When I get the same question, from two ICI/PRO members, a week apart, it means I should probably write a post about the subject.
First the questions:
Hi John –
I hope you are doing well and have the prospect of defrosting in the near future! A question came up at one of the places where I teach about minimum age for spinning. Back when I was certified, I understood that 16 was the earliest age based on growth plates, etc. Has there been any change in thinking? Can you point me to the most current research? The owner has been hounded by a member who wants his 12 year old to spin with him. I encouraged the owner to send an email to all the members spelling out the club's policy regarding kids and spinning (a tactic employed by the lovely studio owner from California who you interviewed on a recent podcast!). Having the research will give him the ammunition he needs.
Thanks, John. I appreciate any leads you can give me!
The YMCA I teach at wants to let children join the spin class. Is there an age limit or height recommendations that you can suggest? I have been on line before when some children came to spin with their parent. I found one source that said 4'10 but I need something to show my supervisor.
Thank you so much.
Here's how I initially responded
Hi Alice – I actually talked to Dennis Keiser about your question this morning during the early AM workouts here at IHRSA in San Diego. He doesn't have any specific research he could point to, but the engineer in him made these points – which I'm paraphrasing as I didn't record our conversation.
- Most children are not just small adults. Although manufactures build Indoor Cycles to accommodate a wide range of adult heights, you can't compare a 5′ 12 year old with a 5′ 30 year old.
- The crank arm length (typically 170mm) maybe too long for many young children. This forces the rider's knees to move through too large a range of motion.
- The flywheels on IC bikes (and especially friction resistance cycles) have too much mass for children's underdeveloped leg muscles to control at low or no load pedaling.That said, there are always exceptions to every rule – so making a blanket: no one under 16 rule is bound to have someone complaining when their 6′ 180lb 15 year old son is told they can't ride.Not sure if this helps but it's what I have.John
I'm thinking I may want to amend this a bit – truth is I was really squeezed for time when I responded to Alice.
Effective communication is a tricky thing and I totally failed to follow my own advice here. I know better than to give into the temptation to quickly educate – it's almost always the wrong initial response.
Instead I should have responded with questions, to better understand the issue.
I could (and should) have asked in response…
- What's your goal or intent here?
- Are you trying to protect kids from injury?
- Do you dislike having kids in your class?
- Are you trying to identify the nominal age where kids are mature enough to participate in a class?
- Is this to create an easily understood standard for participation? You must be this tall to ride.
- Are you trying to encourage more kids to get involved in our sport?
My view is that any response to these questions is legitimate. For example; one of the clubs where I teach is an Adults Only Life Time Fitness. The minimum age is 16 – period.
Your club may allow younger kids on the fitness floor, but wish to set a height/age limit for group classes. The reasons why can vary. You may be concerned about safety or a lack of maturity – it makes perfect sense not wanting a pack of 13 year old boys disrupting your class.
On the flip side, don't we want kids active and enjoying fitness? If a member wants to bring their 12 year old son or daughter to a class, shouldn't we try to find a way to accommodate them? Despite two fitness Instructor parents, neither of my daughters are very active. Abby and Carly work & play hard at their jobs and school, but they have almost zero interest in a structured fitness activity. I'd love to find a way to get them involved at our club.
If I had asked a few of those questions, I might have responded differently. My guess is that these Instructors don't want to have to be the “Bad Guy” = be the one who has to say “no, I'm sorry but little Billy can't ride with you.” There's an easy solution for this.
Appeal to a higher authority
We're in a service industry and it's hard to have to tell a customer; “no sir, your 10 year old daughter can't take this class with you.” As an Instructor it puts you in a very uncomfortable place, and often has you debating with the parent to no good end. There's a simple solution that theme parks figured out years ago. Create a very clear GO/NO-GO line and display it prominently. The MUST BE THIS TALL TO RIDE sign becomes the authority you can point to. I know it can make you seem like an un-thinking robot, but having something solid to point at can really reduce conflicts.
So how high do I set the bar?
The Spinning.com website has some good information you could follow.
Each Official Spinning Facility has its own policy on age requirements. Also, consider the following information in your decision –
Size: Proper bike fit is very important for injury prevention. Participants need to be big enough to get their proper seat height and fore/aft adjustments. Spinner® bikes usually fit people who are at least 4′ 11″. However, this is not an exact minimum height. Leg and torso length determine if the fit is appropriate.
Age/Maturity: Children need to be mature and responsible enough to follow the safety rules. It can sometimes be tempting for kids to pedal as fast as they can, and that can be unsafe. Because the Spinner® bike is a fixed gear bike, the weight of the flywheel can turn the pedals at a very high speed with a lot of momentum if there's not enough resistance.
They also offer a PDF you can download.
I really like the sign pictured at the top of the post, with it's three zones 🙂 Would it make sense to create something similar you could post at your club? Maybe with these three zones?
Can I ride?
- Red: Sorry, you need to be 4'11” or an adult to ride.
- Yellow: Under 13 (you decide) needs to ride with a parent in the front row – so you can keep an eye on them.
- Green: Let's Ride!
John is a member on the AFS (Association of Fitness Studios) Advisory Council.
Holding certifications from; Schwinn, Heart Zones, Team ICG and Life Time Fitness, John's held regularly scheduled cycling classes between 1998 and 2015 when he moved to Florida.
When the weather permits, you'll find him riding and leading outdoor groups by himself or with his Tandem partner (wife) Amy.
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