Just give me a chance, will you?

This past week I have been on the receiving end of a cold shoulder treatment from two ladies at the gym where I teach twice a week. I decided to write this short note as I know how personally I would take it in my early teaching days.

What am I talking about? Picture this: I teach at the gym twice a week. It’s a class with loyal regulars and a waiting list. This week I was asked to cover Paul who teaches on both days right before me. He has his loyal following too. We have very different teaching styles.

I got to the studio nice and early and set myself up. It was about 10min left before the class and people started to arrive. At this gym a member of staff stands at the door to the studio collecting tokens as the class needs to be booked. That means you do not enter and see the instructor face to face until you handle the ticket and walk in. You can however see who the instructor is through the glass door.

So this lady comes into the gym with a smile, is about to handle her ticket in then sees me through the glass and makes a hasty retreat. A couple of minutes later another one does exactly the same and promptly heads for the dance class saying something like: “It’s not Paul”.

Now with a 1,000 class taught including hundreds of cover classes I have been there before many times. But I used to take it personally and really get upset about it. When you are an instructor and people react this it is hard to take. If you are at the gym for the first time you want to say to them (and I did in the past): “Just give me a chance. If after the first 15min you think I am not good enough for you, you are free to leave.”

I do understand that there will be instructors you will not LIKE and it may not be personal at all – you like them but not their teaching style. And I am not condemning anyone. Here comes my confession: I used to do it… I had my favourite 2 instructors. I loved their music and their class structure. I knew I was going to enjoy my workout. Then on a couple of occasions I walked in, set myself up and … someone else turned up! A cover. I suffered through one class where I did not enjoy it and second time despite being ready and set up, as soon as the cover lady came in – I promptly left. Now I know what it feels like from the other side… Karma?

My point is: keep an open mind. But if you have tried a class with that instructor and it’s not the music or structure you enjoy try leaving with a quick smile rather than rolling your eyes and walking out with a huff.

I now take it on a chin and as much as I understand we all have our own teaching styles and personalities and musical tastes I personally would prefer if you could nicely give me feedback as per what is it that makes you leave. It may bring my attention to something I can work on or simply point out you don’t like my 90s music or the fact I teach partially off the bike.

What about you? As an instructor, would you like to know why people leave the studio as soon as they lay their eyes on you or do you believe “there’s plenty more fish in the sea”? And as a class participant, have you ever walked out on an instructor before they started teaching? What made you do it?

Indoor Cycling? Find the right fit and do it with class.

I recently wrote a guest feature on GymBox’s website about indoor cycling. You can read it here:

http://gymbox.com/blog/feature-indoor-cycling.

It’s about the 3 types of cycling classes GymBox offers. And that got me thinking about all the gyms across London where I have been teaching for the past 3 years.

WHAT IS OUT THERE? (LONDON)

Well, you have boutique studios with the Soulcycle-type of classes advertised as a whole body workout (weights, resistance bands etc), then you have studios which go much more into the real cycling style like Cyclebeat (https://www.cyclebeat.co.uk/) which is a cycling only facility with Keiser bikes and integrated digital display which sends you your results by e-mail after each class.

H2 (https://www.h2bikerun.co.uk/) in SoHo offers indoor and outdoor classes where you ride your own bike in the park with the instructor leading the session.

The top end of this spectrum in the city is Athlete Lab (http://athlete-lab.co.uk/) – a state of the art cycling studio using actual road bikes and a mind blowing digital display (at a mind blowing prices). It’s a training facility. Not a place to take classes.

Venturing out of central London you have Cadence in Crystal Palace which is a great facility with a bike shop & workshop and training rooms where you can test your FTP, VO2 etc but also take a WattBike class (http://www.cadenceperformance.com)

That’s all great but what about all the gyms where an average Joe goes?

WHAT ABOUT GYMS?

How do you know what’s behind that name on the timetable? “Spin”, “indoor cycling”, “V-Cycle”, “Tour de…”. How do you choose what is right for you? How do you know what to expect? Honestly? If the description is generic you can expect anything… It will all depend on the instructor. the only definitely consistent class would be Les Mills RPM.

Some gyms do the right thing and have different difficulty levels marked on the timetable: 2-3-4 stars but in real life do the instructors always know about what kind of level the class is supposed to be? Do they pay attention to it?

An average “spin” class can be very intimidating to someone who has never participated in one. And if your first one is really bad or well above your fitness level and you do not get guidance from the instructor, you may never be back.

I truly believe gyms should put on a couple of tailored classes to entice people in who would otherwise never be brave enough to try. Clearly described on the timetable and adhered to by the instructors.

INTRODUCTION TO INDOOR CYCLING CLASS

Every gym would benefit from a beginners’ class. I have had the proof of that when I decided to put on a 30min cycling clinic at one of the studios I have worked for until recently. Targeting people who have never done cycling classes it involved bike set up, riding technique, resistance & cadence introduction and a little practice in and out of the saddle. I was doing it right before an actual class so people had an option to stay for the class or not and come when they were ready. It was great! Neither I nor the participants felt the pressure that we were rushed, they had time to ask questions and as we would have 2-4 people at a time it was a non-pressure environment.

There could be a beginners’ programme that would be delivered over 4 classes. Otherwise just a normal 45min novice class would be beneficial.

SPECIAL POPULATIONS

Certain gyms have quite a few kids attending. A Virgin gym where I have a couple of regular classes, has a Kidz programme with a couple of classes for 10-15 year olds. It does not include cycling.

Through instructor forums I have come across family indoor cycling classes or classes purely run for kids. I love the idea but I haven’t seen that in any of the gyms I teach at. I know they do have youth classes on offer on an actual track at Lee Valley (http://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/london2012/velo-park/youth-activities/).

Talking about special populations, classes for silver foxes are a great way to attract older generation. I think London gyms and leisure centres are missing a trick here.

Finally, as the outdoor season ends we have the outdoor cyclists who are not interested in exercise classes. They want to train over winter to keep their form up but they want clear goals, tests, a whole programme. Some gyms are halfway there since they have brought in great bikes like the MatrixIC7 with a console providing the all important data to track your progress. In my opinion in a few gyms I teach at, a specialist cycling class would work a treat.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not about excluding people as in “only outdoor cyclists wearing lycra allowed”.  All that would be needed is a clear indication – BEWARE: you need to know why you are here, you may have 30min in the saddle non-stop, it will be goal focused and as much as it still can be fun it is geared toward achieving specific results at the end of the programme.

So far one gym chain I have spoken to is excited about incorporating a few weeks’ specialised programme that would go along a challenge that they run.

HAVE YOU DONE IT AT YOUR GYM? HAS IT WORKED?

I would love to hear from you if your gym runs any specialised indoor cycling classes. Whether you are a member or an instructor. If you created a programme and managed to get it approved, please share your story.