In a single indoor cycling class we can have a combination of beginners, cycling enthusiasts, competitive athletes, fit and unfit. We have those who are just interested in some cardio fitness, some with a focus on weight loss and others desiring cycling-specific training. There are the young, the old and everyone in-between. So with all of these different interests, expectations and age groups, how do we determine who we are talking to when we lead our classes?
As an outdoor cyclist and coach who discovered indoor cycling 16 years ago, I found the classes available at the time to resemble aerobics sessions. I was the odd-ball and a rarity in the classes I attended. I tried to imitate riding outside to supplement my winter training while others whirled their legs, jumped and bounced up and down. The instructor appeared confident, gave a few simple commands and everyone seemed to know exactly what to do (except me). As indoor cycling has evolved and now more closely resembles “cycling”, it is attracting a wider audience. Our classes are not only attracting the cardio-psychos and weight droppers, but since we are teaching rides that produce real cycling fitness and results, the charity riders, cycling enthusiasts and even competitive athletes are also joining in on the fun. Although this evolution is a positive thing, it can present a great challenge to indoor cycling instructors. With such a wide spectrum of fitness levels, interests and expectations, who are we or should we be talking to?
A few weeks ago I attended a class of highly diverse riders, led by a great instructor. The instructor had taken great effort in designing a dynamic workout and had a full room to show for their excellence. Even though, I could see the instructor struggle with this identity crisis. At one point, in a single breath, they described the desired intensity as “Let’s increase to 80 to 85% of your maximum effort, just at your lactate threshold or ventilatory threshold heart rate, approximately a rate of perceived effort of 8 to 9 out of 10. Your breathing should be challenged.” It was like spraying machine-gun fire — everyone was hit. Every cue they gave had 4 versions to it. I asked a few riders after class if they felt they were able to target their effort appropriately during class and they said “we just go as hard as we can — It’s a tough class”.
This challenge is one of the driving forces for Cycling Fusion’s level-based classes (beginner, intermediate and advanced). Although this doesn’t solve all of the issues, it does place riders into classes that will address their needs and expectations. However, like the evolution of bike-aerobics to indoor cycling, adapting the concept of level-based classes will take time. So is there anything we can do in the mean time? Well, that is a question I’d like to propose to our experienced ICI/Pro members. What have you found successful? I’ll start by throwing my approach into the hat.
What is your predominant teaching style? What types of classes or rides do you gravitate towards? Don’t assume you know, but instead ask some of your riders and other instructors that know you and persuade them to be honest. Most people peg me as a coach. My classes mostly resemble coached training sessions. Although I attract all levels, cyclists and non-cyclists, the clubs have caught on to my style and dubbed my classes as performance oriented. This designation has helped guide my language, choice of words when cueing and training concepts dramatically. Better yet, it has given me confidence to teach without sounding like an auctioneer. The clubs have labeled my classes as such so members know what to expect. It hasn’t hurt my attendance one bit.
I now open the floor to you. Let’s help each other and share wisdom from our many years of teaching and overcoming this type of challenge.
Originally posted 2018-03-05 09:00:00.