I'm really curious how you would respond; would you teach for SoulCycle?
But before you answer, imagine you had the following conversation at the end of your last class...
A women approaches while you're collecting your stuff.
"Hi [wlm_firstname]." "My name is Elizabeth Cutler and I really enjoyed your class tonight."
You respond; "you're welcome Elizabeth." "I enjoyed seeing your smile there in the back."
Then she looks you square in the eye and asks a question that could change your life...
"I'm one of the founders of SoulCycle Indoor Cycling and we are opening a new studio near by, later this Spring."
"Would you consider being one of our Instructors?"
Flabbergasted by her offer, you open your mouth to respond. But before any sounds come out she continues...
"I realize that you have a devoted following here [wlm_firstname] and I'll understand if you say no.
"Before you decide, I'd like to explain that our Instructors earn on average $50,000 per year, many considerably more, teaching 8 classes a week. We really want to keep you once we have you, so we offer a full benefit package that includes excellent health insurance.
"So what do you say [wlm_firstname]?"
"Are you ready to teach at SoulCycle?"
Want to teach at SoulCycle? Find Job Listings for SoulCycle, Flywheel, CycleBar and all other cycling studios.
What prompted this post is a fascinating article; The Carefully Cultivated Soul of SoulCycle in New York Magazine.
Do you have any participants like this person, who sounds like she's traded one unhealthy addiction for another?
“I would do anything that I could to afford these rides,” says 27-year-old Jaime, who often takes thirteen classes a week (estimated cost: $21,632 per year). She”™s arranged her schedule to have Mondays off work so that she can always be at her computer the moment classes are released. She counts her instructors among her closest friends. Her social life revolves around people she”™s met at SoulCycle. On the anniversary of her father”™s death, her instructor had the class ride to “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot, one of Jaime”™s father”™s favorite operas. “I”™m seven years sober. You don”™t really get love and acceptance and encouragement and self-gratification from a cocktail,” Jaime says. “I mean, I … this is what I need in my life, and it just so happened it”™s an exercise class.”
Interesting how the founders of SoulCycle split along the lines of Indoor Cycling 2.0 - entertainment based vs. results driven classes.
But as much as the performative aspects keep riders coming back, they have also driven more serious athletes away, often into the open arms of Flywheel, where a metrics-based workout is coupled with more self-restraint. Though Ruth Zukerman declines to discuss her exit from SoulCycle, some chalk it up to a difference in instructor style. “It”™s a slippery slope, because sometimes when you build these superstars, it kind of goes to their head and they become divas,” she says. “Yes, be entertaining, be inspiring, but at the end of the day, it”™s about the rider. It”™s not about you.”
Now I realize that there are many who would recoil in horror at the thought of being affiliated with SoulCycle...
They're clearly offering people a form of exercise they enjoy and are willing to pay big money to attend. Spend a few minutes looking at the Instructor bios and you'll see most have the same (if not better) credentials than many of the Instructors that I know personally.
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Originally posted 2013-01-20 08:18:03.
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Let me be first of what I suspect will be many comments.
I will begin near the end of your post with the quote from the New York magazine article. “…but at the end of the day, it’s about the rider. It’s not about you.”
I have posted similar thoughts in my own pieces here on ICI/PRO and could not be more sincere about it.
Second, I happen to believe we instructors are performing for our riders. We are doing cardiovascular training on an indoor cycle. One can embrace the tenants of Indoor Cycling 2.0 and still perform
Third, we are not guessing, we know the vast majority of our riders are not athletes in training with clear goal or event in their near future. Driving away athletes is not hurting the bottom line because there were not that many in class to start with.
Don’t believe me, run an extended 90 or 120 minute aerobic base building class and see how many show up or are there at the end.
Finally, if this all sounds like commoditization, welcome to the real world. For the record, part of the problem in this industry is that the people making a living at it are NOT the people teaching classes. As for Divas, look around you, they’re everywhere anyway.
Clear example of this just last week. Very popular instructor searching for a sub cause she has the flu. All very last minute – or so the sub thought. A look at the numbers (half the usual number) reveals that even as she begged someone to sub for her she was at the same time emailing or texting her regulars that she would not be there. The Diva argument is bunk.
My answer is YES.
My answer…..unless you could provide a compensation package to compete with the income I generated as a dentist PLUS a top-o’-the-range sports car, it’d be a resounding NO. Make that NO X 10.
I’m basing this purely on what info’s been presented here. I would need tremendous incentive to handle a class member like “Jaime” who, not only needed a crutch to lean on owing to her psychological issues (I would need far more education in dealing APPROPRIATELY with folk like this than I have right now……that’s where a good part of the compensation package would go, BTW!) but gloms onto instructors as close frineds. FWIW, I’ve gathered quite a few cronies from the fitness world but none of them are creepy.
Also, let’s face it….I’m no longer in the realm of The Beautiful People and that seems to be where outfits like Soul Cycle recruit from.
I’d have to sleep at night without embarrassing myself. Call me a DIVA!
I have been pondering the meaning of ‘integrity’ a lot lately. Actually resigned from a job this week because I have to believe in a product 100% to sell it. And if I could teach at SC with integrity, then the answer would be yes. Because, after all, we are selling ourselves.
What would teaching with a lack of integrity look like to me? Form issues primarily. The push ups on a bike type nonsense, along with weights, etc.
Being asked to wear red lipstick, or SC sexy clothing I could probably deal with. As Barbara has written in past posts, and it’s the truth…sex sells. I would not be one to caress the bike however.
We are all actors on stage when we teach, for our members enjoyment. The role we choose to take varies. I tend to share elements of my life with my class- they know John and my kids and when I drop my phone in the toilet! So, the open forum aspect of SC would be medium comfortable to me, although I truly don’t think I am ‘touchy-feely’ enough for this group.
Interesting question to ponder…one I highly doubt I will ever have to address in real life.
A teeny tiny part of me feels like I would be selling out, but hey, 50K a year and insurance…for 8 hours a week…I can be bought.
If I have to wear red lipstick, and those silly SC tights, sports bras, and tank tops, forget it. Besides, I hate the thought of doing pushups on a bike, and those arm weights are useless.
Although my gig as a cycling instructor is a huge part of my life, I also have a day job as a lawyer. I won’t be giving that up for 50K per year, plus bennies, even if they loosen the lipstick requirement.
While 50k a year for 8 classes a week would be awesome, I have a feeling that the type of riders who embrace this format might drive me insane. I’ll take my members any day over some of the people described in the article….ugh. Interestingly, I just had a visiting rider in my class yesterday who said she just got back from NYC and had taken a few Soul Cycle classes while she was there. We were riding a strength ride and I worried that she might be super bored as she seemed excited about all the antics at SC. After class, she raved about the ride and is signed up for another class with me this week. So….the simple, effective and SAFE stuff can still compete with this circus!
Truth be told, a business model that provides for a gua-RON-teed income of $50K plus benefits for 8 classes doesn’t sound too sustainable to me, given the cost of doing business in NYC. Of course, a business owner can make any claim they wish when trying to recruit.
Reading the article quoted, don’t you think it reads a bit more like advertising copy than a decent journlistic review?? This happens a lot in newspapers these days…..whether it’s from businesses like this or research institutions looking to get their recent publications looked at…..basically little more than an uncritical regugitation of a press release.
I smell fish.
Chuck……I had to “chuckle” reading your post re: the “diva” thing has happened to me.
We have one instructor at the gym who’s very popular…..teaches a nice “fun” class (nothing contrindicate as far as I can tell, but still arobics on the bike according to my regulars who don’t care for her classes or music)
Anyways, whenever I’ve subbed for her…..even at short notice….I’ve had far fewer attendees than she pulled and just assumed it to be coincidence or that she’d mentioned ahead of time that she’d be away. She subbed for me at less than a day’s notice last weekend (a close friend died quite suddenely and we had to scrmable to get to a next-day funeral) and when I looked in the class attendance log we fill out, there’d been at least half a dozen more folk than usual. Back to same as usual for me yesterday and I just happened to wonder how I manage to miss the well attended class every time and someone piped up with the info that this particular instructor e-mails everyone to let them know her schedule and came last week with a posse of her regulars……and didn’t I know that’s what she did??
Colour me naive.
Vivienne forgive me for restating the obvious here – and your take-away from this was to start collecting emails from your regulars?
You and I both can celebrate our naivetÃ©.
That said, it’s hard for me to believe anyone from our generation would be so rude still, this practice is not uncommon and goes toward most instructors self preservation. This also supports the notion that such an instructor would have no problem doing bicep curls on an indoor cycle for $50K + bennies given they could perform.
It is interesting – but not surprising – to note that some of you don’t need to teach cycling to put food on the table. I’m not sure what I think about your willingness to share that with us except to say you can afford to say no.
Unfortunately this is one good reason why industry growth remains lethargic. No one really cares or needs it enough to effect change. They teach their one or two classes a week. For them it is not about being upwardly mobile or the money. It does raise the question why do they do it. Could it be that they actually like getting ‘on stage’?
It is no coincidence most cycle instructors are part time or that ‘actual cycling programs’ exists only in the minds of the group X managers. Instructors are doing their own thing and are compensated accordingly.
Teaching group exercise as a full time career is work for younger more resilient bodies in the industry as it is today. Soul cycle is changing that like no other that I know of. It has been around long enough to test the business model. I won’t say that – like Spinning® – the company will endure the test of time on such a grand a scale as Spinning® but, it is well on its way.
However it surely has endured the wrath of communities like this one. SC instructors are laughing all the way to the bank at those preaching to ‘Keep it Real’. I will remind all of you that who are we to think we know what our riders need. We chose what we teach. THEY chose whether or not to come back.
Since I changed careers and entered the fitness business I’ve had the opportunity work around or with some very bright people starting their own indoor cycling businesses. Everything from Apps to bikes to Forward Motion Video. They’re all still swinging trying to hit their ‘home run’. Some are on first. A couple have managed a ‘ground rule double’ while another has hit a triple.
Like them, the women that started SC have also grabbed a bat, entered the game and have certainly demonstrated they can hit. I guess when it comes to Indoor Cycling 2.0 it is still early in the game.
John….I already have the e-mails of my regulars who want to share them. I use them to forward interesting articles and training tips (I print the same things up for handouts in class) I’d never use them for something outright solicitation, though……is smacks a bit of empire building or the like.
Of course, that makes me the stoopid one because I’ve just gotten an e-mail from the fitness director asking if I’d care to alternate my Sunday classes with this instructor as she’s expressed an interest in the time slot. The answer is no, of course…..I sooner dump the whole gig than start down this path……but it makes you think.
…..and now I think about it, we were actually discouraged from doing this at my old gig down on LI. For sure, we gave members advanced notice if we were going on va-cay or attending training sessions or whatnot. The sort of stuff that looked like you were trying to curry favour with members at someone else’s expense (even if inadvertant) was “frowned upon”.
For instance, the gym chain had the trad. 45 minute time slot which I stuck to. On one particular occasion, I stepped up to the plate to sub a class at a branch about 25 miles away and, what with traffic etc. ended up as a trip that was close to an hour each way. I announced at the start of class that I’d be doing a slightly longer class than usual if there were no objections (definitely not)…..but there’d be an obvious point where anyone who needed to leave. No one did, so I guess there were no members complaints but I got an e-mail a couple of days later reminding me of the o-FISH-awl time and that this was there for instructor morale yada yada.
They are a brand. They represent a style of teaching that you must conform with if you want to represent the brand. Nothing more. All judgement aside, it is a personal decision. If you covet the opportunity, it is a good decision. If you don’t like the style, regardless of needs, it is a bad decision. Teaching indoor cycling is more than a means to pay the bills for most of us. We enjoy the teaching process and what we gain from our students. If you can be happy teaching that style and it earns you a good living, the answer should be yes. If it does not resonate with you, then the answer is no. I respect their brand, their business model and what they have accomplished. However, for me, it would be a no.
Coming from the medical field, I had treat so MUCH people with sportive injuries now that I am more in coaching and personnal training … I am doing the same fixing what others “trainer” have done.
Will I jump into Soul Cycling ? NO, I do not want to give my self more work fixing … the problem I could create.
As Jim says the way the marketing theyr brand is a full success, other program have a lot to teach from them …
Whist I have zero respect for their *brand* (by which I mean the bat-Shit crazy stunts they pull), I standing in awe of their branding and slick marketing. This is a company that’s grown so rapidly by virtue of self promotion and managing to snag a few high profile celebrities and media types to toot their horn.
Another….equally bat-$hit crazy phenom…..is Tracy Anderson. From her perspective of minimal qualifications, she’s been known to oping that women shouldn’t lift weight heavier than 3lbs. Her product, various iterations of The Tracy Anderson Method, is selling like gang-busters, apparently, thanks primarily to her reltionship first of all with Madonna and now Gwyneth Paltrow (another loony toon and self style nutritional maven) Add Gillian Michaels and Trainer Bob to that list also and you’ve got a line up of the sort of ultra successful self-promoters that make you wonder where it comes from.
One thing to remember here…..it’s very easy to talk about giving the customer what they want and snipe at folk who’d definitely NOT join SoulCycle….. it just so happens that the income generating fields that help support us part-timers (healthcare and the law) happen to be strictly regulated (some would say straightjacketed) for the very reason that the fitness world appears to be going the same route. If the industry doesn’t police itself and maintain standards of quality, someone’ll come along and do it for us.
You read it here!
P.S…….looking at a few of the promotional vids on youtube (with Kelly Ripa) I don’t see where the fantstic experience comes in. The rooms are crowded and look everso dreary as compared with the studio at my gym (no wonder they use candlelight) The music was so-so and constant jabbering from the instructor. I’d sooner watch a coat of paint dry!!
Thanks for the stabilizing influence. You said that SC is just a Brand. At first I felt like that did not do enough to explain it. But as I see it, the essence of the message was; what we do on the lead bike is about and for our riders. WHERE and HOW we chose to do it is about us.
There is still a lively discussion going on regarding this issue. Good to read Pascal’s perspective, “…more work fixing what I created…” or “…other programs have a lot to [learn] from them.”
At this stage in the discussion I feel like the take away message is: SC has created a marketable experience which is great testimony to the doing the hard work around programming. And this is not just the performance expectations of the instructor but how they have created an environment, integrated a system that grows, nurtures, educates new instructors to create the total experience for the person paying $32 per class or more.
For the few young extroverted cycle instructors that happen to live in those markets, teaching indoor cycling at SC is an experience worth testing ones skill for. Assuming one can pass the audition, create a following and stay connected with them, then, it comes with a decent paycheck Clearly their compensation is directly tied to the number of butts they can put on saddles. But perhaps, that is as it should be.
That is a philosophy – if implemented – that would quickly separate the great programs (read instructors) from the rest.
Moreover, club owners would surely learn the value of their cycle studio. It has never made sense to this writer that at the most of the studios where I teach, the cycle classes come with the cost of membership. I understand why it is this way but, as demonstrated by SC, club owners of membership based facilities maybe leaving money on the table.
I really like these discussions. By collecting my thoughts and hopefully putting them into a cohesive comment I learn a lot about myself and our industry.
Thanks to everyone commenting on ICI.
If anyone is still paying attention to this, Soul Cycle has come to San Francisco. I am auditioning.