ICI/PRO Member Chris Nielsen contributes today's guest post and the picture was taken by one of Chris's friends.
How many of you read the ‘Tri-ing to be Athletic”™ and ‘Revenge of the Friend”™ posts here on ICI/PRO and quietly cringed or even got a little steamed at the behavior of the instructors in the stories? What did you do about it?
How many of you have endured the “My friend took one of those spin® classes. It was brutal - she never went back.” stories while in line at the grocery store? What was your reply?
John has invited me to write this post because I spoke up about the pieces on ICI/PRO in private emails to him. My thoughts were as follows.
We ignore descriptions of IC such as those above at our peril. The naive reader/listener may believe that they are accurate descriptions of the classes that are available to them. As I told John, I was particularly alarmed that those posts appeared on a site devoted to enhancing the professionalism of IC instructors - without comment a reader might believe that we endorse the instructors”™ decisions. We need to speak up to change that impression.
How we speak up will say volumes. As instructors we ARE indoor cycling - we are its public face and we are its future as a safe, enjoyable and productive exercise alternative. We must approach public interactions carefully as a representation of our respect for the activity, our students and our fellow instructors.
What is the best way to deal with stories such as those that appeared here recently? Picking at those elements that we perceive to be ‘wrong”™ just plays into the stereotype of the tough, punishing IC instructor. As an alternative, can I suggest selecting a core concept in each story and initiating a discussion about ways in which we, as IC instructors, might constructively deal with a challenge in our classes. For example, the Revenge story raises the question: “How do we deal with personal bias when dealing with our students?” I am sure that many of you have strategies which help you get through some awkward moments. Personally, I try to redirect my bias into reinforcement. I have a ‘target”™ number of reinforcers which I try to deliver to each student in each class. I double that number for the student who I find challenging. The effort of finding positives (however small) in his/her form, performance, attitude distracts me from my ‘negative”™ thoughts. How do you handle similar situations?
What about the interactions you have as you are out and about in the community? It”™s tempting to tell that person in the grocery store that their friend”™s class was bad and unsafe. Believe me, I sometimes want to stamp my foot and say NEVER ever go to a class like that. Instead I say “There are other ways to learn about indoor cycling. Here”™s what we do when someone new arrives at my class." I then give them a two or three sentence description of what we focus on and how I want someone to feel at the end of their first class. It”™s not a sales pitch - it is a calm and reasonable statement of fact packaged in normal conversational style. What words do you choose in a similar situation? Whatever you do - please speak up for respectful, reflective and responsible instructors and their classes.
Moving this conversation forward - what else can we do to offset the stereotypes about IC that circulate in the general and fitness communities? I”™d love to see a list developed that can be used as tools by other instructors. Here”™s something that I do - I realize that it”™s not feasible for everyone. I insist that facilities where I teach offer half hour introductory classes. I have made a financial arrangement which means that I do not take payment for those classes unless the fees paid by the participants meets or exceeds my wages for that half hour. The intro classes ensure that I can do the best possible job of introducing new people to IC with a focus on technique and measured effort. The unique nature of my arrangement makes the half hour classes stand out to the people who do the marketing.
The move to indoor cycling 2.0 provides us with exciting opportunities for education and outreach. I look forward to learning more about those here on ICI/PRO.
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