Image: Mark Gail, Washington Post
I’ve taken spin classes with a fair amount of instructors over the last year and a half. All have different approaches to the class, different music, and a different attitude. Some prefer to ride on a 45-minute hill, while some love intervals and sprints that fall in sync with their music. Some spend a solid 5 minutes warming up at the beginning of class, and another 5 stretching and cooling down afterward, while some just hit the ground running. But, I think that some things are paramount among all instructors, no matter what their style might be. Here is my list:
1) Change up your playlists.
This is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t think there is anything wrong with using the same playlist or CD for a few weeks or a month, as long as you vary the song order and sequences a bit. But listening to the same 10 songs for over 6 months? Not only is it boring, but it makes us feel like you don’t care enough to research a few new songs or listen to the radio once in awhile!
2) Encourage us
All teachers have a different approach to this: some will yell encouraging words while you’re sprinting, others will get off their bike and yell in your face like a drill sergeant to push harder. I like it all. Whatever your style is, be sure to cheer your class on a little – we’re all working our asses off and a few words of encouragement go a long way.
3) Slow down.
I know this probably sounds counter-productive in a spin class – we all want to pedal our wheels like hamsters on crack and beat our neighbors to the virtual finish line. That’s fine. But as an instructor, when you tell your class to pedal at a lower cadence, especially if we are climbing, and you continue to pedal your brains out, it makes us feel inferior. We understand that you are the child of Lance Armstrong, that you’ve been doing this a hell of a lot longer than we have, and that you’re in 200x better shape than we are, but stay with us at our pace. Cycling is a group effort, like dogs in a pack, and even though you assert yourself as the pack leader, there’s no need to leave us in the dust! Think of it this way — we feel like we’re all climbing this mountain, we aren’t really sure where we’re going, but we’re going there together.
4) Introduce yourself, ask if we need help.
I understand that fitness instructors get bogged down in the monotony of their jobs just like all of us, but please take the time to introduce yourselves to your class. When I took my first class, it was only the second time I had taken a group fitness class in my entire life. The first was at Club Fit when I was a teenager: I was overweight and my mom had given me a membership as a gift. I wasn’t familiar with the sign-up and reservation process, so I entered the spin room and sat down on a bike. A man came over to me and said, “excuse me – that’s my bike, you didn’t register.” I was so flustered that I ended up leaving and never going back! The latter is entirely my fault, but my point is that even though it might seem like you have the same students every week, you never know when your class will be someone’s very first spin class. I was lucky enough when I started at my current gym that the instructor was patient, helped me set up my bike, and explained the different positions we would be using during class. As an instructor, take the time to introduce yourself, and take a look around to see if everyone is set up correctly. I’ve seen people in a spin class whose seats were so low it looked like they were riding a tricycle. That’s not benefiting anyone – and I assure you that the pain that person feels in their knees the next day means they won’t be coming back!
Seems like second nature to most teachers – at least, it should. I understand that not everyone is a smiler, and believe me, I’m not exactly a peppy cheerleader myself. But when a class is finished spinning, there’s an endorphin high in the room, and people generally feel pretty good about themselves. Don’t just get off your bike and start packing up your things. I understand that sometimes you need to meet a client or you have another class to teach, but smile and tell us that we done good. And when we say, “great class,” don’t just grunt or mumble a quick, half-assed response. Say “thank you, good job today!”
Do you have a pet peeve about group exercise, or something you’d like to add?