I'd like to welcome Jennifer Lintz – the latest addition to the ICI/PRO Team. Jennifer is a registered dietitian and indoor cycling instructor from Rochester, MN. She will be contributing a series called “Speak their Language,” focusing on specific populations of cycling students. I interviewed her a year ago when she had recently completed her Spinning® certification – John.
By Jennifer Lintz, RD, LD
I will be the first to admit – after my husband, probably – that I am a terrible dancer and leave a lot to be desired in the rhythm department. So, naturally, I attended a hip hop dance class a few weeks ago.
Okay, in reality, if it weren't for running into the instructor just prior to class, I probably wouldn't have set foot in that studio to save myself the embarrassment. But, before I knew it, there I was … a new student in a foreign environment, about to do something that intimidated me.
In retrospect – and with all kidding aside – the experience was hugely valuable for me because it refreshed my memory about what it feels like to be “the new guy.” It also reinforced all of the things we instructors can be doing to help first-timers feel welcome, comfortable, and eager to come back.
I hope you’ll find my observations about the instructor’s strategies useful, and perhaps you will have a few of your own suggestions to share. Below are the techniques the teacher used that were helpful to me.
She identified me as a new student. She knew I had never been to this particular class before and was enthusiastic about me trying it. That alone began to ease my nerves and opened the door for more conversation between the two of us, building the foundation for a relationship.
She gave me a pep talk. New cycling students may feel just as jittery and intimidated as I did. The instructor let me know that I would not be the only new student in class and also mentioned there would be some veterans; that brief interaction removed another layer of my nerves. In cycling, this type of conversation could take place while assisting new students with bike set-up.
She provided an introduction. As a new student, it was nice to hear the instructor say “My name is _______________, and today we are going to do X, Y, and Z.” In cycle, this could be achieved by starting a class with: “Good Morning Everybody! My name is _______________ and I’m glad you are here. We’ve got a lot of endurance work to do in the first half of class today, followed by several hill drills in the second half.” Brief is usually best here; specifics can be saved for just prior to each drill or activity.
She didn’t single me out. Instead of saying “Jennifer, make sure you get that grapevine right this time,” she said something along the lines of: “I know we have a few new folks in class today, so if you are feeling a little lost, don’t worry. Just make it your goal to keep moving and have fun. You’ll get more comfortable with the moves each time you come to class.” Similarly, if we see new students – or any student – who needs some helpful coaching, we can address the entire group rather than looking directly at the person who needs the assistance.
She offered modifications. Several times throughout class, I was informed that I could simply things a bit. When we know there are new students in our midst, we can let them know they have options by saying something like: “If your body is asking for a break on this hill, scale back your resistance and ramp things back up when you feel ready. Just keep moving.”
She gave great cues. Given I had no idea what I was doing, clear descriptors were hugely helpful to me. In cycle, some of our first-timers may be clueless about what a flat road should feel like, not realize that tension is needed in order to do speed work, or be unaware that it can be dangerous to pedal with too little or too much resistance. Even if we feel like a broken record, providing clear instructions and safety cues during a workout is very important. The individuals who are more versed in the specifics of cycling can (and may) tune us out, but that is okay.
She checked in with me afterward. When it was all said and done and participants were trickling out the door, the instructor approached me and said “How did it go?” This gave me the impression that she valued me attending and cared that I had a good experience. It’s not always possible to touch base with each new student after class, but when we have the time, it can give them a chance to ask questions about anything that didn’t make sense and provides us an opportunity to offer up a “Congratulations on making it through” and a “Hope I’ll see you again soon.”
While I’m sure I’ll never be on the next “So You Think You Can Dance,” my experience in that hip hop class gave me the confidence to know I can survive a dance workout and can keep it in my repertoire of exercise options for the future. Hopefully we can give new students a similar feeling when they attend indoor cycling for the first time.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, too.
Originally posted 2012-12-08 06:40:20.