By Joan Kent
Indoor cycling classes have become inextricably linked with dim lighting, and I’ve never understood why. Personally, I’m not crazy about training in the dark and will tell you why in a moment.
Studio lighting is one of the factors involved in creating the best class environment, along with music, video, voice, tone, cueing and more. Here are two scenarios from my teaching experience, in which the lighting differences span the spectrum.
In Studio A, the lights are always on and always bright. There’s no on/off switch in the studio because the lights go on when the club is opened. The master switch controls all.
In Studio B, the lights can be brought all the way up to a bright level, but the previous instructor, who had a huge following (okay, it was Jim Karanas), liked to keep the lights dim by flipping only the middle switch on the 3-switch panel. Needless to say, whenever I subbed for him, I made sure the lighting matched what everyone was accustomed to in his class.
The dimmer lighting was okay, but periodically one bank of lights, often on the far side of the room, would burn out, leaving everything on that side of the room just plain dark. It wouldn’t affect the participants close to the door because light outside the studio shines in on the near side of the studio.
We’d notify the front desk staff about the burned-out bulbs, and a short time later, we’d have lights — until they burned out once more.
By my last observation, though, that infamous bank of lights was out again and had/has been for a long time. It made me think about this topic. Apparently, no instructors have reported it to the desk. Apparently, no one has complained.
That last fact amazes me. Because of Jim’s teachings, everyone in the class uses a heart rate monitor (see How to Get Your Students to Wear Heart Rate Monitors). I always train with a HR monitor, mainly because of what I learned from both Johnny G and Jim.
So here’s the thing. In this studio, the bikes don’t have computers that light up and display HR. It’s virtually impossible to see a HR monitor on the far side of the partially lit studio. I’ve seen riders hold up their HR monitors, twist them around to catch available light, and keep track of their heart rates that way. What’s wrong with this picture?
Now I happen to find it difficult to train extremely hard in the dark. For a club anniversary one year, the theme involved decorating the studio like a spooky forest and turning out almost all the lights. Several people did complain that they felt nauseated. Guess I tend to feel that whenever I’m training really hard in the dark.
I had hoped the current instructors might take notice (read ‘take the hint’) when I started bringing a small flashlight to class with me to light my HR monitor on days that I ride on the far side. No such luck.
I have a feeling I’m in the vast minority on this — indoor cycling is almost always taught in dark rooms. Of course, in studios with bike computers that light up, much of this is solved. Still, if I had to choose between the glaring lights of Studio A and the darkness of Studio B, I’d go for the glare. I can monitor my HR easily and definitely feel better physically.
How do the rest of you feel about lighting? Which is most important to you — the atmosphere that goes with dimmer lighting, tracking heart rates, other factors? Please let us know, and thanks.
Originally posted 2014-02-13 10:09:37.