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A Good Indoor Cycling Class…

By Jennifer Sage On November 15, 2011 Under General Advice

A few weeks ago I said one of the new features of the Sage Advice Blog is to analyze Spinning® and indoor cycling classes I find on the internet for safety and effectiveness. This doesn’t only mean classes that make you hold your breath as you watch them, hoping no one develops a tweaked vertebrae or a ground meniscus of the knee. This can also mean classes that are for the most part pretty good. You can learn from them as well.

I watched the LA Fitness video of their cycling classes from their corporate website, and I am happy to say I am somewhat impressed.

Did I expect something different? Well, admittedly, yeah. Often with a large commercial chain such as LA Fitness, quality of classes can be on the lower end due to the fact that the pay scale is on the lower end (in this case, one might even say very low end), they often judge how good a class is purely by number of participants, and they often judge the instructor by popularity and not by their education, experience or the fact that they stick to proven cycling techniques (that also work indoors). Sometimes the indoor cycling program is just looked upon as “another group fitness class” that anyone can teach. If they need a sub, they may throw in a personal trainer or the Zumba instructor who has never taken a certification, nor rides a bike, but brings in pretty good numbers in other classes. Or worse, because he or she is nice to look at. Too often they don’t care what the instructor does in the class -they tell them: just throw on some pop music and yell as loud as you can. Boot-camp style teaching is often the norm. (Don’t believe me? These are actual stories I’ve experienced or heard from instructors who work at large chains).

But there are always exceptions. Some facilities at large chains may happen to have good group fitness coordinators who really do understand cycling, and who actually pay attention to the cycling program. I so love to hear stories of these types of coordinators (if you know of any, please let me know – I can highlight them in this blog!)

So when someone sent me the link to the LA Fitness website and cycling class video, I was actually surprised. Take a look at it here.

Here are some of the things they are doing right:

  • The promote that anyone can do it
  • They advocate riding at your own pace
  • The man in the video suggests progressively increasing your effort
  • They have fun and there is great energy
  • There is nothing blatantly wrong from a technique perspective (no contraindicated moves)

Now, someone might say, “but Jennifer, what about riding with the arm in the air?!”

Well, it might just be that they did it for the camera. And if it’s an occasional cheer here and there, there’s nothing wrong with that. Are they going to fall off or slip for that few seconds they are holding their arm up? Probably not. I bet it’s at the end of class and they are just celebrating.

If it becomes part of a choreography, now that’s where it gets silly, because it can get dangerous if you are switching hands around and your hands are sweaty and you are distracted. Also, any kind of raising the hands or dance choreography will actually reduce power output and effectiveness. But that is not what they are doing here.

Could some of the students be set-up better? Yes (the woman in red in the front). But there aren’t some of the huge discrepancies that I’ve seen in other videos, where you just want to jump into the video to raise their saddle so they don’t hurt their knees! The cadence might be a bit fast – but it’s not possible to tell from this video if it’s endemic to the whole class.

Do you teach at LA Fitness or another large chain? What is your experience?

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. Jennifer Sage
    November 15, 2011
    9:47 pm #comment-1

    BTW, just to clarify, when I say “or worse, if he or she is nice to look at” what I mean is if they use looks as the ONLY reason they send that person in to teach a class (hey, you know that reasoning abounds as well as I do). But I don’t mean that it’s “worse” if in fact the instructor happens to be nice to look at. There’s nothing wrong with that! 😉

  2. SaraSpin
    November 18, 2011
    12:49 am #comment-2

    I recognize the instructor from other “aerobic” videos/infomercials. Can we say actors? Where are the REAL people?

    I teach at LAFIT. At the newer clubs, they require the use of their “made famous by” CDs. You can make your own profiles based on their CDs but you are not allowed to take the CDs from the club so you can make your own playlists.

    I am the only Spinning certified instructor at my club. We also have Keiser M3s, not Spinner bikes. They did offer free training through Keiser but I’m not sure anyone did it – I wasn’t working there at the time but when/if they offer it again, I will go.

    You see a lot of crazy stuff in other classes because they have to be the one everyone thinks is ‘hard’ or ‘tough’.

  3. Andrea
    November 18, 2011
    10:45 pm #comment-3

    I work at LA Fitness. I am Spinning and Keiser certified. LA Fitness promotes their instructors to teach safe classes true to cycling. However, some instructors still do unsafe things, it’s very frustrating. However, they periodically monitor their classes and will correct and even fire people who are not teaching safe clases. I’ve been with them 2 years and have felt supported in my efforts to teach a true cycling class.

  4. Jennifer Sage
    November 19, 2011
    12:02 am #comment-4

    Andrea, that is great to know. I did receive a couple of emails from LA Fitness instructors who cannot post because they don’t have anything good to say about the other classes at their facility, and they are ashamed at the contraindicated stuff that goes on. Like I said, so much depends on the quality of the GX director – who has to care about the indoor cycling program and about proper technqiue – and the instructors – who also have to care, but also make sure they stay educated and take CED or at least read, and try to stay true to real cycling.

  5. Shari
    November 19, 2011
    12:07 am #comment-5

    One of the clubs I teach at is part of a large chain and we really have *many* instructors who continue to teach hovers, isolations, super-fast cadences, and all kinds of other CI moves. Just last week I was speaking with two GX managers and asked them what their philosophy is and how they handle it when they see/hear about an instructor teaching this way. I was really happy to hear that the club wants instructors to only “do inside what you’d do outside,” and that they tell instructors to stop doing CI moves when they see it.
    I think one of the problems is that one GX manager oversees several clubs in the chain and simply can’t monitor what is happening in all the classes. Secondly, if an instructor is only told “Don’t do that anymore” without hearing why, or what is better (and still fun and challenging!), it’s just going in one ear and out the other.
    Education is what’s missing. I think many people teach the way they do bc that’s all they know. So, to do my part, I forwarded those GX managers the link to ICA! I hope they read some of the free content and use it to help instructors learn how to “keep it real.” I also tell other instructors about this website (and Pedal-on) whenever I can.
    Thanks Jennifer!

    • Michelle
      July 31, 2012
      3:32 pm #comment-6

      I think the education is missing but it is hard to change their minds when the director has no clue and teaches the same way

  6. Woody
    November 19, 2011
    3:47 am #comment-7

    Looks like the link to the video is not currently working. interesting… i teach at an LAF also. Big mix of instructors. A few of us are Spinning certified & follow your teachings.. Most do their own thing. What I’ve found is that my class appreciates that I’m still learning, and sharing what i learn with them.

  7. ANONOMOUS
    November 19, 2011
    4:38 am #comment-8

    Thanks Jennifer.

    It shouldn’t be hard for instructors to KEEP IT REAL if they buy your book and read it. The problem, they are NOT creative enough to coach a 45-60min session without being bored with their own reflection in the mirror. So.. in turn, let’s throw in “contraindications” to pass the time.

    Asking ADULTS not toddlers, please refrain from…… turns into battle field I.E: The hoovers, push ups, and spinning backwards. While out of the saddle, hands/arms straight up in the air like superman traveling down 5th ave, the iPods wearers, email surfing, cell phone chatting while session is ON!!!. .Let’s not forget the famous “figure eights”. OMG… This ridiculous childlike behavior lead me to give up classes and subbing. I love coaching like strawberry cheesecake. 🙂 If I could spin “full time”, I would jump at the chance, but I can’t do my best when I’m met with conflict, and management…. right.

    As we send them on their way feeling good about themselves, we should have that same experience.
    Conflict = undue stress, IMO. Change? I stopped holding my breath. 🙁

    Have a great holiday.

  8. Steve
    November 19, 2011
    4:46 am #comment-9

    I teach 6 classes a week at LA Fitness. I have a 3 star Spinning certification and I am also Keiser certified. The LA Fitness instructor manual promotes some general does and don

  9. Dennis Fernandez
    November 19, 2011
    10:52 pm #comment-10

    I have taught in the Cerritos LA Fitness for over 11 yrs. I took over my coaches slot when he moved back east to run a cycling blog, race series, etc. he taught me to keep it real as I would outside. I in turn have inspired some of the members to join me outside and when they did, it all came together. They understood what I said in class. Other people whom I train with teach at the gym also and apply the same rules to keep it real as if we were training outside. I can’t speak for most of the gyms in my area but at the seminars I get some flak due to my passion for cycling and proper form. I tell my classes I am their biggest cheerleader, but I cannot ride the bike for them. That’s their challenge when in the class. Jennifer’s e book has helped me to be a better instructor but IMO she’s preaching to the choir! Hoping whoever reads this and teaches at LA Fitness would want to get the book and apply the principles of proper cycling form and to make the class an enjoyable challenge. Thanks, DF

  10. Dennis Fernandez
    November 19, 2011
    10:55 pm #comment-11

    Oh, I am Keiser certified and have been with wenzel coaching applying their training methods to my classes albeit toned down so everyone can get the feel of being on a training ride or sometimes a race situation certain times of the year ex: tour de France , Paris-Roubaix.

  11. fitness blog
    December 24, 2014
    12:14 am #comment-12

    i stumbled here searching for true mountain biking enthusiasts,
    and i think that you’re one

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