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Teaching Spinning® / indoor cycling is not an “easy” gig!

By Jennifer Sage On April 6, 2012 Under Business of Coaching/Teaching, Continuing Ed and Events

Spinning certificationShannon Fable, a Schwinn Master Trainer and longtime fitness presenter, has written an excellent article on the ACE blog called “Riding a bike going nowhere is harder than it looks“. The gist of the article is that to some people in the industry (club owners, group fitness managers, instructor-wannabes, some students), indoor cycling is not much more than “pedal, push and repeat” – anyone can do it as long as they “are in shape, have a great personality and spend a ton of time on their tunes”!

Those of us who know better, know better. Whether teaching indoor cycling/Spinning® is your hobby or part of a fitness vocation, it is not an “easy” endeavor. Sure it’s not rocket science either, and in my opinion there are few things more rewarding, but there are many elements that need to be put together to be an effective, motivating and fun cycling coach. In fact, I believe it’s more challenging than many group fitness formats, because of the introduction of a solid piece of metal with rotating parts on which we have to interact carefully and specifically with our own moving parts (legs). You can’t do anything and everything you want to on this bicycle, although many instructors and students seem to ignore that fact.

Shannon stresses the importance of education, and urges anyone considering teaching cycling to obtain a certification from a reputable company with history, trusted voices and loads of resources. Invest the 8-hour day in the certification. This is de rigeur. But I also want to add what I believe is a very important element. If you really want to be able to translate an experience of riding a bike indoors to your students in a safe, authentic and effective manner, you have to know what it’s like to ride a bike outdoors. Let me repeat that. You have to know what it’s like to ride a bike outdoors. Period.

Now, you don’t have to be a “cyclist” per se, someone who spends a lot of money on bikes and gear and rides on a regular basis. But in my opinion, you have to have ridden recently, during your tenure as an instructor, not just as a child. More than once. How else are you going to know that a flat road really does have resistance? Or that it’s not really that easy to pedal really fast like it is indoors without resistance. If you do, (and you have a granny gear) it requires a really low gear, and because of that, the bike won’t move very fast at all – a child on a tricycle will go faster than you. (FYI, a granny gear will make it feel really easy to pedal with hardly any resistance, kind of like an indoor bike, and there’s little “torque” to propel the bike forward). And if you don’t have a granny gear on the outdoor bike and you pedal really fast, your intensity will fly so high you can’t maintain it for very long at all.

Or how else will you know how to translate what a hill feels like? How it affects your cadence, leg muscles and heart rate, and what happens if you’re in your lowest gear and you are dying and you still have a half mile to go before the top and have to dig into your mental reserves to get yourself there without quitting? How are you going to convey that?

So borrow a bike if you don’t have one, and go for a couple of rides. Ride up hills (or at least into headwinds); pedal fast in a low gear and pedal slow in a big gear; try to stay aerobic; try to sprint. See what it feels like to push yourself. Then try to do pushups and squats and hovers and isolations while trying to pedal without stopping or slowing down….and I guarantee you that lightbulbs will go off in your head, and you will see the folly in these silly moves and techniques.

If course, it’s true that being a cyclist is not a guarantee of success or quality as a Spinning® or Indoor Cycling instructor either. You need it all! Start with a foundation of knowledge of exercise physiology and biomechanics of pedaling a bike, then blend in your love of music and DJ skills, add dollops of your coaching skills and ability to motivate others, sprinkle in your experience riding a bicycle outdoors, mix in your great people skills and energetic personality, and then top it off with an amazing ability to put it all together seamlessly while smiling. Then repeat again and again and again. Voila – you’ve got the recipe for the perfect indoor cycling coach!

If it sounds hard, it is. But if it were easy, anyone could do it, right? I don’t believe just anyone can do this effectively. But you are not just anyone, are you?

The education and work are so worth the investment of time, money and energy. Instructors reading this, is it not the most amazing experience teaching indoor cycling and Spinning? Who’s with me?? =) (Please leave a comment below!)

Make sure to pass around Shannon’s excellent article to all the instructors and GX managers you know, as well as those desiring to be indoor cycling coaches. First get your certification*, then come to the Indoor Cycling Association for the additional education based on science and proper cycling principles, inspiration, coaching tips and profile and music ideas!

* Reputable Certification Sources:
Spinning
Schwinn
Keiser
Cycling Fusion
C.O.R.E. Cycling
Real Ryder

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Le
    April 6, 2012
    1:36 am #comment-1

    Wow, you listed all the needed “ingredients”! I am with you Jennifer.
    I don’t have many cycling classes right now (1-2) but I still put my heart & soul in preparing for each and every class I taught, and I do for the love of it not for earning. My husband asked: “How much money do you really earned for a class as I see you spent so much time for it…? But I can see your PASSION which is the main ingredient to be the best!”
    Will share the article. Thank you.
    Le

  2. Lori
    April 8, 2012
    2:44 am #comment-2

    45 minutes or 1 hour cycle class can take hours to plan, no matter how long you have been teaching. Planning a cycle class is A LOT of work and whenever I read articles from Jennifer, Shannon, or many other master SCHWINN Indoor Cycle trainers, I gain much more insight. However, after I plan and prepare the hard work for executing the exciting experience for the class members, the results are worthwhile. Guess I even have to plan to ride outdoors more often now.

  3. Jenny
    April 9, 2012
    6:43 pm #comment-3

    Thank you for the validation. Yes, the planning hours are many, and my family members wonder why…but it is all worth it when your students say “wow” that was a super ride!

  4. Cheryl
    April 9, 2012
    10:05 pm #comment-4

    I have been teaching for about 14 years now and I agree with your comment on riding a bike. I started with spinning and quickly figured out that in order to be a great instructor and be able to instruct properly I would have to get out and ride a real bike. So I purchased a low end bike, and although I have traded up for a better bike, I still ride today which continues to help me coach my students professionally and safely.

    It’s the understanding, passion and effort put into your class that makes you a great instructor. Make no mistake about it. The word gets out around the gym quickly if you have those components of spinning mastered.

  5. bicycle parts
    May 1, 2012
    5:13 am #comment-5

    A good read, this. Having this short look into the world of indoor cycling instructors is an eye-opener.

  6. Carmela
    December 13, 2014
    10:40 am #comment-6

    I just want to ask if I could be taught to work better at spin classes? Is there someone who teaches? Thanks!

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