By ICG® Master Trainer Vanessa Wilkins
Cycling instructors are a special breed, and all a little different. There are those who coach, those who teach choreography, those who talk heart rate and RPM, and those who teach meditation on the bike. I always strive to take a little piece from each style of instruction, to stay the open-minded student and, most importantly, to find my own voice among the throngs of others.
Cycling instructors by nature are fervent, even opinionated. Because of this, we may attract a special type of student — people with a bit of an edge, people who need to grunt it out and really feel something at the beginning or end of the day. Our most endearing quality can sometimes blind us: we are sometimes opinionated and studied to a fault.
Our discipline, indoor cycling, has been taught one way for so long it”™s difficult to embrace any other. But to say there”™s only way to move or study a discipline is simply narrow-minded. It limits our ideas and our teaching. When we stop learning, we stop truly teaching.
If mastery could be measured in watts or years on the bike, I”™m sure many of us would line up with raised hands to be counted. I submit that mastery is best demonstrated when we stay open to new ideas and enjoy new ways of putting science, innovation and, yes, FUN together when we teach.
My mentor recently pointed out to a group of us, “If you continue to teach form and function only, your classes will eventually become stale. Members and students will stop waking up at 6:00 am unless you provide them with a training concept. A participant will eventually need something more to wake up to than ‘GO GO GO.”™ You need to be willing to dig a little deeper and take people a little further.”
The best instructors I”™ve found have this uncanny ability to touch, inspire, and excite — and usually not just with a great song. It”™s that special blend of art and science that”™s truly engaging.
That brings me to this point. It”™s much easier to spot a bad instructor than a good one. When you attend a class and the instructor is terrible, you can feel the grumbling and unease in the room. You can easily point out the faults: the music is too loud or uninspiring, the voice too nasal, the cues unclear.
But when you attend a good class and the instructor suddenly announces, “Last Song,” you think, “Where did the time go?” Even though you may not have agreed with every cue or liked all of the songs, you find that you were riveted, captivated and engaged in the activity.
I”™m suggesting that, although we might not agree with some of the innovation that has been happening in the cycling community, we should at least acknowledge that it”™s a good thing to get people to move, period. All people, cyclists and non-cyclists alike. If it takes push-ups on the handlebars, bikes that move side-to-side, or forward motion video to reach people who would never otherwise set foot in a cycling studio, so be it.
I have come to terms with the fact that I may not get all of my participants to do a century ride with me. Hell, I may not get my participants outside at all. What I can, and should, do is my absolute best to get people excited about cycling. Out of their heads and into their bodies. Safely. If only indoors. If only for 60 minutes.
If the best way to do that is to borrow a great idea or technique from another instructor, I”™m open to it.
Originally posted 2012-09-17 07:10:41.
A smile came to my face when I saw your picture.
Good work Vanessa. Welcome aboard. I look forward to reading more of, and about, your work within our industry.
Thank you for expressing your thoughts from your own journey as an instructor. As a long time instructor, I definitely get set in my way of teaching and training. Your willingness to continue to pursue an open mind has encouraged me to do the same. It’s not easy to expand ones self but you’ve reminded me that the reward for myself and my students is great!!
Thank you so much for reading and responding guys. I really appreciate your input. I hope that we can continue to bounce ideas off of each other and become better instructors! That’s the idea… right?
Yes Vanessaw, that is the idea. Thank you for the great article. Just catching up tonight. I love the idea of staying open and constantly learning. It is not only a great idea, but completely necessary in order to stay fresh and current.
There still are ‘lines I will not cross’ as far as safety and utter nonsense, but other than that, I am open to new, fun and spontaneous ideas. Bring ’em on!
Looking forward to hearing more from you.