Renee laughs at the memory of Eileen walking into her first cycling class. “She had absolutely no interest in discussing why she had come to class, how to set up her bike, to talk power, or to hear my recommendations on how to make her ride more productive!” So, Renee returned to the instructor bike and hoped that by simply giving Eileen some space, it would allow her an enjoyable first-time experience.
This was Renee’s Shapurji’s home—her place of comfort. Week after week, she welcomes millennial to boomer-aged riders to this medically based, big-box club in Indianapolis. Some are strictly indoor cyclists, while others bring their outdoor riding inside for her periodized winter training program. Renee estimates that three out of five participants are riding with specific goals in mind.
Always wanting to apply the best practices to her own training, it is equally as important for Renee to offer the very best training principles through her rides. Education is paramount for her position as a lead cycling instructor. She attributes her early-career mentorship to Jennifer Sage as the impetus for wanting to learn everything she could about indoor cycling. This ultimately led to obtaining her master instructor level with Cycling Fusion. (And, trust me, she has ALL of the other real riding certifications in her repertoire as well!)
A solid training approach, personal connections, and education (and maybe occasional treats!) are key elements that keep Renee’s riders motivated. “They know they will not get the same old group fitness–oriented format. I’ve added power training, heart rate training, and threshold testing to our program. And I’ve taken them places through video rides and race simulations they’ve never been.” Her riders see, feel, taste, and know that she is vested in each of them.
Back to Eileen. Even though she remained biased toward running alone as the ultimate sport for a great mind-body connection, she continued to visit Renee’s classes.
Just months after Eileen’s first visit, Renee led her students through “Maya’s Courage,” a journey ride published on the Indoor Cycling Association website. The profile is built around the life and words of the late wisdom teacher, Dr. Maya Angelou. The objective of the profile leads riders to consider how they would complete this statement by the end of the ride: “When I imagine my life in the most energized way, I wish I had the courage to __________. ”
While the ride centers on courageous living, it also speaks directly to the fears we battle to accomplish living in such a way. Fears so strong and debilitating, they often crowd out the bold spaces we’ve worked so hard to establish. For some, the battle is completely overwhelming. Google research revealed that the number-one hit for completing the above statement was: “I wish I had the courage to commit suicide.”
When Renee shared this startling statistic to the class midway through her ride, the emotion in the room became inescapable.
The ride had to stop.
Renee paused the music. Riders dismounted their bikes. For the next 15 minutes, the cycling coach and her fitness friends surrounded and embraced one rider with all of their love. In this circle they would discover that just one year earlier, Eileen’s son had surrendered to his own courage-building battle.
When the music returned and the ride resumed, Eileen experienced a breakthrough. She recalls, “I think often about how that day and how that ride changed my life! It truly was an amazing feat of how cycling and its community can positively impact us.”
From marginally interested to deeply invested—Eileen now rides three times a week with Renee. Discussions about education, results, and averages have overtaken her fitness program with Renee. Blowing past last year’s heart rate training goals, this year she hopes to purchase her first road bike and take her indoor journey where it’s never gone before—to the great outdoors! All of this thanks to the encouragement of Renee and her cycling community.
Months later, Renee learned that Eileen’s four-year-old disabled grandson, Grant, was entering a contest to win a bike. Grant suffers from Gollier’s disease, which inhibits his mobility and motor skills, as well as his ability to eat solid foods. Renee took it upon herself to rally her fitness friends behind his endeavor, while also creating an awareness of this debilitating disease.
News spread quickly and donations poured in from near and far. But it wasn’t quite enough to win Grant his therapeutic bike. Just days later, Renee got a call from Eileen that caused her to almost drop her phone as she heard these words: “Grant got his bike!” Neither Renee nor Eileen has any idea who gifted Grant’s bike, but they feel confident it was through the connections of our worldwide cycling community. Now at the age of five, Grant is riding his therapy bike and seeing tremendous results.
Grant now realizes that the more food he eats, the more fuel he will have to ride his bike. His new appetite has added ten pounds to his frame and almost eliminated the need for a feeding tube. He speaks often about riding his green bike (and about his cycling hero Peter Sagan). His motor skills have shown remarkable improvement as well.
“THIS is the ride of my lifetime!” Renee humbly shared as she recalled Grant paying a visit to her class with grandmother Eileen. “As a cycling instructor, I would have had no idea how to interact and handle these life-giving opportunities without ICA being a guiding hand in my journey as a coach.”
Eileen has come full circle and now agrees with Renee about the benefits of cycling class. “We have indeed ridden a long way together and I’m so very grateful for it. I never thought there was anything better than running alone…now I think cycling together as a group beats it.”
Sit with Renee long enough, and the stories flow about those whose lives have been dramatically impacted through the pulses generated while pedaling in the midst of her “home.” She reminds every instructor that it is more than just proper pedaling form. Knowledge builds trust. Trust builds community. And community always flows to the benefit of another.
Renee teaches at the Community Healthplex in Indianapolis, Indiana. She stays in touch with her students both in and outside of the club. Be sure to visit and “like” her Facebook page, Ride Safe, Ride Strong.
All of your messages are so touching. I’m not alone and certainly don’t feel i did this alone. I learned and grew from YOU, all of You here. Reading your comments, your stories, how you handled situations professionally, studying your profiles and music ideas and soaking up all the education I can from the best instructors in the WORLD. We are all doing are part to touch people’s lives in so many ways. That is what ICA is all about. Keeping It Real in the delivery of authentic rides from our authentic, true selves. Thank you!
Oh Renee, what a moving story! Thank you for encouraging all of us to be the best instructors, the best students, the best people we can be. Keep on doing what you’re doing girl!
Bravo. A beautiful piece that captures the soul of a giving coach. Keep your light shining Renee. There is nothing more rewarding than the love and the
power of the community we build each day. Spot well deserved 🙂
Renee, I would like to communicate with you privately if I may. Could you email me at email@example.com?
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Renee. Brava!
This story brought tears to my eyes and rekindles the message of gratitude and fulfilment that this job brings to us. Ride on!
Yes it does Elise! We get far more than we give by this beautiful journey on a bike with others.
Beautifully said Elise!
Some people say they are great. Others just do great things!
A tip of the helmet to an inspiring person. Here’s to you Renee!
May you continue doing great things.
thank you alan for you words. The groundwork was paved by the many wonderful instructors here in ICA who have been my mentors on this road. I truly feel i have only done what many here also do on a regular basis. i am not unique. We all know the power of what we do otherwise we wouldn’t be joined as one community here. It’s all about Keeping It Real from within and delivering to those without.
thank you for your kind word, Stephen