I asked a few indoor cycling instructors how often they take time off from teaching and all I got was ....................... Yup, dead stares and dead silence. What are you taking about? You know, like taking a week off from teaching — a little R&R? Once they understood the question (which I thought was clear the first time), the common response was — never.
I’m going to switch into Coach Tom mode. I want you to consider yourself an athlete, because frankly, that is what you are. The instructors I asked taught a minimum of 4 indoor cycling classes per week PLUS some taught other group fitness modalities, also worked as personal trainers and even competed. One of my future articles is going to specifically address balancing competition and teaching, but for now let’s just talk about taking care of YOU.
I’m going to shoot straight — many of you reading this (at least this far) will not agree or believe me until you actually take a legitimate break. No explanations will suffice and no scientific studies will convince. Why am I so confident of this? I experienced it. I was teaching 12 classes per week, commuting to the clubs and coaching riders on the road. Most of my weeks totaled 19-29 hours in the saddle. My justification: “This is what I do. I’m a indoor cycling instructor and coach.” People told me I looked tired and gaunt. Well, I’m supposed to look gaunt, I’m a cyclist. Due to a combination of business travel and a family vacation, I was forced to take 2 weeks off from teaching. I know what you are thinking, and yes, finding subs for 24 classes was overwhelming but doable. When I returned, I was refreshed, enthusiastic and healthy. It was noticeable by more than just me.
We will fight the concept of taking the needed time to care for our bodies and recover physically, mentally and emotionally, but we need it. So how much and how often should we take a break? That is a good question and one I don’t have an answer to because it depends on how much you teach and your lifestyle. As a coach, I like my athletes to take a week of rest and recovery for each 4 to 5 weeks of focused training. This may be a bit much if you teach fulltime as a means of making a living. I like to get a break after every 8 weeks of teaching. That works for me. Now there are other options as well. You don’t have to take a week or two off consecutively, instead take 3-4 days off or setup a long weekend. Remember, it is not just about you. You are providing the energy and inspiration for those in your class. If you don’t walk in with it, you can give it.
So how do you know you may be in need of a break? If you still have not been able to answer my opening question, the answer is simple — IT IS TIME! Some other signs are lack of energy (particularly before class), fatigue, low motivation, bored with your workouts or profiles, classes appearing longer than normal and overuse injuries. Listen to your body and listen to others. I’m very fortunate to have riders in my classes who respect me and who are not afraid to provide feedback. One rider in a class that I’ve taught for 7 years approached me afterwards and said, “you didn’t have IT tonight”. He said the class was still good, but it wasn’t at the level he had come to expect and enjoy. It was tough to hear, but he was right. It was time. I owed it to myself and I owed it to my class.
So take care of yourself. Listen to your body. You are an athlete, a motivator and an inspiration. Lead by example and lead strong.
Originally posted 2011-07-29 05:00:00.
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You are totelly right, I have GREAT difficulties to train and now I just teach 5 classes a week (5 different days). But so many factor interfere in my recovery process: the crazy heat and humidity, so each time I ride outside it is really stressfull althrough my outdoor ride are mostly LSD training; kids as It is my job raising my kids … ; foods finding some enjoyable food …
I will do 3 cyclocross race and 1 gran fondo this fall being help and sponsor by my local bike shop, I have to be ready for that.
I am going, I think take a full week of every 6 weeks but that is not gonna be easy as you said we need to find sub … I the gym I teach most of the classe when I am not there my classes are empty I have try a LOT of differents instructors and no one is working well and when some go the only thing they do is complain on how “bad” theyr are.
I am starting to think about educating some to sub me when I need but changing habbit of long time instructors is hard …
Tom here is my schedule:
-Monday morning I teach an endurance ride a lot of steady mostly focusing of form, control and aweareness.
-Tuesday evening is a challenging ride travelling around LT
-Wednesday morning is a HIT ride hight interval so the working time is maximum 12minutes but it is high end.
-Thursday rest day.
-Friday morning hill work short to long.
-Saturday if I am not teaching 150miles on my fixie never going over 80% of my LT (average is around 75% of LT); If I teach Sunday just 70miles but I sometime go over LT a few minutes.
-Sunday morning a long classe with 30minutes a little under LT and often 15minutes at LT or above
On that I do 9 classes a week of Hot Yoga, for stretch, core and detoxication.
Any advice …
I have no advice but only to say what a full schedule. When you teach your cycling classes do you ride at the prescribed intensity that you are instructing your students or do you back it off so that you get some kind of break?
Right on Bro… and I’ve got the heart rate variability graphs to prove it. I go as hard as I expect my class to go even when I do three a day.
Between Flight instruction (a mentally if not physically challenging endeavor) Indoor cycle instruction running two teenagers around and Zoning, if I don’t take some R&R (like a visit to Sacramento to go riding with Sally Edwards lol) the HRV graph trends in the wrong direction.
I know I’ve overdone it when my body aches and I sleep more
but wake up unrefreshed, when the thought of leading another class is overwhelming. That’s when I take a couple of days or three to rest. With only four permanent classes per week
I’m fine. However when I sub three or four more during that same week I run into some ‘trouble’.
Some instructors do not ride at the same intensity as their
road profile dictates. I know this is true for me. However,
depending on how I feel on that day/hour, riding at a very high intensity might feel just fine.
I often schedule riding in other instructors’ classes (yes, I DO have MY favorites!!!!… just like the members do…!!) – up to four times per month. This is FUN for me…and I work REALLY hard during those times.
Do whatever it is that nurtures your soul… 😀
Thanks for this one, Tom.
Just like successful marketing events, sometimes you pull back for a period of silence before blasting on the the scene with New and Improved. I just took a month off and it was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. While traveling to visit friends and family I visited other studios, took a few classes outside my bubble and was exposed to both new music and teaching cues. Time spent at home was for organization of both play lists and closets! Today marks my first official day back on the bike and I’m hungry again…can’t wait to teach. Added Bonus? Your students will appreciate you much more…it’s a win win.