Should Indoor Cycling Instructors Educate Our Riders? Part 1

At first I was confused by this question. As indoor cycling instructors, why would we not educate our riders?

As a rider, why would I not want to know more about how a class, drill, or movement was going to impact me?

It seems silly. There are times when we need to educate our riders to help them make corrections in their form or in how they are pacing themselves. Education can also provide great motivation to persist in what we are doing, knowing the ultimate short- and long-term benefits. Can you imagine working with a personal trainer and asking the purpose of a specific movement they are asking you to perform, only to receive the answer “I can’t tell you” or “That is not important”? Would we be willing to work out with a trainer who didn’t understand the impact a specific workout has on the body or on an individual with certain limitations? I don’t think so. So why would it be acceptable to omit education as part of the ride experience in an indoor cycling class?

However, if you were to peruse some of the online indoor cycling forums, it seems that many instructors don’t believe educating their riders is important because they believe it will bore their audience. Either that, or they have absolutely no idea what they are doing—or why they are doing it—and don’t want to admit it.

It is not acceptable to omit education as an instructor. Even that statement sounds weird. Anyone who takes pride in their role would not debate this. The real question is how do we educate our riders?

A Learner’s Heart 

The ability to appropriately educate as an instructor, regardless of the discipline, starts with the thirst for knowledge ourselves. The fact that you are reading this article as a member of ICA proves you have a learner’s heart. I love the open minds of our members, particularly on controversial topics. This demonstrates maturity and the ability to grow.

There is also a passion that coincides with being a learner. This passion will fill the room when it is our turn to teach. To date, the great instructors I’ve experienced always possessed an overwhelming zeal to share what they’ve learned and how it changed the way they ride. Education presented with excitement can provide immense inspiration.

It may sound strange, but I’ve found many people who only want to learn what they already know. I’ve gone to conferences and workshops where people attended certain sessions for a sense of identity and belonging and not the knowledge. The education given during these sessions was neither challenging nor evolving (and sometimes not correct).

Over the years, I’ve been asked to audit instructors and group auditions. I always listen for what an instructor is trying to teach me. Are they using education as filler? Is it accurate? Does it motivate me?

Educating is a Skill 

The skill as an educator lies in the ability to choose the right time and level of knowledge to teach. Often times, as indoor cycling instructors, we are teaching while riding ourselves. Considering our limited oxygen supply, what we say needs to be concise and to the point. We are also dealing with time constrictions. How much can we say on a topic when we have only 30 seconds to recover between intervals? On the other hand, some instructors seem to find all kinds of time to teach in-depth lessons on multiple scientific and training topics. I’m sure I’m not the only person who secretly desired the instructor would work at a higher intensity in order to abbreviate their educational diatribes.

Over the course of the next few weeks we will post some methods and tips for honing your teaching/educating skills. So as to not leave you hanging, here is a tip I firmly believe in: learn multiple ways to teach the same thing. 

This article originally appeared in November 2013.

4 Responses to “Should Indoor Cycling Instructors Educate Our Riders? Part 1”

  1. Gary Murphy says:

    Good article, Tom. Thank you.

  2. Basia Nowakowski says:

    I’m with Amber when I review my profiles. I’ve definitely had more than a few ‘what were you thinking’ moments in my 10 years of teaching.

  3. amber mirza says:

    I look back on my profiles and always think, “oh my god, how primitive”.
    ICA keeps me on my toes!

  4. kohagan says:

    I agree. Many instructors whether they teach cycling or other types of classes don’t really teach..they just give the participants a workout but don’t explain the how and why they should do what they are doing.

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