Top 7 Ways to Grow as an Indoor Cycling Instructor in 2018

This article first appeared in 2016 and remains relevant and important for all instructors every single year. Happy 2018!

THIS is the year to challenge yourself to reach new heights in your indoor cycling coaching. It’s something we ask of our riders all the time; how about ourselves? What can we do to push ourselves, to take risks, to put ourselves out there in front of our students and announce to the world that we aren’t afraid of growth?

This will likely mean moving out of your own comfort zone.

Is this going to be the year you do it? Or are you going to settle back into the comfort of mediocrity and status quo?

Every time you ask yourself that question, rephrase it as one of the cues you might give on a challenging climb in one of your classes. For example:

Is this the moment you will challenge yourself to stay committed to this long climb? Or are you going to continue to do what you often do and hold back?

Remember, everything you want is on the other side of your comfort zone; let today be the day you cross it!

Will you join me in deciding that this year is going to be ridiculously amazing? I have a few ideas for you to stretch yourself this year—and stretching yourself is one way to ensure your year is better than ever before. Let me know in the comments what you plan on doing to grow!

Top 7 Ways to Grow as an Indoor Cycling Instructor in 2018

1. Expand your vocabulary to include more mind-body cueing.

This can be a little scary for new instructors, and even longtime instructors who have a reliable quiver of cues they rarely veer away from. If you think about the most famous and most quoted coaches from all different sports, they have amazing ways to get into the minds of their athletes to help them motivate themselves from within. This is a special skill and is one of the things that separates some of the best indoor cycling instructors from the rest.

You can become more inspirational! Be willing to stretch yourself to include mental strength coaching!

Read the following books: Flow in Sports, Body Mind Mastery, and Thinking Body, Dancing Mind

ICA has dozens of articles that provide inspirational mental strength and mind-body coaching cues for every situation you’ll find yourself in as an instructor, from describing the warm-up to pushing riders to exceed their limitations on hard climbs, sprints, or intervals. 

2. Incorporate music that is different than your regular music choices.

This can be a challenge if we tend to box ourselves into a corner with our own preferences, or what we think are our riders’ preferences. You never know if any of your riders are secretly wishing to hear a wider variety of genres.

I know for me, a professed pop-music grinch, playing more mainstream music has been my challenge. But thanks to the incredible music choices offered by contributors Kala, Jeanne, and Carole in the ICA weekly Mainstream Music Monday series, I’ve discovered many wonderful songs I would never have considered. I sprinkle a lot more pop music into my classes than ever before, and I admit, I have found I really enjoy some of it.

I bet I am in the minority and more instructors have the opposite problem…too much mainstream and not enough other genres that are often better to inspire intrinsic motivation, such as world, downtempo, psychedelic trance, etc. Whatever music genre challenges you, try it! You may discover a new world of music you hadn’t considered before, and a new connection with some of your riders.

I’m not saying play music you hate…you can’t be motivating if you hate the song. I’m just suggesting to be more open-minded!

A new series we’ve begun at ICA is called Step Outside Your Musical Box, in which we introduce instructors to other genres of music that are less often found in cycling studios.  

3. Ask your students to evaluate you.

This will really stretch you, but it might be the single best way for you to grow. You will learn how you are perceived, how your music is received, and whether your coaching is falling on deaf ears. You’ll also learn how many of your riders really love you but haven’t taken the time to tell you.  

Asking for student feedback also gives you the perfect opportunity to discuss why you avoid certain popular gimmicks if a rider requests them in their evaluation. 

Our coaching series by Cori Parks discusses the rider-centric approach of teaching and running a studio. Asking for feedback is one way to remain rider-centered.

Do this in a way that their responses are anonymous. I guarantee that you will be astounded at the results. Humbled perhaps, but also proud of yourself for being willing to learn and grow. Like a business desiring to improve its customer service through surveys, you are showing your riders you care about their needs, while also caring about their success in meeting their goals.

4. Teach off the bike more often.

I still hear from instructors who say they never get off the bike, and I just don’t get it. They say their students don’t like it. I know that riders like to see their instructor working along with them, but if you are coaching them well and guiding them to focus on their movement and not constantly on what you are doing, then they do not need to see you on the bike all the time.

There is a time and a place to get off the bike; to encourage them to commit, to correct poor form, to address poor setup, to inspire them to give a little more, to push them in a sprint, to gently suggest they hold back, to acknowledge excellent effort, to take their minds off of you and focus on what they’re doing, and so much more. Learn how to judiciously sprinkle on-the-bike coaching with off-the-bike coaching and you take a huge step up as a masterful cycling instructor.

(ICA has a five-part series on how to teach off the bike that includes how to teach an entire class, as well as how to most effectively get off the bike occasionally.)

5. Learn how to use social media to promote your class/program.

When used properly, social media is a fantastic way to create community and promote your class/program/event. If you are still resisting this amazing method of marketing, what is holding you back? Set up your own Facebook page just for your classes. There are correct and incorrect ways to utilize social media; you just need to learn what to do. There are many programs that teach businesses and coaches how to use various social media platforms to drive traffic to their product or service.

The Indoor Cycling Association can be found on Facebook here, and on Twitter at @sagecycling. I follow a lot of studios as well as individual instructors on Twitter and am impressed with the way that some instructors promote their classes, commend their riders for excellent effort and for showing up, share their music, announce when they are subbing or have a sub, and generally engage with their students. I bet many of their classes are full! 

(Note: The last Indoor Cycling Summit includes a session on social media for fitness professionals.)

We also want to invite you to join our Facebook group called Cycling Studio and Class Promotion Forum. It’s for studio owners, group fitness directors, and cycling instructors who want to learn more about promoting and growing their classes. Some are excellent at social media; feel free to ask for advice there!

6. Do no harm.

Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath when they finish medical school. There is no similar oath in the fitness industry, and unfortunately, there are few standards. But I wish there were more stringent guidelines. As fitness professionals, we have an obligation to know our craft and to make sure that we maximize results while minimizing risks. You really do need to know the exercise science behind what we do in our classes (see #7).

Even if you or your students aren’t outdoor cyclists, you must know the proper technique of riding a bicycle. Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t really riding a bike in an indoor class; that’s like saying you aren’t really “boxing” in a kickboxing class, not really “rowing” when on an indoor rower, or not really “running” when you are on a treadmill.

Make sure you aren’t resorting to gimmicks to keep your riders engaged. Stick to a foundation of the basics, fold in fabulous music, sprinkle in the fun, add a dash of excitement, and top it off with great coaching. Now that is the recipe for success!

7. Learn more physiology.

What we are doing on a bike is not rocket science, but it is exercise science!* I know it’s scary…but you need it! After twenty years in the industry as a master trainer, I would say the majority of instructors I have encountered do not know their physiology very well.

Is this you? It’s easily remedied! You don’t have to go back to school for it; you simply have to read relevant articles and take the appropriate workshops targeted to indoor cycling. Next time you go to a conference, make sure you are not just attending all the HIT classes for a great workout; register for the lecture on lactate threshold training!

The easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to learn just about everything you need to learn is to join ICA. There is simply no greater collection of workshops anywhere in the world that is this targeted at indoor cycling instructors. Not just about science (there are articles on every aspect of teaching), but the specific science that is so desperately needed in the industry. Especially when it’s taught in such an easy-to-understand way by our contributors.

Also, all throughout the Indoor Cycling Association content are articles on exercise science. 



Join ICA!

ICA will help you meet all your instructor/coach goals!

I’ve been in the fitness industry since the early 1980s, teaching indoor cycling since 1996, and training instructors since 1997.

I’ve traveled around the globe teaching instructors and taking and observing classes.

I have seen it all, and I promise you, there is nothing out there for instructors that provides as much educational and inspirational information and training advice on all topics instructors need as the Indoor Cycling Association, especially that is this convenient (no travel required!), and for such a low cost.

Every single item in the list above is addressed in the archives of the Indoor Cycling Association.

Now is the time to commit to making 2018 the greatest year doing what you love best: inspiring your riders to success! Join ICA and we’ll help you become the greatest version of yourself!


*I have to credit ICA contributor Bill Roach for that fabulous comparison!

One Response to “Top 7 Ways to Grow as an Indoor Cycling Instructor in 2018”

  1. Lynn Barrera says:

    Great insight. My 2018 goal is to learn more about exercise science #7! I am so glad I joined ICA last Spring and see true value in building your overall indoor cycling strengths and now I will be reviewing articles covering physiology. See you at the Top!

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