As I hit the streets after teaching at one of my downtown clubs, I bumped into a friend of mine who appear to have been run over by a car.  She had a large gym bag clawing at her shoulder with cycling shoes peeking out of the end pocket.  The bag apparently weighs over 50 pounds, because she appears to be struggling just to lug it to the corner.

“Hey, how are you?” I said in apparently too chipper a tone.  She turns only her head and glares at me with one eye bigger than the other.  Assuming that were her response, I prodded some more in order to jump start an under-powered conversation. “Did you just get out of a cycling class?  How was it?”  She released the gym bag as if tossing a heavy sack of potatoes off her shoulder. “You can say that.  The instructor was a maniac”.

Being a coach for 10 years, one realizes that everyone has their own perception of what is hard, what is easy or when they are tired.  Often times it is different that my interpretation, so it is usually best to get things defined.  Plus, I was particularly interested in her definition of a “maniac” instructor.  “Wow, sounds pretty extreme, what happened?”

Her stare became intense and her tone aggravated: “Our regular instructor was away this week, so we had a sub.  I think he was either new, insecure or just terrible.  Our usual instructor”™s class is quite popular.  People really respect her workouts because she has a reputation of giving a hard class, that provides just the right amount of work and recovery.  So maybe this guy felt he had some big shoes to fill and decided to show us how hard he can make us work.  We barely had a warm-up and we were led into a hard climb followed by 10-minutes of jumps.  Then some long sprints where he only provided 15-seconds of recovery followed by another climb and more jumps.  He ran us ragged with no rhythm or reason until 2 minutes before the end of class and then told us to cool down and stretch on our own.”  With the exception of those 15-second recovery periods, I don”™t think he gave us any other break.  I don”™t know why I tried to keep up.  I think I was just aggravated and just kept hammering away.  Oh well, I”™m late for work so I”™ve gotta run.  I just hope he never subs our class again.”

She heaved her bag back on her shoulder like it was a limp body and headed in the opposite direction.  This is not the first time I”™ve heard this unfortunate tale, but my mind started connecting a few of the stories.  Many of them involved a sub which people deemed “horrible”.  Now I don”™t think all subs are horrible, I”™m sure we”™ve subbed many classes ourselves (I hope).  I know I have.  However, I do think there can be a greater tendency to put on our “A” game when walking into a cycling studio with new or unfamiliar stares.  Let”™s face it, it can be intimidating to enter a room when you”™re NOT the person everyone is expecting.  I”™ve even had a person walk out of a class I was subbing seconds after I walked through the door.  I hadn”™t even make it to the stereo yet or said a word.  So I understand the pressure of feeling you have to overcompensate for not being THE instructor.  It doesn”™t even matter whether the instructor you are covering for is good or not.  It is their class.  Their riders.  Their style.

So what”™s my advice? you can”™t be THEM, so be yourself.  When you sub for another instructor, teach, instruct and coach with that same style that has won your riders over year after year.  Sure, bring your “A” game, why not?  But teach a sound workout.  Take that extra energy (albeit, nervous energy) and excitement and direct it toward getting to know some of the riders in class.  Connect.  Be real.  Don”™t be a Maniac!

PS. No one who has every subbed one of my classes has been accused of this.  Just incase “you” were wondering.

Originally posted 2011-03-03 13:56:51.

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