I taught four spin classes a week my junior and senior years of college. In the winters, I would teach six a week because I trained the women’s volleyball and swim teams early in the morning. I loved every second of it.
The majority of the year I coached a lot of impressionable, young students. Later on, many reached out for advice on how to become an instructor. Since then, many have reached out to ask for tips and tricks to be a better instructor.
I will share some tips I give to newbie instructors because they are tips of which I am very passionate.
First of all, teaching is fun. You control the music; you are the motivator. But it’s more than that.
You can simply remain the cheerleader / screaming head pushing people to sweat, or you can strategically coach drills that will improve power, pedal stroke, strength, agility, endurance, speed, or alactic capacity.
In my opinion a good spin instructor should understand several things. They should now what rpm are. They should understand the various heart rate zones and how to train in them. This is key for structuring different rides. Furthermore, it is crucial to know how to have clients find their heart rate if they are not using a HR monitor. Finally, knowing how to cue good form and properly set up a bike is also essential, in my opinion.
Sadly, in today’s fitness market, inundated with spin studios, the fast-paced atmosphere of hiring instructors neglects these core values. Many studios do not even mandate a certification and just have candidates audition and train in that studio’s style for a few weeks.
In my opinion, if you are going to be exposed to ten to forty people a few times a week, capitalize on the moment to change some lives and make a difference. Be a better coach.
How? Here are four ways to be a better instructor no matter where you teach.
Side note: tips one and three can be applied to any coach.
1. Never stop teaching/coaching.
I took a year hiatus from teaching spin classes in 2013. My third class back to teaching in 2014 a woman approached me after class to say thank you.
“You bet, awesome job today,” I replied.
“No, thank you for teaching.” She said, again.
I must have looked as confused as I felt.
“You see, I have been spinning for 15 years, but I feel like I learned something today and I was thankful for your cues in form.” She said.
Never stop reminding people to keep good form. This helps prevent injury and improves overall athleticism.
Cues to note (don’t necessary try and teach them all in one class):
-light hands on handle bars
-pull your inner thighs in
-relax the shoulders and face
-slight hip tilt forward in position two is okay
-lift up through the core, soft c-curve in the low back
-glutes tucked under
Here’s the deal, if you have a lot of regulars, that is great. If that is the case, then you are probably thinking that cueing is dumb or a waste of time, (because they are all so great they could teach the class). But, they are not the teacher; you are.
YOU are responsible for their learning, their continuing education and achievements. Set new goals for them (i.e. hold speed for 25 seconds instead of 15).
Change intervals for them every few weeks. In example, give a preview before class saying that this week I am coaching 25 seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest. Next week we will be doing 15 on 30 off.
Or, rather, you could say, “this week we are doing more hill work. We are going to work hard to build endurance and hold higher resistances for longer songs.”
Whatever it is, try and teach something–and make it purposeful.
The take home point is, even if you have a class of 40 regulars, their future and their athleticism can be in your hands, if you let it. You have the power to further motivate and inspire through meaningful work sets.
Make your clients feel like they are improving every class by cueing form at appropriate times and teaching purposeful drills.
2. Plan your drills
This is easy if your studio plans the rides for the week.
Monday: hills day,
Thursday: intervals interval rides,
Friday: mixed ride instructor’s choice
But, if this is not the case then you have the power do something purposeful.
I like to first give an overview of the ride profile before I start. I may state that there will be more hills than sprints. Or, say, “this is an endurance ride,” etc.
I give a preview in the beginning of each song too. I try my best here. It can be hard, but as simple as saying, “We are going to do 3 sets of 15 seconds speed in “running with resistance” (position 2), then 10 seconds of speed in a climb (position 3), 10 seconds rest in the saddle.” Say it. Then I may add, “after that we will do 15 seconds 80% max speed in the saddle, 45 second recovery, and then start over.” Just explain it.
It could be simply saying, “We have four, 20 second sprints.”
If it is a five minute song and you are climbing the whole time, provide benchmarks and explain why you are doing it in this part of the ride etc.
3. Use visualization.
Remember why spinning began– cycling is a real outdoor sport. Thus, I always imagine there is one professional or avid cyclist in my class. How would they use this drill out on the road… would they?
Using visualization plays into the outdoor rider’s mind– big time. Tell them to look up at the hill in front of them– they have to see it to feel it (with the resistance knob). Tell them to spot the other riders out in front of them whom they WILL be passing during the pick-up, for example.
I give disclaimers, often because in studios where the instructor is supposed to intermittently use light weights, it is important to make clients (especially outdoor riders) aware and let them know they absolutely are not obligated to follow along.
“See it; own it; conquer it.” I’ll often say.
This can be a powerful motivating tool.
4. My trick for teaching without a clock
There’s nothing worse than the teacher yelling, “fifteen more seconds!” To then let forty-five seconds go by. Counting while exercising, breathing and cueing is tough. Looking over at an iPod is hard too.
But before I give away my trick, I will say I am usually pretty accurate at counting down after teaching so many classes at Shred415, I can still see that clock ticking down.
But, if counting is hard for you here’s my trick:
Let’s say you pick a song that is three minutes and thirty seconds. Play the song before class. How many times is the chorus played? Four times?
You will do four work sets.
How long does the chorus last, twenty seconds…?
You will do four sets of 20 second sprints.
But wait, the fourth chorus is longer?
You say, “Alright team, for the fourth sprint/pick-up/resistance increase, etc. we are going to go a little harder (or a little longer). Make it count!”
Now this way, you know that the sprint, (pick-up or period of holding higher resistance at a constant speed) is perfectly timed to the chorus (when music generally picks up) and ends when the chorus slows down and ends.
This tip makes for good vibes because it’s like dancing– you go with the beat and you get faster when the song does.
Another example would be doing an isolation movement out of the saddle (removing the bounce/upper body swing) when a song slows down.
For all you new instructors, old instructors, or aspiring instructors, I hope this helps!
Capitalize on your moment, your hour, to change some lives or teach someone something new!