In their book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, the Heath brothers describe how certain experiences leave a lasting impact and change us. After reading the book, I was inspired to share my story. As many indoor cycling anecdotes do, this one also takes place in a dark room, on a bicycle going nowhere.
I’m starting with the end of the story first—an actual email I received from one of my class participants:
Thank you so much for giving all of us a great start to our Valentine’s Day. The class was amazing, the energy was contagious, and the overall happy feeling was a great way to start any day. The stress balls with the adorable message with chocolate and necklaces were all an added bonus. You throw a fabulous 5:30 a.m. party. Congratulations on 10 years of Spinning success.
Which part are you most curious about?
Now let me tell you how we got there…
I taught my first indoor cycling class at 6:45 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2008, at a club in the suburbs near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was absolutely terrified and physically nauseated. Six people attended, for which I was grateful (simultaneously grateful that anybody at all showed up and that the class was small). I would come to repeat the “love” story in my class every year around Valentine’s Day: how I started attending indoor cycling classes in college (and didn’t like the very first one!); how I found inspiration in a dark room on a bicycle going nowhere; how I felt so passionate that I obtained my certification but was unsure I wanted to teach; how one of my instructors encouraged me to audition; how my first class was on that holiday evening; how I found a true “love” for coaching and helping others achieve their own goals; how it had changed my life.
Over the years, I compiled a playlist with matching Valentine’s-themed music (songs about love, hate, and even sugar). Many of my riders came to expect the class in mid-February (I affectionately labeled the profile a ride they “loved to hate”). For over nine years, I taught at that very same club where I had been a participant. In 2017, a brand-new facility opened in the same local area. I had auditioned and was offered a chance to instruct, so I left the club where I got my start. Several of my riders joined the new club; many stayed at the old one.
This year as the holiday approached, I realized the 10th anniversary of that meaningful first class would also fall (say it with me) exactly on Valentine’s Day. “What are the odds of this happening again?” I thought. Feeling somewhat uneasy asking to be the center of attention, but also having a desire to commemorate this accomplishment, I asked my studio manager (whom I had only known a few months) if I could celebrate the achievement with a themed ride. She said yes. Then I asked if we could invite non-members from my previous club. She said yes! We created an event: a 10th anniversary celebration of me sharing my love of indoor cycling with my riders, and paired it with an express yoga class immediately following. Start time: 5:30 a.m.
I enjoy party planning and treated it like a real party:
- Sent out email invitations and asked for RSVPs (also helpful since my studio manager needed non-member names for guest passes; we reserve bikes and this is a studio of 60 bikes).
- Ordered party favors and created take-home bags. Contents: a red heart-shaped squeeze “stress ball” (coincidentally February is American Heart Month) and a few pieces of dark chocolate (also good for the heart!). The clear plastic bags were sealed with custom stickers that read, “From My Heart to Yours: Thanks for being the reason I love to cycle. – Jackie.” Of course the stickers had a little heart and indoor bike on them. I distributed red and purple beaded necklaces.
- My playlist included songs from that first class in 2008 as well as those “holiday” songs.
For the first time since I had begun teaching there, we had a waitlist for bikes at 5:30 a.m.! Class was full, as was my heart as I saw old friends—riders I hadn’t seen for months—take their bikes alongside my new regulars. There wasn’t enough time to hug them all.
During the ride I highlighted memories we had shared over the years: the time the power went out; the time we had to evacuate the building; the time I taught class at 39 weeks pregnant and then went straight to the hospital in labor! The class, like the years, seemed to pass quickly. At the end of the ride, I read this quote from Maya Angelou:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I have photos, texts, and emails to document the festivities; my participants posted on social media so I can revisit the memories. More importantly, I know I will never forget how I felt that day.
Whether you want to celebrate your own milestone or someone else’s, how might you create these meaningful shared experiences for your class participants? Can you share in the comments ways that you’ve done this with your riders? We’ll compile them all into a follow-up article to provide studios and instructors ideas for future events.
Items listed in this article:
Custom stickers from Etsy (shop: Orange Valentine)
Smiley-face heart-shaped stress balls from Oriental Trading
Caricature gift from my participant: Caricatures by Courtney
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact on Amazon
Hi, Jackie, great article, great vibes, and apparently great memories and thoughts (&, from VERY FAR away, our love)
Almost as great as when a visiting parent comes to class, Dad!
Thank you Petey!
Jackie, this is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing! I look forward to my classes every week and I hope that I would have the same following throughout my cycling career! You Rock and then some! (But you already knew I was a huge fan!) Hope you and the kids are well! Lots of Love, Sam
Sam, thank you so much for reading and commenting! I love following your “Percolator” Facebook group posts – your passion for it shows and will continue. We are still overdue to catch up!
Lovely story. Just hearing it told me.