I was nervous or just not as confident as I wanted to be during a certain class or part of the workout. Try to divert your energy toward ways of being expressive. For example, if you find yourself wanting to tweak the volume knob 0.000001 of an inch, instead, convert that energy to reminding riders to focus on their breathing and relaxation.
How Often do You Get On and Off the Bike?
All instructors should have the ability to effectively coach both on the bike and while walking around the room. How often do you get off your bike? Do you get off your bike at all? Should you? If you're getting on and off the bike, why and when? Are you constantly getting off the bike to adjust something in the room or look out the window? Yes, I audited a class where the instructor put their back to the riders and looked out the window while barking unintelligible utterances. Do you get off the bike during hard efforts, during recovery efforts or both? How long do you spend off the bike each time?
How Hard are You Working?
Now most of you know I don”™t work nearly as hard as my riders, because I need to coach them. I do not find it the least bit motivating to take a class with an instructor who is so out of breath you can”™t understand what they are saying (yes, I”™ve seen that too). However, I was called on my “faking” game a number of months ago when a rider said I wasn”™t even breaking a sweat. Oops! Ok, I guess I dialed it back way too far. Do you “look” like you are working or are you an armchair instructor? We know our classes are not our time to train, but we need to make sure we are working hard enough to motivate and inspire our riders.
Finally.....A Touchy Subject
Are you in shape? I looked at a video of myself back in late April and was disgusted. I had put on 15+ pounds (or hadn”™t lost it from the winter) and looked like the Michelin man trapped in spandex. Oh no, that ain”™t happening! I was busy working and traveling and got lazy. It wasn”™t that I wasn”™t training, but not training the way I knew I needed to. And I was certainly not watching my diet. I was just watching food disappear. I think I”™ve said enough on this issue.
If You Dare
If you interested and are willing to send me your video (or give me access to it on YouTube or something), I will review the first 3 videos I receive using the above criteria (all of it). How bold are you?
OK, get out your video camera or cell phone and smile. How willing are you to be the best you can? We”™ll see....literally.
Originally posted 2011-09-08 17:36:44.
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😉 I dared to… ran out of room on my note page when watching it back. Oh the truth the camera lens sees. Another good one Tom!
Great article Tom! I can relate to the “are you in shape?” question. All work and little miles has left John a chubby boy heading into fall. Note to self: skip checking email first thing in the morning and get to the club 🙂
I’m with both of you. Revealing. Educating. Did I mention revealing?
Tom this is great, the many flaws we have and you must have attended one of my classes. I fiddle with the volume of stereo even when I know it is perfect, tomorrow I will not touch the knob. Thanks
I’ve had a member observe that I don’t ride the whole class, meaning I get of the bike or stop my pedaling to stand on the pedals to survey the room and see how the riders that are not as visable look. I feel a little guilty about this sometimes and don’t want them to perceive that I can’t do what I am asking them to do. Occasionally I will tell my group that when we start pushing high intensity or threshold HR’s I purposely hold back or get off so I can coach them without sounding like a obscene phone caller. (if we even have those anymore).
Hally, you are too funny! Don’t touch that!
Sandra, I understand what you are saying. Honestly, it depends on the instructor. I have an unfair advantage in this area because I’m a full-time coach, still race and clock many hours in the saddle each week (which my classes are aware of). I also introduce my classes as a “coached training session” which again puts me in that ideal setting to get off the bike without question.
However, I ONLY get off the bike during the class intro, recovery segments and stretching. I’m always on the bike during the working efforts (unless someone needs help). Because of the number of hours I spend on the bike and the need to save some go-juice for the weekend, I do a fair amount of faking it. I use vocal inflection, body language and I sweat real easy. It’s basically the same tactic as when I’m trying to give my opponent on the road the idea that I’m working hard when I’m actually conserving to throw-down later.
The bottom-line is that if you are truly coaching them, that is your priority and you should not feel guilty for giving to your class in that way.
I feel that there’s a bond of trust between instructors and students that’s very important, especially because there is a whole world of instructors out there telling students to do impossible and dangerous things. Those are the ones we’re trying not to be. Tom, your faking works because you are honest with your class about it. Plus, no one can doubt your authority or your own athletic ability in class. Also, you fake pretty good! My acting is terrible, so I always tell my class when I have to hold back. I believe them to totally trust that I will not take them to places I am unwilling to go.
Marsha, you nailed it – our rider’s want to see us as genuine and real. I’m not a big fan of instructors who enter “instructor-mode” and become a completely different person. I think if instructors are honest in the way you described, people will be attracted to us as instructors and our classes. This “honestly” will also allow us more elbow-room to expand (and grace when we mess up).