After more than 6 years operating a 46-bike cycling studio in the suburbs of Boston,  I have seen a ton of instructors come and go.  We”™re not a big health club, we are a dedicated indoor cycling studio, so the survival of our business depends on our instructors abilities to fill up classes.  Because we have no other source of income for the studio,  our definition of  a “good” instructor has to be quite pragmatic:  If you fill up classes (and don”™t do anything unsafe or stupid), you are by definition “good”.

This may sound mercenary, but in fact the instructors that are able to fill classes are the ones who are adept at a) engaging their students and b) providing expert guidance towards a fitness objective.  They use a wide range of tools including music, imagery, language and cuing and

all the best ones have a natural ability to vary their workouts. Variety is indeed the spice of life (and of indoor cycling classes)

At our studio, the great instructors are not all alike.  In fact many have vastly different styles, and while there is no sure formula for creating an experience that keeps indoor cyclists returning, I have noticed one thing all our best instructors do intuitively:  they believe in variety:  Variety within a class and variety from class to class.

Everyone knows the benefits of exercise, so what is the one reason we hear again and again why people won”™t commit to regular workouts?   “It”™s boring”.   What is the single biggest complaint we here about an instructor that is not drawing in our studio?   “They”™re boring”.   A great instructor”™s class is not boring, and one of the primary reasons is because they know intuitively to commit to variety.

Easier said than done of course, but here are some examples of variety from the top-drawing instructors at our studio:

  • Vary playlists.  Never, ever, use the same playlist twice in the same month.  Not only because your regulars will notice, but also because your own energy is not as sharp.   If you want to use the profile again, find substitute songs.
  • Vary counting and intervals.  If you are doing intervals, vary the length or at the least vary the way in which you count them up or down.  (i.e. instead of counting down from 20 every time, try counting “one, two, one, three, one, four, etc. etc.”  It”™s a small thing but it keeps students mentally engaged.
  • Vary genres of music.  You may love techno or classic rock or pop….but I guarantee someone in your class does NOT.  If you play only one genre, you are likely to annoy someone totally.  Mixing genres is a great way to assure you find something powerful for virtually everyone and they will tolerate the stuff they”™re not crazy about.
  • Vary positions:  most drills can be done, and most heart rates can be achieved…in or out of the saddle.  Technically there is really no reason to ever come out of the saddle --- other than the fact that the variety of moving in and out is appealing in an indoor cycling class.  Students love it…..but they will get bored with too much work, in our out of the saddle.

Variety is simply more interesting, and more fun.  It is an antidote to the worst enemies of working out:  drudgery and boredom.   What are some other examples of variety you use?  I”™m hungry for ideas!

Bill Pryor

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