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Visiting Student: No One’s Ever Taught Me Anything Before!

By Jennifer Sage On March 2, 2013 Under General Advice

This morning I subbed a class at a private facility near Vail, Colorado. There was a visiting student from Illinois named Betsy who said she “did a lot of Spinning classes at home,” so I welcomed her, introduced myself, and let her set herself up while I got my music ready and chatted with the regulars I hadn’t seen in a while. Within a minute or two of class starting, however, I was by her side, asking if I could change her setup, because I feared she might injure her knees.

Her saddle height was OK, but her knees were almost touching the handlebars! With my plumb bob, I determined that I had to move her back almost four inches. At her club near Chicago, they have the same Keiser bikes, and she said this was where she always rode—with the seat ALL the way forward. She did this because she had a hard time reaching the handlebars, which she had raised up to #5, which on these bikes is pretty high. I told her that by lowering the handlebars we could bring it closer to her. I didn’t want to lower them too much because unfortunately that is a problem with the Keiser bikes—too high and they’re too far and bringing them closer means lowering them, both positions might cause shoulder and neck discomfort. But, I did manage to find a position that worked for her.

She said, “Wow, this is great. No one has ever set me up before!”

I proceeded with my interval class which alternated fast flat leg speed work at 100 rpm with climbing efforts at 67–70 rpm. Since I hadn’t taught here since last spring (they only run cycling classes in the ski season, being a ski-area club) I did a lot of explanations for what we were doing and how to do them correctly. I talked technique, I corrected form, I encouraged sustained power output, etc. In short, I taught a cycling class!

Betsy shook my hand and said, “I’ve never been in a class where the instructor actually taught us something, thanks!”

Never?? I just cannot fathom that. Isn’t that why we’re here? Not just to kick some butt, but to ensure the safety of the students and help guide them to greater performance (translation: burn more calories/fat for those not interested in “performance”)?

The mind boggles…

Do you educate your students in some way in almost every class? If not, why not? Don’t know how? We will teach you how at the Indoor Cycling Association. There is no reason why every instructor doesn’t do this. Once you’ve educated your students, sure, you can just ride from time to time without a lot of guidance, but all you have to do is look out over the fruits of your efforts and smile, knowing they are riding solid, with great form, and will be more successful, because of you!

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Melissa
    March 2, 2013
    9:33 pm #comment-1

    I teach/talk about form every class. Even if its full of regular riders reminders are good and needed.

  2. Jacque W
    March 2, 2013
    9:37 pm #comment-2

    I have encountered the same with the other gym that I teach at because most of the instructors that had thought there are not SPINNING certified. All my riders in that gym have never been set up before. No one has taken the time to instruct them how to do different positions. But even in the gym that I teach which is SPINNING registered, I still try to educate my riders, because they tend to get lazy. Always trying to remind them of their form. Esp. towards the end of the ride.
    And even with the old riders that I used to ride with pre-instructor days. Their setup is wrong, either too high or too far back on the aft. Both of these riders that I have corrected have either visited the doctor for a back problem or had been to physical therapy. I try to be compassionate and correcting riders when I see them that they are riding with wrong form.
    Ride on.

  3. Steve
    March 2, 2013
    11:41 pm #comment-3

    Generally I don’t have new students…many regulars. But regardless, I am always trying to recruit new people to one of the best cardio workouts there is! Even for the regulars, I still run through some good reminders on proper form, hand position, breathing, focus, etc. I was just certified via Mad Dogg Fitness about six months ago and the instructor was clear on the details about educating and re-educating everyone in class.

  4. Sharon
    March 3, 2013
    6:11 am #comment-4

    I’ve heard this comment sometimes, too. I may even help people set up when I’m participating in the class. Although I will usually ask the class instructor to check it, out of courtesy. And I usually go to friend’s classes, especially a friends’ class where I know I will enjoy myself.

    My personal bugbear is that instructors often won’t change foot straps – because they don’t know how!

  5. Erik
    March 3, 2013
    9:14 pm #comment-5

    Being a spin instructor does not make you a cycling coach or visa versa. My primary concern is always safety. Even though spinning is meant to replicate outdoor cycling many instructors dont ride outdoors and are more interested in bringing arobics to the cycling studio and forgetting about safety and setup. The right setup for students can be done rapidly with a few simple reference points prior to the start of class , saddle height , fore and aft , handlebar height and back angle.. The avarage position for students, is their handlebars are way to high shared with a high seat position. Form develops not only leg speed and strength but also core. The most common comment I get is, “I have been riding like this for years so why should I change my position now”.

  6. Jennifer Sage
    March 3, 2013
    10:32 pm #comment-6

    Erik,
    you make an excellent point. Often new students (not new to indoor cycling, but new to your class or to your coaching) will question why you want to make changes, saying “I’ve been doing this for years.”

    If it’s a fairly big change and they resist it, I might suggest they split the difference for now (like 1/2″ instead of an inch) and ride like that for a few weeks, then change it again. I will tell them, “I can understand; when you’ve been riding incorrectly for so long, riding ‘right’ feels ‘wrong’!”

    To their comment about having done that for years, I’ll say, “wow. Imagine your potential now that your body is in a better and more effective position to transfer the force to the pedal. You’ll be stronger, possibly even faster. It’s even possibly you’ll burn more calories* when your body is in the correct position on the bike!”

    *throw the “C” word in there and it gets many people more interested! 😉

  7. Simon
    March 5, 2013
    8:48 am #comment-7

    I keep on about technique all the time in my class, specifically putting in reminders before each section about key points and I find myself constantly scanning the room watching what each person is doing. I covered a class a few weeks ago where someone was so hell-bent on having massive resistance on (to the point where she was doing single leg press style pedalling) that she was really bemused when I signalled to her to take it down a notch. I had another lady come and tell me at the end how the regular instructor has them working really hard, doing things like 3-minute long hovers – to which I thought, there’s 3 minutes of your indoor cycling workout that’s being wasted.

    Last night I was teaching my regular class and I’d included some 30-30 intervals which I borrowed from track cycling training, having spent the last few weeks avoiding interval training for the sake of building some strength and endurance. These are maximal effort sections in the saddle so the potential for the dreaded high rpm and bounce was ever present from those that didn’t want to get the resistance cranked on.

    So I took a slight different approach – switched my mic on before starting and spents a few minutes explaining the importance of these sections of the profile and their relevance to power output, before starting my class. Subsequently I was pressing that point in the class to remind them about what I’d said about a little more resistance being more important than outright speed in terms of overall power output at higher cadences.

    Pretty much everyone got the idea which just shows that you can take relatively technical cycling issues and just make a few simple explanations. It’s no good teeling someone to do something unless you explain why it is important that they do it.

  8. Barry Edwards
    March 3, 2014
    2:56 am #comment-8

    Our job is to coach and educate, bike set up is vital and too often ignored in classes. As you say Jennifer the Keiser bikes have an inherent flaw in that if the bars are raised too high the reach is too far forward. You have to fiddle to get position right but this is what we should do. In some classes it seems to be about loud volume music and incoherent shouting rather than giving good teaching points and a safe workout. Correct bike set upi is the key to begin with

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