Why are some Spinning® instructors afraid to Keep it Real?

By Jennifer Sage On June 2, 2012 Under Keep it Real

I need your thoughts. Why do you suppose some Spinning® and indoor cycling instructors are afraid to Keep it Real? I’m in Cincinnati right now and am teaching the Keep it Real workshop in a few hours and this question is always plaguing me. This workshop should be PACKED with instructors who care about doing it “right”. But it’s not.

What keeps them away?

My thoughts:

  1. They might believe it will make their classes boring. [Reality: you can still use a lot of exciting coaching techniques to keep people engaged. Keeping it Real does NOT mean making it boring!]
  2. They say their students aren’t “cyclists” so they don’t care about what a cyclist does. [Reality: as I show in this workshop, everyone’s body works in the same way on a bike, cyclist or not. The ankle bone connects to the shin bone and so forth, and the way the body moves pedals is the same. The angles are the same, the laws of physics are the same for everyone. If a position or technique is going to hurt or hinder a cyclist, it’s going to hurt or hinder a non-cyclist. And regardless of what you think, this is still a bike we’re riding, stationary or not…]
  3. They say their students don’t care about “performance”. [Reality: again, as I show in this workshop, when you train as if for performance, you meet the needs of the moms and non-cyclists too: the body adapts by improving endurance – so they can last longer, burning more fat and more calories = lose more weight and get fitter faster than all those contraindicated circus moves combined.]
  4. Some think that doing it “Right” is someone’s opinion. I used to get the comment when teaching Spinning® orientations, “But that’s Johnny G’s way” when I’d teach what NOT to do on a bike. I’d say, “well, no, it has nothing to do with Johnny G. It’s science. It’s biomechanics. It’s the well-studied way to ride a bike in the most effective and safe manner allowing the body to adapt and improve.”
  5. They are afraid that if they learn how to do it the “right”way (read: safe and effective), they will lose students, they won’t be the “favorite”, and they may lose their classes altogether if numbers fall below a certain point.

What are your thoughts on why these instructors continue
to avoid the path of Keeping it Real?

Do you have any ideas on what I can do to reach them?

Your comments will help me as I formulate my next step. I’m thinking that educating instructors is not the only way to do this (don’t worry – I won’t stop doing that. I love educating and inspiring instructors)! Instructors come back to a roomful of students who look at them and ask, “why don’t you do pushups like Betty does?” or “how come we’re not lifting weights like they do on that class on Good Morning America?” I’ve been thinking for awhile that I’ve got to find a way to reach the end-user, the students, and help educate them about what is going to help them get fitter and lose more weight and what will hurt and hinder them (or waste their time). I’ve got some ideas on how to do this, but any thoughts you have will help.

Together we can help change this industry for the better.

Keeping it Real!


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40 Comments Add yours

  1. sandy
    June 2, 2012
    12:38 pm #comment-1

    Hi Jennifer,
    A couple of things cross my mind when you ask why some instructors are afraid to “keep it real” in their spin classes. The first is the lack of knowledge about the sport of cycling. What seems like “the cool new thing to do in class” or “the lastest fad” in class to a non-cyclist OR one who hasn’t read up on contraindications, is clear to the instructor who either actually rides a bike or has educated themselves to be inefficient cycling BS.
    The other thing that crosses my mind is that a instructor who hasn’t then passed that education on to their students might be subject to the “why don’t we incorporate weights in class?” or “we pedal backwards in so ans so’s class”. So then they might feel in order to compete with some popular instructors they need to start the crazy stuff.
    Education, Experience, Ride – ways to understand why we don’t…….fill in the blank

  2. Kathy Ehrlich-Scheffer
    June 2, 2012
    12:48 pm #comment-2

    My own observations on this:
    The need to be popular. We all want to be the “it” instructor, the one everyone talks about. Among the students there’s a certain “right of passage” mentality- “hey- Did you make it through Susie Psycho Spin’s class tonight?!? That was insane!! Awesome!!” It seems that those instructors with the most contraindications are the most popular, generally speaking.

    The time crunch. Everyone wants a quick fix. Why take the time to get off the bike to do a weight workout when you can get a 2-for-1 in less time? The mere mention of saving time is like an addictive drug in our time-crunched culture.

    The lack of instructor knowledge. When you have nothing else, you hang your hat on 2 things to get through the class: music and contraindications.

    Just my $.02. Thanks for posting, Jennifer!

  3. Joyce
    June 2, 2012
    1:22 pm #comment-3

    I blame the people who run these studios. As long as the instructors are filling the classes the do monitor what is going in the classes. Where I sub there are teachers who fill the class who take the seats off, have people stand without holding on and various other crazy things and we are a Spinning certified facility. I can’t get a regular class but these people have two and three classes. Maybe we need to get to the owners of these facilities and make them understand what keeping it real is all about.

  4. Jennifer Klotz
    June 2, 2012
    3:17 pm #comment-4

    Kathy, your first and third paragraphs are exactly what I see in my gym, as well as Joyce’s response. Popularity, uniqueness (at the expense of safety), lack of accountability, and just plain ignorance. It’s incredibly frustrating.

    Those of us who keep it real try so hard to educate the members, but you can’t make people hear what they don’t want to. Just two weeks ago, I was told that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and that it was simply my opinion, that hovers were contraindicated, and potentially harmful. Even when presented with documented evidence, some folks just want to keep doing the “fun” stuff.

    There is hope! I occasionally have people come to me and say “I took another class, and the instructor was doing crazy things. I didn’t do them, because you’ve told us they aren’t safe.” Music to my ears!

  5. Amy Goodrum
    June 2, 2012
    6:52 pm #comment-5

    I think your idea of connecting with students is right on–Kathy Scheffer and I were just discussing this a few weeks ago! One way to begin is to even put together a flyer or fact sheet that anyone can print and share with students, or that students may stumble across on the web. I have discussed the Keep it Real philosophy with my students, including why certain movements are contraindicated. The bottom line is to communicate an understanding that by following these principles, they will get more out of their workout/training, that they will get more fit and “burn” more calories, and that their work in the cycle studio is derived from what professional cyclists do (giving a sense of affinity and connection) which means it is all purposeful. They need to know that when an instructor teaches fluff and contraindications, they are not getting as fit, and they are getting set up for injury over time. Then it is up to them to decide–my students have told me several times of other classes that they now know to walk out of (and have) because of the contraindications being instructed. One student even went back to her triathlete training group and discussed the contraindications with the other group members (she said lightbulbs went off)! And the folks who want “exercise for entertainment”….well….they will not be populating our classes!

  6. Shari Miranda
    June 2, 2012
    10:18 pm #comment-6

    OK, I love a good brainstorm. Remember

  7. Melissa
    June 2, 2012
    10:23 pm #comment-7

    It is frustrating when members want the class a certain way, the “fad” that it is right now. I can’t even bring myself to name that class. In every class that I teach, I talk about the right way we do certain moves and the reason why. Some get it, some don’t. When you have news and magazines praising this “fad”, it’s very very difficult to make the members understand why it is so wrong, because they think they are getting a great workout.

    Now concerning instructors that teach this…..oh boy. I just went through cycling certification WITH my director. I brought up concerns to her when I heard and seen other instructors teach the contraindication moves. She knows right from wrong and hopefully, she will nip it in the bud, but she said it would take a while because she doesn’t want to take away what was already started for the fear of members dropping.

    I told her if I have 5 or 15 people in my class, those 5 people are going to get a great workout. And yes, it is work and not a quick fix.

    Never stop doing it the right way. It’s respect for your members and for yourself.

  8. Melissa
    June 2, 2012
    10:28 pm #comment-8

    There’s 2 anaolgies that I use.

    1. Little or no resistence. Have them visualize their bike change fell off the bike. What are you doing? Nothing. Just sitting there like a hampster in the spinning wheel.

    2. Weights, pushups, etc. To combat this….Have you been behind a car that slows downs, then speeds up and continues to do this. When you finally get to pass them, what are they doing? Talking on the cell phone. So what are they not paying attention to? The gas pedal and how much power they are giving it. Same with weights, etc. If there is a disruption in your pedal stroke, then you are not getting the best and effective workout you can get and you are only cheating yourself.

    I hope this helps.

  9. Elizabeth Ginexi
    June 2, 2012
    10:34 pm #comment-9

    Three thoughts:

    If you can develop CEC sessions to be delivered by you and others like you (like those who appear with you on ICA) to provide instructors with credits for their ACE or AAFA certs I think you could get more instructors to attend. Most clubs require current Group Fit Certs. Continuing education is something we all must do to remain employed by the clubs and we tend to like the ed sessions that help us maintain our certs. If you get them in the door I think they will find the messages very compelling.

    I am an avid outdoor cyclist and have been my whole life (long before I became a group fit instructor!). As I started taking Spinning classes in the early 2000s I learned that I only liked the classes taught by other cyclists. Non-cyclists tended (not in all cases, of course) to teach indoor cycling like an aerobics class with screaming, fast cadences, strange moves and the like. It didn’t feel at all like cycling to me. Actually it felt stupid. If there was some way to encourage more indoor cycling instructors to try riding an actual bike and transfer their experience indoors, that might help.

    Finally, (and somewhat related to the paragraph above) many instructors I know who do not do real cycling or in fact other sports outside of the gym environment tend to have a strange approach to working out at the gym. Again, this is not all instructors, but many. These folks tend to go all out crazy with high intensity all the time at the gym. This has always seemed strange to me since I have participated in sports where we would have “practice” or “training” and “conditioning” sessions and then competitions. It was usually the game or competition when we would go all out. We did not go all out every single day as we know we would get injured or burned out if we did that. This “all out every time” principle is being brought into indoor cycling classes in an awful way. Some instructors I know actually encourage their participants to go so hard that they feel like they are going to puke on the bike. I just do not understand this. Clubs and instructors need education about pacing, especially for beginner participants, and they do not know anything about periodization or how many times in a given week it might be good to venture into the Red Zone. Teaching the science to clubs, instructors, and even club participants would help. It is actually counterproductive to go all out all the time, but it sells.

    Thanks for all you do!

  10. Nancy spence
    June 3, 2012
    4:12 am #comment-10

    It’s a popularity game for many. It’s about filling classes and getting “beaten up” in class. I agree that we have to reach the end user. I want to help!

  11. Jan Lochridge
    June 3, 2012
    11:25 pm #comment-11

    Jennifer….I have a different suggestion: you need “deputies.” As awesome as you are there is only one of you. I think the primary reason the Spinning brand is so successful is because they have an army of experienced Master Instructors who are readily available to educate. My perception of why instructors teach badly is simply because they don’t know any better, so they think the more gimmicks they can throw at their riders the more experienced they will seem. But having hosted several Spinning orientations at my gym, I’ve seen the transformations that can occur during just that one day of training. Some attendees seemed positively relieved to finally just get some information!

    I think a lesson becomes so much more powerful and memorable when someone teaches it to you personally. So what about building your own army of master instructors who can represent ICA throughout the world?

  12. Bill Jenks
    June 5, 2012
    7:21 am #comment-12

    I have noticed there are two types of Instructors: Those that do and those that don’t.
    Those that do Keep It Real tend to do a couple of other things too. They have a desire to learn and have a real desire to help their students reach their fitness goals. They generally have a purpose and a plan for the ride before they walk in the room. They use their time and energy outside of class to be ready when class begins. Those that don’t Keep It Real don’t seem to care about their students. They don’t have a purpose or a plan so they wing it. Those that wing it tend to change positions frequently and use CI movements. Maybe they are just too busy with family, their career, etc to take the time outside of class to continue their education or plan rides.

    Even after repeated attempts by the Group Ex Director at the Y I lead rides at and a couple of CI workshops that I have lead we still have Instructors that insist on doing CI moves in their classes.

    Our most recent attempt at correcting the problem is the addition of 3 Intro to Indoor Cycling classes each week. We have 19,000 Members at my Y and 22 Indoor Cycling Classes per week averaging 15 riders per class. The Intro classes are lead by Instructors that do Keep It Real. We have as many as 5 or 6 riders in each of the classes. Some of them connect with cycling and some move on to other things but they all get the anti CI message. We are currently putting together the second part of our plan – 3 x 5 cards that we will hand out to the folks in the Intro to Indoor Cycling classes. The cards will have a place to write the bike settings (seat height, fore/aft, etc) and will include allowed positions (seated and standing), cadence ranges (60 to 110rpm) and resistance guidelines (not so heavy that pedaling becomes choppy or slows below 60rpm or so light that bouncing in the saddle results). The third part of the plan is to hold several cycling workshops for our riders. The workshops will be called something like “How to Get the Safest and Most Effective Ride Indoors”. The advertising for these workshops will be an invitation taped to each bike. We will also attach the 3 x 5 cards mentioned above to the bikes. The invitations and cards will be attached to every bike before every ride for a one week period. At about the same time as the workshops we plan to offer a workshop to our Instructors about how to quickly create a profile that has a purpose and is planned in advance of their ride. I am working on a spreadsheet profile template that will hopefully help our Instructors create profiles without spending a lot of time. I am worried that without the knowledge about what an endurance ride, strength ride, aerobic intervals, etc are our Instructors will still struggle.

    The Y I lead rides at is part of a larger association composed of a total of seven Ys. I have been asked to lead CI workshops at several of the other Ys in the association The results have been dismal. I am hoping that if our approach works at my Y I will be able to take it to the other Ys in the association and have an even bigger impact.

  13. Jennifer Sage
    June 5, 2012
    8:46 pm #comment-13

    Jan, you have an interesting point. As ICA grows, I may get to that point. (But just for the record, I don’t want to create a certification, just the education afterwards, kind of like various organizations do for personal training). But, even with a large “army” of Spinning

  14. renee shapurji
    June 5, 2012
    10:24 pm #comment-14

    Hi Jennifer,
    All of the above pretty much cover the reasons for the lack of instructors involved in Keeping It Real. Many just want to get the basic cert. and see no need to invest money, time or effort into being an excellent instructor. I must echo the comment that directors and clubs often do not demand continued education and even those that do so, don’t really practice a Keeping It Real philosophy among its’ instructors and default to the “popular” all HIT whatever keeps the saddles filled practice.
    I do strongly feel you need to get yourself and ICA out there in the media to promote ICA and dispel the CI fads and practices. Few instructors and directors know of you and ICA. We as members of ICA are conduits and i’m sure recommend you, ICA and the safe and appropriate ways to cycle for health and fitness but there needs to be more. A great idea shared about cards or even permission for us to distribute info. flyers in class. When able and appropriate i post various ICA and your blog articles for my classes and other cycling connections on a cycling FB page i specifically created to provide the real science behind what i am asking my riders to do, as well as, to promote ICA and your Sage Advice Blog.
    Get yourself out there! Your dynamic, inspirational and a great speaker not to be missed.
    I’m thankful and so joyful to have ridden with and learned from you in Cincinnati.
    All the best.

  15. Myriam
    June 6, 2012
    2:46 am #comment-15

    I am trying to keep it real at the main club I teach in London…
    I coach Spinning however after a few complaints from members I had to stop the endurance training & focus on strength & interval. I do not do anything silly on the bike.
    Clubs want numbers up, the classes full but also I have to listen to my members & keep them happy otherwise I’m out!
    Periodisation is out of question!

    Luckily I cover from time to time at another club which has the periodisation in place & where members know what to expect & really enjoy it!

  16. Sue
    June 6, 2012
    3:23 am #comment-16

    What everyone says is so true. It is hard when 1 instr. says something then you say something else, they don’t know who to believe.

    When we first started teaching w/ computers instr. would tell everyone to go to, say, gear 13. I would then teach & say I can’t tell you what gear to be in as everyone is different, every bike is different. I would use the rpm’s so we all got a similar ride. People would stop coming as they wanted to be told what to do. I had some road cyclists, I am one too, who said they came to my class because of how I taught & how I made it as close to a road ride as possible.

    I subbed a class recently, the instr. told me, they like it hard. I laughed & said ok, then I did my own thing. They think if you put heavy resistance on then it is hard.

    I tried to talk to my coordinator but sometimes I think, they think, that I am just complaining when really I am letting her know things need to change. They do put out emails to instr. about certain things but don’t follow up to se if these things are being done. The bottom line, I think, is let’s get the people into the gym, more people, more money.

    Unfort. you can’t get through to everyone, they want what they want.

    Doing crazy things makes it exiting to those that don’t know.

  17. Karen McGregor
    June 6, 2012
    4:14 am #comment-17

    I agree with Bill Jenks. Be it lack of training. Ignoring the training. Lack of organization. Or pure laziness on the part of the “instructor”, it all leads to the same thing: CI moves, no real commitment to imparting real fitness to the students. Also laziness on the part of the class participants — believing that all this junk is really going to contribute to their fitness. I have people come to my “real” class who afterwards complain that it was “too hard”. When pressed I find that they have been taking classes from instructors who often coach to not only CI moves which do nothing to improve fitness but may contribute to injury (the “fun” moves), coach no resistance on the flywheel, don’t care about proper bike set up, etc etc. They like the popular music and they enjoy “dancing on the bike”. The music is a whole other situation. These other instructors who don’t keep it real also seem not to be concerned about copywrite laws and legal downloads. But that’s another topic for discussion.

  18. Maria Peters
    June 6, 2012
    9:16 am #comment-18

    To give the participants THE REAL THING is for us, as instructors, necessarily to experience it ourselves!
    Take your bike and play outside for a while. You don’t need to climb the Alps or the Rocky Mountains, just get the feeling of the real bike on the real road.
    After that, when we are fully convinced ouselves about the benefits of it we will be able to convince the others.

    I was once one of them (the “consumption” instructors).
    I am here now.
    My classes are mostly full. There are, in one room, cyclists and stay at home mothers wich, in the 60 or 90 minutes time, get their own personal benefits.
    Not because I say so. But because they get it! They feel it and they love it!

  19. Carole
    June 6, 2012
    10:42 am #comment-19

    One of the major things that is not mentioned in your article is age. According to the poll on pedal-on, the majority of the instructors age is in the 40’s and 50’s. The advertising media is geared towards the 20 to 30 year old. I am fortunate that my classes are generally full but the median age is close to 50, even in my 8:15 morning slot. I teach a 6:30 night slot that consist mainly of older outdoor riders but the 7:30 (which I do not teach) is college age and young professionals. The young group are there to say they have worked out not to be trained. They haven’t experienced the aches and pains and do not give it a second thought. The mindset is not the same so the delivery has to be different.
    The young instructor doesn’t have the patience or the time to put together a profile that has objectives. They young class member doesn’t know to care. The management is happy because the young professional is there.

    I am faced with this daily in my personal training profession. The young 20 something muscled bound male trainer is booked with overweight females. His clients do not care about form or technique, they just want his attention.

    If one of the “beautiful” people were a spokesman, there would be a greater response from the masses. Is that what we really want?

  20. Richard Mullins
    June 6, 2012
    10:49 am #comment-20

    All the reasons above, I’d like to add that mainly it’s because

    1. They don’t know
    2. They don’t care/ don’t want to know. In theirs case, I have found it is usually a case of once their class is full and they are liked and popular, why should they change?

    I have come across one or two that didn’t know but once they found out they were doing contras, they were surprised and willing to learn, and improve.

    In the later, they generally don’t care as long as they are liked and classes full.

  21. Rose O' Donovan
    June 6, 2012
    11:15 am #comment-21

    all of the above but I have to add – CONFIDENCE!!! How confident as an instructor do you need to be to keep your class seated in the saddle for 40 minutes….. – easy to look fit and bounce/jump/push up etc once a person has control of a group they can be nasty – it takes a lot of education coaching patience to become a good Spinning(R) or indoor cycling instructor but I would add a big Strip down the instructor and tackle confidence issues with teaching in the workshops – 6 years ago no way would I have been able to teach a seated ride for 45 let alone 60 minutes – now I nearly could talk the entire class with coaching points – and when I do it here and settle riders in the saddle and announce this is it this is where we are going to stay for 50 minutes they go nuts but cannot believe they achieve it at the end. Heart rate training is massive – MH is not the way to go – I am Spinning(R) but am using Jens philosophy on the heart rate – there is a lot to teach the world yet. personally it should be mandatory an instructor is a cyclist of some sort and once you sit your butt on a bike you are cycling END OF.

  22. Amy Aranoff
    June 6, 2012
    11:45 am #comment-22

    Added to the list: THEY ARE MISINFORMED! I do not hesitate to remind my riders that anything not done on a bicycle outdoors (whether they are cyclists or not) should not be done indoors. Instructors performing acrobatics on a bike are simply “misinformed” (a nice way of putting it.)

    A friend of mine who is also a certified instructor told me with her last paycheck was an attached note (from the management) asking the instructors NOT to perform “pushups”, upper body exercises, etc when teaching a cycling class. I was so impressed with this! Only when management voices some kind of opinion about how they want their instructors to teach will our classes be recognized as correct and sound….people will ALWAYS look for the latest, the “bells and whistles,” it’s human nature; but, when we as instructors are backed up by our bosses/management, then, we have a chance of changing the experience of true indoor cycling.

  23. Terry
    June 6, 2012
    11:51 am #comment-23

    There is a cult mentality in large fitness institutions. If the cult instructor does it, then it must be gospel and anything else is “just your opinion”.
    I believe the continuation of CI classes is generated from the top. Pushing for a # in class while trying to switch peoples mentality over to a more productive, effective and safe ride is asking for the moon.
    Directors need to be firm in their expectations with instructors. If an instructor doesn’t “keep it real” then they are gone. Less instructors, less class offerings….FOR A WHILE and then when the public learns they will “realize” the results and fitness directors can then hire well educated instructors. It’s only impossible if we keep caving in to the madness for the sake of numbers. Do it right full circle and the people will come back!
    * I would love to see handout cards or printable easy to swallow information with drawings offered for instructors to purchase or print for their classes

  24. Lynda
    June 6, 2012
    12:18 pm #comment-24

    Hi Jennifer
    I have been keeping it real for 13 years as a Spinning Instructor and my classes are doing just fine. I have a varied demographic ranging in age from early 20’s to 80 year olds who still ride century’s. I still teach with Spinning basic principles while adding in different wording for the energy zones because when I announce an Endurance ride there tend to be alot of groans or no shows! But I do coach to the zone and refer to heart rate and RPE. We now use Keiser and our programming. The computer has opened up a whole new dynamic and it’s exciting for riders to track their progress in class. I believe in the science of the indoor programming and my students benefit by being able to return year after year, healthy and stronger. No popcorn jumps, no hovers, no push ups…we save all that for the TRX post class! Thanks as always for the great information. I am a big fan of your blog although mostly silent. And yes I have read Keeping it Real!

  25. Brent Laning
    June 6, 2012
    12:25 pm #comment-25

    The YMCA facility where I teach for the most part uses aerobic instructors forced into Indoor Cycling for lack of qualified competent cyclists interested in instructing. All of which are part-time instructors with full-time jobs outside of the fitness realm.

    Many of these instructors are only trying to get the great cardio effect in cycling classes. They’re not outdoor cyclists, or if they are they’re family oriented recreational cyclists not interested in bio-mechanics or physiology.

    I, myself, was a cyclist first before becoming an instructor. Because of that I bring a completely different outlook on what the classes need to focus on. I’ve been trying for 10 years now to get the other instructors to “keep it real” but as has been mentioned before they’re trying to fill the classes and what people talk about are the outrageous stunts and contraindicated moves that I do not condone.

    During our rare staff meetings I have brought up ICA and encourage the other instructors to participate in the forums and read up on the right way to lead classes. Unfortunately, I’ve been met with significant resistance. Having a manager that isn’t a cyclist doesn’t help my cause. She has a background in aerobic exercise too, and not a cyclist.

  26. Chuck Cali
    June 6, 2012
    12:38 pm #comment-26

    When an instructor puts the emphasis of the class on the training, keeping it real in this case, what is really happening is that the instructor is making it about them, not the class. Indoor cycle instruction is NOT about the instructor.

    While I could not agree more with keeping it real (and I do) it has been my experience that classes don’t follow the instructor because of how much they say they know. They follow when l they like, trust and believe. So connect, care and then teach. Educating the top brass and GX directors – though absolutely necessary – may turn out to be an exercise in futility It is up to us.

  27. Margaret
    June 6, 2012
    12:55 pm #comment-27

    I started teaching about 2 years ago and got my certification through C.O.R.E with Clair Carufo. Her entire philosophy was about keeping it real…no exceptions! When I started taking indoor cycling classes, I was very fortunate to start my ‘training’ with two instructors who kept it real…one was the owner. After 3 years, I still go to these two classes and continue to learn how to keep it real. By the way, their classes are never full!

    When I teach, and especially when there are new students in the class, I always tell them upfront that I do not have an arsenal of tricks, no bells and whistles, and no gimmicks…what we do inside is what we would do outside. I do get the occasional person mention that they do hovers in other classes and I tell them why they shouldn’t. Infact, at both studios where I teach, there are instructors who do nothing but hovers and a whole slew of other ‘fun’ things on the bike. As a matter of principle, I do tell students why I would not attend those classes and why they shouldn’t either. For those who do not have a choice due to scheduling, I always suggest that they not do those maneuvers, but simply stay in their seats and maintain a consistent pedal stroke with the appropriate amount of resistance. If the instructor asks why they are not hovering or jumping, tell them that those moves are not good for their knees, back, etc…I don’t encourage a debate during class, but if necessary, talk to the instructor afterwards.

    As frustrating as it can be to see some classes full because of the above, I at least know that those who come to my classes are being taught correctly and that if they so choose to participate in these other classes, that they know how to keep it real.

    It all comes down to $$…filled classes equals money in the till. But, as I have noticed in the last 3 years, these people do not stay. Those who come every week are the very people who look past the ‘fads’ and prefer a consistently taught class.

    Not sure if I have answered any questions…my approach has always been “if you build it, they will come”.

  28. Steve
    June 6, 2012
    12:57 pm #comment-28

    We (spin instructors) must first realize we are dealing with human nature (people).

    Each of us have our own agenda’s; albeit, some hidden.

    There are many participants who just want the social part of spin class.

    There are others who just want to be able to tell others that they attend ‘spin classes’ in hopes of impressing [them].

    There are instructors who teach many different types of group fitness training classes but have not been adequately trained in spin classes.

    There are spin instructors who have such dynamic personalities that folks will overlook style and technique (or are just flat ignorant of what is right or wrong) because they are filling the classes.

    All that said, incumbent upon us as instructors to learn what is and is not appropriate on a spin bike; teaching proper technique (such as the four phases of a single pedal stroke) and challenging our participants with those proper techniques and strive for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

    It is also incumbent upon our clubs to have a regular intro. class put on by an qualified instructor who understands proper techniques.

    As individuals (either as participants or instructors), we must first seek the truth and then go from there. There will always be people who choose not make the effort to obtain the facts.

    I can honestly say – that after almost 3 years of teaching spin classes – only a few folks actually know either how to either properly adjust (size) their bikes or know proper technique. Many resist the input; choosing rather to do it their way. There are a few that will corner me after class to get further instruction.

    I am sure there are folks who don’t attend my classes because my class may not have the right music, be too difficult, won’t do stretches or other movements (other than pedaling) while on the bike, or for some other reasons. I have very little control over that mentality.

    All we can do (as instructors) is continue to teach the truth (facts) about proper spin classes and set a good example for others to follow. The rest will take care if itself.

    My biggest reward is working with folks – such as stroke victims – and in some way helping them get in better shape and help their mental attitude about life. If I can help just one person, it’s all worth it!

  29. madge flynn brower
    June 6, 2012
    1:32 pm #comment-29

    Most all indoor spinning instructors are not cyclists. They do not understand the basics about what it means to be road ready and as a result their classes never hit the sweet spot!! They try their best but until they become cyclists they will not really understand a flat, a false flat, a head wind, a climb, an attack, a tempo ride, etc.

  30. Bruce
    June 6, 2012
    1:36 pm #comment-30

    Reason 1 – They do not know, understand or have experienced what real actually is. Mainly because a lack of actual time in the saddle on the road or trail.
    Reason 2 – They are teaching multiple types of classes and thus do not devote the necessary prep time to create a real delivery.

  31. Sam
    June 6, 2012
    1:37 pm #comment-31

    I’m not an instructor… yet.

    I’ve belonged to the same group of clubs for over 16 years, and I can count on both hands(that’s under 10 instructors) instructors that have taught proper training methods during a spin class. That’s over 16 years going to a variety of clubs and a variety of classes actively searching for instructors with a credible knowledge base, and finding fewer than 10 instructors. In all cases, the instructors were either triathletes and/or cyclists.

    Out of the ten instructors only one has a planned workout for each 1.5 hour class. She tells us she’s planned every minute out; her workouts vary from week to week. It’s clear that she puts time into creating her workouts and selecting music; each of her workouts has a goal.

    Each club has its culture. The one club with the highest number of instructors knowing how to train-that would be four instructors- are at the club with the highest number of triathletes participating in the classes. I will say that this club’s main aerobic instructor/manager teaches Spin, and does NOT know how to train/to teach, but she does have the ability to find instructors who know how to train, and evidentally lets them create their own class maybe because their classes draw lots of students(triathletes).

    When you’re in a class with students who are used to training, the ride experience is great, and the instructors respond to that. However, most clubs do not seem to have enough students who care about “training” methods. And like everyday life, the charismatic instructors can be doing some lame things on the bike, and everyone follows. Afterall, we humans tend to be herd animals for the most part.

    This winter I went to an instructor “raved” about by many; you had to get there early, wait in line, get a bracelet. Before class started, I looked at the age 20-something participants, and thought to myself I could be in trouble. This instructor did moves that I haven’t seen for years because they aren’t good for you! I couldn’t believe that his classes were full/wait listed; that he did moves that are contraindicated; that the students LOVED it : spinning their legs with no tension, bouncing so hard and fast that I got dizzy watching ALL the students do it. Did the instructor have cycling experience? I couldn’t tell; he had the strength for all-out sprints. He was definitely used to entertaining the class; felt like a comedy show. Amazing and dismaying to watch, but now I could cross that instructor off my list; I’m always looking.

  32. Neil Troutman
    June 6, 2012
    3:40 pm #comment-32

    Hi Jennifer – Why Instructors aren’t interested in Keeping it Real, because most instructors are jack of all trades, master of none. They want to teach, Aqua, Yoga, Pilates, Weights, Step oh and Indoor Cycling. They want their certificate to enable them to teach more classes and earn more money. As most of the contributors have put there is pressure to get class numbers and keep your class. They have no desire to learn and further their education. As one of my friends informed me about my cycling course. We know your a good instructor but what will your course teach us? They’d rather spend money on learning yet another class concept, Zumba or Combat. So they never enhance their knowledge, if their training course taught them the ‘hover’ so be it. As posted previously a lot of instructors don’t ride a bike so don’t know that every road has resistance, and it is hard to re-educate members when you do one thing and another instructor gives them a BS reason whilst they should be sitting up right – sucking in there belly button. Also Instrucors have a lack of knowledge how to create profiles and how to translate music into that profile. But who do we try to educate – we aim for the riders but what drives me crazy is when riders complain about an instructor and you ask them why they go to the class it will cause them injury they reply it is at a ‘convenient time’. Vote with your feet and your instructor will be replaced by hopefully someone better. Try and educate Studio Co-ordinators or companies – large operators save costs by training internal staff who have no interest in teaching, that is my next mission with one operator, which right now is also experimenting with MyRide and the Virtual Instructor. The scary thing is that in some places the Virtual Instructor is probably safer than some ‘Real’ Instructors. You should take heart that ICA is growing and like minded instructors exist worldwide which should give all of us confidence to continue what we are doing and believe. ‘For victory is victory, however small, nor is its worth only from what follows from it.’ J.R.R Tolkien.

  33. Steve
    June 6, 2012
    4:35 pm #comment-33

    We (spin instructors) must first realize we are dealing with human nature (people).

    Each of us have our own agenda

  34. Jennifer Sage
    June 6, 2012
    8:10 pm #comment-34

    Such awesome responses! I will take some time to read these in detail and then to ponder on the main points.

    I have some ideas….

  35. Ronald
    June 6, 2012
    9:21 pm #comment-35

    From what I see happening in our club, the way they get new instructors is suggest to people who take a lot of cycling classes to put some music together and the director will audit and give that person a chance to teach a class, way, way before any certifications.

    These new instructors only know what they see in class. Many instructors have taught cycling classes for years and years, never updating their skills, never going to workshops etc. They eventually get like a AFAA group fitness instructor cert. These new instructors will keep doing what they see including popcorn jumps, standing with finger tips on the handlebars and completely upright, etc.

    Also the new instructors only play top 40 songs like the ones they just heard on the radio while driving to the club. Our members would not know what safe, effective cycling is anyway. All they want is aerobics on a bike for 45 minutes because that is all that they have ever known. Come to the club, pedal fast and leave.

  36. Cheryl
    June 7, 2012
    12:53 am #comment-36

    There is a lot of self created pressure to be the most well attended and most popular class in the spinning program. Instead of the instructor educating the students, the students dictate what they want and the instructor succumbs to their wishes. I have been teaching spin for 14 years and find that the instructors want to be popular.

    The most well attended classes are unfortunately taught by instructors who are not outdoor cyclists and don’t have a clue what proper technique is nor what the latest research is but rather crank it up so that the students sweat and think that they are “burning mega calories!”

  37. Darlene
    June 7, 2012
    5:48 pm #comment-37

    There are two camps: 1) the acrobatics-on-a-bike-training-camp (50RPMs – 160TPMs)
    and 2) the non-acrobatics training camp (60RPMs – 120RPMs)

    I’ve taken countless classes where the instructor goes from 0-60mph in 3minutes, stand for 45minutes, use legspeeds greater than 120RPMs with very little resistance, sitting AND standing (so that they look silly, and the rest of the class looks silly, too); sitting UPRIGHT with weed-wacker legs, butts bouncing in the saddle like popcorn), where sprints are 3-4minutes in length with legspeeds at 160+rpms. Up/down, up/down, back/forward, back/forward to the count of 2,3, and 4. Hovering with high gear. Pedaling BACKWARDS (with gear, of course), riding with NO Hands on the handlebars -hands behind the back sitting or standing. PUSH UPS.

    But that is the culture. Is it fun? Well, maybe (why not? Everybody is doing this!) Acrobatics on a bike. Pole dancing, anybody??!

    Jennifer, you really have some work cut out for you. Not just GXIs but GXManagers.

    Great topic you bring here!!!!!! Great reading!!!

  38. Darlene
    June 8, 2012
    5:24 am #comment-38

    oops, forgot about a couple of things: the first category/camp is ‘cool’ and very trendy.
    It is for those who are ‘hip’ and not afraid to be bold and make a statement.

    The second camp – believe it or not, there ARE people who actually prefer this type of
    training. Don’t give up. These people appreciate your efforts and don’t want to end up
    with an injury to their hip or knee. These people understand why they’re NOT pedaling at 160+RPMs with light resistances because they simply do NOT like the feeling of pedaling at breakneck legspeeds and bouncing all over th place; it simply doesn’t feel right.
    If this is what you’re teaching, Kudos to you. It is possible to make it safe, rewarding AND most of all, fun.

  39. Danny
    July 12, 2012
    5:38 pm #comment-39

    Hi Jennifer,

    The club I currently teach at is changing to Les Mills RPM- I am currently learning the format and feeling the knee pain from doing so=(

    I have to ride at 132 RPM for 1 1/2 minutes, many times in the 45 minute class -I am now feeling knee pain(which I never have felt before in the 11+years of indoor cycling and the 20 years of cycling) and I am seriously questioning how this will impact the members I teach.

    I cannot imagine that this is not blowing people’s knees out all over the world.

  40. Dino De L.
    November 29, 2013
    10:01 am #comment-40

    I have been teaching Indoor cycling since 1999, and I have been riding and racing MTB’s, C-X, BMX, some road since 1974. I am a indoor cycling instructor who teachs his classes to help cyclist improve their Cardio, Strength, and Endurance on the bike outdoors. I am so sick and tired of the wanna-be cycling Instructors who replace good hard training on the indoor bike with totally BS moves, like Push-ups, Pop corn Jumps, Standing climb with one arm tucked behind them. If your a cycling instructor who currently teachs a class, get a bike and go ride. See what it’s really like to climb a hill. So please quit polluting your class with alot of stupid moves, because you feel you will riders if you dont do something different in your class. So keep it real. Do you want the reputation as a tough instructor, or a instructor who does stupid moves on the bike, and PLEASE quit with this Karaoke Indoor cycliing classes, what a freakin joke.
    As I say in my class “Shut up and Pedal” or “PUSH”
    I teach 4 classes per week here in San Diego. I get alot of return riders who know they are coming for a gut busting, leg burning, calorie destroying workout. Plus I play awesome music.


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