10 Instructor Tips To Convert Indoor Cycling Newbies Into Regulars (Part 2)

And here come the other 5 tips 🙂 as a follow up to the previous post that you can read here.

  1. 1:1 ATTENTION

It can be challenging if you have more that 3-4 beginners especially if they are dotted around the studio. I encourage new people to sit in front by saying:

“No point in going to the back to hide – I walk around so I will see you anyway 🙂 If you sit in front you can see me clearly and I can give you corrections. Plus it’s scientifically proven that you burn 25% more calories in the front 3 rows because you are trying to look good! But it’s your choice 🙂

If this is your first class your mission is to ENJOY THE MUSIC and make sure you feel like you are DOING SOMETHING. If your breathing is changing and you are sweating – you’re doing the right thing. The rule is: FEELS LIKE NOTHING – YOU ARE DOING NOTHING”

The balancing act of giving attention to those who need it most – read: beginners – without the others feeling like you have abandoned them is a tough one. And I will be honest with you, I can’t imagine doing that from my bike. I have to get off and walk around.

I almost always have a long endurance track in my profiles 6-9min. I tell people what they need to do. Clear and simple:

“80-100RPM, steady tempo, RPE7. Resistance high enough so you have to fight a bit for your chosen RPM. If you are doing it right in the next 3min you will hear your breathing and a puddle of sweat will start forming under your bike. If none of these is happening – adjust your resistance or speed.”

These are perfect to switch the mike off and walk around. When I see beginners struggle (especially with no consoles) I describe with more detail how they should feel. then ask them: “Ok personal challenge for you: when the clock gets to 0:30 you push harder for 30sec then back off. Then again”.

I prefer this to saying: do whatever you feel like you can do, listen to your body etc. Let’s be honest, if you have never done this and it feels hard your body will tell you one thing – THAT’S TOO HARD. TAKE IT EASY. LET’S STOP FOR CRYING OUTLOUD!

I still want them to feel like they are taking the class and not doing their own.

Make sure however that every minute or two you say something to the whole group so they know you are still with them.

  1. PERMISSION TO STAY SEATED
Cyclist with stuck seat.

Cyclist with stuck seat.

The only thing I always allow first timers is to stay seated the whole class. Yes, it makes it more uncomfortable on the bum but some people really need to build some base pedalling technique and get an understanding of resistance to stand up.

“When we stand up, feel free to try. Remember you always need to add resistance before you do stand up. When you get up if you feel out of control or it feels awkward, try adding resistance. If it still feels wrong or you’re not sure what I want from you – just stay in the saddle”

  1. CUEING – VISUAL & VERBAL

When you are not used to loud music with instructor talking over it, and you have this resistance knob to think of then keeping up with the beat, breathing and staying alive all at the same time makes understanding the instructor one thing too many. And if people around start doing different things it can all get too much for a beginner.

As an instructor use your face, exaggerated movements, point to elbows, knees, get off and mimic pedal stroke from the side. Do anything to get your message across.

Choose your music wisely to help yourself – get some instrumental tracks giving you space to explain stuff.

Get them ready: my warm ups always have a flat fast track first to cue the form. Then there is a slow hill to cue the standing form. Don’t get into a standing run straight away.

  1. CONSOLES/POWER METER

Do you remember your first spin class as a participant? I lasted about 2min. There was no set up. We went into a crazy speed (or I did at least, I had no clue and no direction) straight away. I left and it took me almost 2 years to try again. That was on an old school bike and I used to cycle outdoors as a kid.

Nowadays we have great bikes with monitors. Yesss! Or is it? Some of them have bright colours and all of them have sh******* of numbers on them! Imagine how the first timer feels walking into a studio with 45 bikes, loads of people wearing lycra, some funny noisy shoes, punching loads of data into the bikes, and they all seem to know what they are doing…

When I get complete beginners and I have consoles like on MatrixIC7, I do not set them on coach by colour. I leave the basic screen on with only the basic data. And I explain that they can go by the beat or by RPM (I ride to the beat most of the time, with options for those in-the-know 🙂 ).

“Top left hand corner is your speed. I will give you a direction like 80-90 or 64-66RPM and you can either check your numbers or if it is too much, you just listen to the music. It’s the same thing. Top right is your resistance. You start around 20%. Every time you add or take off you just feel a slight difference in your legs and match the beat.”

On other basic consoles I only use RPM.

  1. FEEDBACK

I always give group feedback in the cool down as we ride out for 1-2min.

“Congratulations to the first timers! It wasn’t easy. Reality check: it never gets any easier, you just push harder (wink wink)”.

Then I give 1:1 when necessary or when I get a chance. Good, bad and the ugly. It makes people realise you care and you actually watch them work. Even if they were in the back row.

These are my tips. Anything that you could add? Any tried and tested methods?

 

 

10 Instructor Tips To Convert Indoor Cycling Newbies Into Regulars (Part 1)

This post has been inspired by one on ICA page which you can read here if you are a member (and if you are an indoor cycling instructor but not a member I would recommend you become one).

It’s about the challenge we group exercise instructors face when new people come to our classes. And this topic is extremely relevant as January approaches and the New-Year-Resolution-Stampede is about to take place.

Queues outside the studios, face offs, cat fights for the bikes, the regulars getting peeved that THEIR bikes are taken, etc. It is always fun. You know it will last 3-5 weeks and things will be back to normal though.

"I'm really serious about exercising. Last year I only went to the gym twice, once to join and once to renew."

“I’m really serious about exercising. Last year I only went to the gym twice, once to join and once to renew.”

 

But wouldn’t it be nice to actually convert some of these newbies into regulars? As an instructor you only have those first 2-3 classes (sometimes only that first one) to leave an impression positive enough to make people stick with the classes throughout those first tough few weeks.

Here are my 10 tips that will help you do just that. And they apply to both January Madness and any other time of year. Oh, and yes, you ALWAYS get a new person (or a couple) in each class throughout the year but in January 30% of your group may be people who have never been on an indoor bike.

This post includes 5 and further five are coming next.

  1. BIKE SET UP

If you don’t pay attention to the set up and don’t instil its importance in the participants from day one, you risk them getting into bad habits at best and not coming back EVER at worst.

Do you remember how much your backside hurt the fist time? Or second? Or really until you started doing 3 classes a week or more? It can put you off completely. Therefore make sure you take time setting the bike up so they suffer for all the right reasons only 🙂

TO DO THAT YOU MUST ARRIVE TO YOUR CLASS AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE…

I also finish classes saying:

“Your butts are going to hurt. Maybe not today but tomorrow. You can’t help that. Don’t sit on hard surfaces. If you have another 5-10min stretch properly outside the studio so you can at least save your legs”.

“Give yourself 2-3 classes with different instructors, different times of day before you decide if you hate spin or not”.

2. BEGINNERS HANDOUTS

I have a great hand out that gives advice about shoes, clothes, bike set up etc plus included my contact details in case they have questions. I give these out at the end of the class.

I encourage new faces to come early or stay a bit after the class to check the bike and put down the numbers on the hand out. They can then transfer them onto their phones so next time they come they can set themselves up. It gives them more confidence in the second class.

3. GET FAMILIAR WITH THE BIKES – MAINLY RESISTANCE

I encourage people to use the studio (if the gym permits it, or bikes on the main floor) when there are no classes. Now they know their set up, they can ride with their own music and play with that resistance trying to keep the beat.

As a rule every time I have a complete beginner I ask them to turn the resistance all the way down and see how that feels. Then to keep turning it right until their legs can’t move. Now they know both ends and have a better idea how hard it can get I say:

“We will never be working at any of these points in the class. Ever.”

4. CLASS PROFILE

Be prepared with your profiles in January. Have enough variety to choose from. You don’t want the first timers to think the classes are boring just because they don’t yet understand the intensity and resistance, nor do you want them to leave with an impression they are not fit enough to come regularly.

At the same time you want to keep your classes challenging with your regulars in mind. Can it be done? Ideally there would be some introductory classes on the timetable but hey, we don’t live in a perfect world.

  • beware of long endurance classes where 70% or more of your class is in the saddle – they can come across as boring to new people so make sure you choose some interesting tracks with clear beat
  • power intervals – I would wait with these for a couple of weeks
  • testing – yeah, wait…
  • mixed workouts will work best: in and out of the saddle, speed & resistance variation
  • long endurance tracks (around 7min) are great though giving enough time to settle into a pace and resistance

5. MUSIC

No, you will not please everyone but my advice would be to choose music with clear beat even if you have bikes with consoles showing RPM. Keeping an eye on the console and on you at the same time may be too much to ask. If you always teach with the beat they can keep an eye on you.

Choose your music wisely – get some instrumental track giving you space to explain stuff.

My warm up always have a flat fast track first to cue the form. Then there is a slow hill to cue the standing form. Don’t get into a standing run straight away.

The remaining 5 tips coming up next.

 

 

 

 

 

I really hope he did get it this time

I thought I was going to update you on the story that I have described here and the dilemma I faced as an instructor. It’s about that gentleman that insists on riding every single class out of the saddle. Full 45min. Only gets off maybe once to refill his bottle.

I would only see him once every few weeks as I was sharing this class with another instructor so it really almost felt like a cover class. Which links well with yesterday’s post which you can read here.

Long story short: the guy is over 50, has had blood pressure and weight problems. The only class he likes is spin but he doesn’t want to sit even for a second as it hurts his bottom hence from warm up to cool down he would be standing. I could accept it if his technique was good but it was really bad: straight elbows, straight knees, not much resistance. As a result he was not achieving his goal which was cardiovascular workout as he wasn’t even getting breathless.

He wouldn’t accept my advice so against all my professional instincts I simply ignored him. I stopped correcting him. I focused on the rest of the group.

Then today was my last class at that place. The gym was empty – only two people on the floor. 5 people taking Bodypump class. Then when I got into the studio to set up, it tuned out it was only me and the aforementioned gentleman.

I had to revert to plan B: there was no point trying to do any speed work or intervals so the only choice was hills. I also moved my bike next to him so he had a mirror on the left and me on the right. I didn’t bother with the mike and turned the music a bit down too.

Now 1:1 class has happened to me before and it’s a great chance to put that person through their paces but it wouldn’t work here so I suggested something else: “How would you feel if we did 2 songs on the bike and then to give your legs a break we would do some core work on the floor?” He agreed. Yes!

I won’t walk you through the class step by step but I hope it was an eye opener for him. I was on the bike next to him doing what I was asking him to do and huffing and puffing with my legs getting heavy but his breathing was stable. I was gently trying to coach him and motivate him to add resistance but after years of “switching off” in classes and just doing between 55-60RPM on little resistance regardless of the music, it wasn’t going to change.

But! When I got him to do some planks, Russian twists, screen wipers etc on the floor, boy did that HR change! It looked like getting on the bike was to get some rest…

The 45min flew by and he enjoyed it. He worked up some serious sweat and his breathing finally was challenged. It’s a shame there isn’t a mixed class like that on a timetable.

It also proves that people sometimes think: cycling is a cardiovascular exercise so if I get on that bike REGARDLESS  of what I do and how fast I pedal and where my resistance is, it’s a CV workout. If only they listened, switched on for once and tried something different to get that penny dropping moment.

The message will not get across when you talk to them though, they have to be willing to do the work your way to FEEL and EXPERIENCE the difference.

Confessions of a Cover Girl

I came across this picture on FB today. In the UK we say “cover” rather than “sub”, at least in the world of group exercise. There was a question to go with that picture:

Do you think our students in a cycling class sometimes do the cycling version of this with a sub? “When she says stand and climb we’ll all sit and sprint, pass it on!”

Covering classes has many aspects. I will just mention 4 here.

WHY DON’T THESE PEOPLE FOLLOW?

Thankfully I have never had a whole group completely ignore my instructions but it’s very common for a few people do it especially in the first few minutes of the class.

Reasons for people doing their thing in the warm up? They are used to their regular instructor and just like I do mobilisation and warm up routine without thinking, so do they. They are on autopilot. And or they know what they normally do works for them and they may not know where you are going with yours.

Why do people do their own thing later? You say speed endurance in the saddle, they go for a standing power interval etc.

Ok, if you are covering and your class seems to be going in a completely different direction to where it normally does people who are stuck in their way, or to put it politely like to keep their routine, want to do what they normally do.

I always say before we start what they class is about, what the focus is etc. I say that we will have 4 rounds of… or it’s all about form and speed today or it’s hills today. I think it gives you a clear picture what you will be getting and what you want.

It can be a double edged sword 🙂 In one of my classes I said: “Today we will be focusing on form and endurance so no sprints today”. To which came a very angry response from the front row: “What? Why? How can you not have sprints?!”

When you cover a class you need to pick your battles: do you have enough information what the group is used to? Enough time to explain how you can get fitness benefits from endurance work? What if the regular instructor says to go all out every time?

I go with my plan and then if someone is interested I have a conversation with them about my reasons behind the class structure.

PEOPLE LEAVE THE STUDIO AS YOU ENTER IT

I mentioned it in this blog already on other occasions: I have done it myself not giving a second thought to the instructor’s feelings.

Story from last week: every Tuesday I have a 6:45am class then go home and do whatever I need to do then I teach a double class in the evening. But last Sunday I got an e-mail from a desperate instructor who contacted 52 people on the cover list for a gym and nobody could help him on Tuesday lunchtime with a double class. So I said I would do it. Making it 5 class Tuesday…

First class went without drama. 15min to the start of the second one. The door to the studio was made of glass so as I was walking around chatting to the first 3 people in as they were setting their bikes I can see a couple of guys walk up to the door, then look at me and see their faces fall followed by a look of consternation. I could hear what they were thinking: Oh no! It’s not Sandro. WTF… Should we go and do some weights? I waved at them, walked towards the door and as they hesitantly opened it I said: “Guys, don’t knock it until you try it. It will be fine. Sandro trusted me enough to ask for cover so trust me I will do a good job”. They were not convinced: “But last week he asked someone and it was shit! Oh man… Is it going to be the same style as Sandro’s?”. I said: “Give me 10min. And if you think this is shit, you leave. Deal?”. They agreed. It was a risk as my warm up track was 8 min… 🙂

Long story short – they stayed to the end and gave me good feedback. I was asked by a couple other people if I teach a regular class at that gym but it wasn’t all trumps and funfair. A couple of guys left 15min into the class. I didn’t take it personally. It was a strength endurance class – not everyone’s cup of tea. Which leads me to the next point:

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR CLASS PROFILE FOR A COVER?

I will teach the hardest class ever. I will show them what a bad ass instructor I am! Right? Not necessarily…

Do you ask the regular instructor what they normally teach? Ask about the sound system, mike and bike type but also what type of group that is. Do people ask me? Not often. Do you always teach intervals? Do you ever play long tracks like 7min? What music do you play? Still it’s always better to be prepared with plan B.

I was recently told that the place I was to cover at had bikes with consoles, My Ride software and it was mainly cyclists. I got excited and prepared a good VO2 max intervals profile. Then as I arrived (thankfully much earlier) it turned out the consoles only showed RPM and HR. There were 3 people in the group of 25 who had cycling shoes and looked like could be cyclists but when I mentioned thresholds, VO2 & power they looked at me like I was an alien. Then I had 2 complete beginners who have never been on the bike and came 30sec before the class started and about 10 people who didn’t seem to have much clue about RPM.

Such a diverse group is normal but I knew that my planned profile was out of the window. Thankfully I always have with me 3-4 others suitable for various levels that I know like the back of my hand and can use them as and when.

HOW MUCH DO YOU CARE ABOUT PARTICIPANTS IN THE CLASSES YOU COVER?

This is tricky. I always do care about people I teach even if I think I may never see them again. If they have a really bad form I will correct them, I always go through the bike set up etc. but…  I covered a class a year ago. I did that on 3 consecutive weeks. People in there had no clue about bike set up and their postures have clearly never been corrected. I was horrified. But I ended up practically criticising them for 45min…

I realised at the end of the class that nobody was smiling and I was exhausted. And a week later when I came into the studio one woman was already there and greeted me with: “Oh no!” and left. That was a tough lesson in letting go: you cannot correct a lifetime of bad habits in one class and if you correct too much you will put people off.

Anything you want to share?

“Don’t call me baby.You got some nerve, and baby that’ll never do”.

There is so much to think about when you are a group fitness instructor: you create a class profile, scour iTunes for music & make sure it all makes sense. Then there is the practical side: remember your kit, your shoes, iPod, back up CDs, mic shields, every type of batteries under the sun, water bottle, beginners’ hand outs, pens etc.

You arrive at the gym and two bikes are broken and the class is fully booked, mic is not working, you find the electric fan DOA. Life happens 🙂 I am not complaining. Nobody made me do it.

But only once you start teaching the class, that’s when the REAL challenge begins. You are facing anything between 1 to 50 people. All individuals with different expectations.

We have all heard the famous: “you cannot please everyone” and it is true. Not with your musical taste, class structure etc. But I want to focus on something else today: client/participant approach.

Say what? Well, how do we refer to the people who came to take our classes, how do we come across? Are we aware of that? Do we ask for/get any feedback?

Today I had a girl in my class whom I have never seen before. She came 15min early and she was very clear and vocal: “I take 4 classes a week. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But not on Wednesday. I cannot stand the teacher. She keeps calling me “sweetheart”! I told her my name is Georgia and I am not her sweetheart but she kept doing it!”

It can be a struggle to be friendly and approachable but not condescending. Especially if you are not sure if people didn’t hear your advice or just decided to ignore it. And if they did – was there a reason for it?

That is why trying to develop a rapport with your groups is so important. I know, I know: what about the places where you get new people every class? I make it a point to be at the studio and set up 15min before a class. If I teach on a weekend it is sometimes 30min.

This gives me the precious time to walk around, give 121 attention, get people’s attitude sussed out: are they going to be receptive or they already know it all? Will they laugh at a joke?

I also try and stay there for 10min after a class for the same reasons. And believe me, walking around the studio during the class helps too. Sometimes you keep repeating a cue: “Shoulders down. Elbows in.” but the person you are directing it to doesn’t react. But when you go by and gently tap their elbow or shoulder – they do.

I personally don’t like when people I don’t know call me honey, sweetheart, babe, whatever. I do my best to avoid it when referring to people in my classes.

I also tend to say before the start: “If you hear me say NO BOUNCING for the 15th time and you feel like you may throw your bottle at me if I say it again – I am fully aware of how many times I have repeated it. There is a reason for it: someone is still bouncing. Look around: if you can see nobody bouncing – IT IS YOU!”

I also have my feedback forms that I give to people about once a year where I ask about my catch phrases, any pet peeves etc. Then I sit down with a glass of wine and go through them andI know what needs work. The forms (even if e-mailed) often work better that face to face conversation as people won’t always tell you in your face what negative points they find in your teaching.

How do you get your feedback? How do you refer to your participants? Are you good with names? How well do you know your regulars? Do you ever meet socially outside the gym as a group? I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

5 Ways to Keep You Active Over the Cold Months

The dark times are upon us. I am no Stark but the winter is coming 🙂 We all could do with a cunning plan top keep us going to the gym even with the uninviting weather.

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PAIR UP – FIND A GYM BUDDY

This seems to be the best solution for so many people. When the alarm goes off and you are so tempted to snooze or just switch it off the one thing that will make you get up is the though of your friend waiting or you at the gym. And whether it is about not allowing them to get fitter than you 🙂 or simply not letting them down – it works. Be wise choosing one though. It’s great to train with someone who is on similar fitness level or even better – fitter than you. It will be a great motivation. if you are easily persuaded NOT to exercise, ensure your buddy is the opposite…

HAVE A LONG TERM GOAL FOR AFTER THE WINTER

Signing up for a race, be it running or cycling, is a great way to keep you on track. Especially if you had to pay an entry fee!

LET’S GO OUTSIDE!

WHAT??!! I hear you say. Yes, you have heard me right. In my running days cold and crispy mornings were the best for running. But if you are not into running or cycling outdoors, try one of the boot camp outdoors classes. BMF (British Military Fitness) run classes all over London’s parks. The first one is free. Try it. If being trained by a soldier is a bit too much to handle, there are many other outdoors classes to choose from. There is a great option for women: classes run by women instructors for women participants. Check out Fit For a Princess here. You can pay membership or drop in and pay in cash.

The benefits of exercising outdoors are immense: fresh air, boost to the immune system, no gym smells and a great sense of achievement at the end of each class.

To find something that suits you go out to your local park one morning and see what’s on offer.

TAKE ON A GYM CHALLENGE

Like the one I am running: Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge where you have to complete 50 classes in 120 days starting from 1 November. You can get more details here. Even more is coming up in the next week. Both here and on my FB page.

THERE IS AN APP FOR THAT

There are so many apps out there that I can see people use. My personal favourite is 100+ push ups. Browse the web, ask people at the gym when you see them use one. Have you already found one worth sharing? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

When it comes to indoor cycling try Ride Buddy from Cycling Fusion link here.

If you train on MatrixIC7 bikes they have their own Coach by Colour app. Some rides are free some you have to pay for but if you like training with colour zones but you feel a bit lost without instructor’s guidelines, this is a great alternative (here).

Another one worth checking out is Peloton app for iPads here.

Some of these are free others are not. The other option would be using YouTube videos or training videos that you can stream. But there are hundreds out there. Not all of them are great. Sufferfest are really, really good: great quality, easy to follow instructions but boy are they hard! This is the real deal guys. The clue is in the name…here.

Have you tried any of these? Has it worked for you? Any recommendations?

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge is back!

The weather in London has been gorgeous this week but I cannot deny the fact that when I get up and walk to the gym for my two morning 6:45am classes it is pitch dark. And we know things will only get worse. The temperature will drop, the heating in the house will come on and it will get harder to make yourself go to the gym especially if you are not training for anything in particular.

That’s why last year, inspired by a post from a fellow instructor on one of the online forums, I organised Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge. It was such a success that we are doing it again this year! I only started mentioning it this week in my classes and I already saw the word spread on Twitter.

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Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle Smart Challenge – what is it about?

The challenge will run from 1 November till 28 February which makes it 120 days. In that time challengers need to complete 50 classes. There are two options here: you can do 50 indoor cycling classes or 25 indoor cycling and 25 any other classes on the gym timetable WITH ANY INSTRUCTOR. It makes 3 classes a week over these 4 months.

Who can take part and how to enter?

Anyone who takes part in my classes, of course but also if you are my FB or this blog’s follower you are welcome. I will need you to: like the FB page Smart Fitness Izabela Ruprik here,  send me a message with your e-mail address so I can send you the progress chart and then follow me on here, FB and/or Twitter. PLEASE NOTE I WILL ONLY USE YOUR E-MAIL TO SEND YOU WEEKLY UPDATES ABOUT THE CHALLENGE. NOTHING ELSE. Once the challenge is over you will not receive anything else via e-mail from me without your permission.

What else do I need?

You will need a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timely. I provide you with the last one: 120 days. You need to find the rest. It can be related to cycling or not.

Last year’s examples: most press-ups done in 60sec, body fat % loss, run a mile without stopping etc. or simply actually do 3 classes a week! It can but doesn’t have to be weight loss related. You will write that goal down and prove to me you have achieved it at the end.

Now all challengers who train on bikes with power (FF MatrixIC7 users) or those who have access to a Wattbike – I will need you to take FTW/FTP or any of the shorter tests before the challenge starts, around 60 days into the challenge and at the end.

You will get a progress chart that you will have to fill in ticking off all the classes as you go along. You will submit it to me at the end of the challenge.

How is it going to be monitored?

You will get support from me and other challengers at the gyms, on social media, via e-mail and even txt messages if you wish. Now, we are all grown up and this challenge is about you achieving a goal that YOU choose so I believe that if you say you have done a class, you have done it. I will not be asking you to have your chart signed off by your instructor 🙂

What if I already do over 3 classes a week?

Good for you! You can still take part, of course. Last year Tony has completed around 150 classes in that time if I remember correctly. Think about your goal: maybe there is a class you were thinking of trying out but there was always an excuse? Do it now. Make yourself do yoga or Pilates once a week. Talk to me and we will come up with something 🙂

Why is it that long? There is Christmas in the middle too!

I know, 4 months. Long time. But with constant support from me and other challengers it goes fast. It gives you time to modify your goals if needed. It will keep you going throughout winter. And if you succeed, by the end of it taking 3 classes a week will be a norm for you and you will have changed your lifestyle for better. Christmas? You know it’s coming. You know when. Plan for it!

What if I run outside every week? What if I swim at my local leisure centre?

Full terms and conditions will be posted on FB closer to the date. There is a way of “converting” a run into a tick on your chart. I will also be sending T&Cs out by e-mail.

What is in it for me?

What, apart from getting fitter, stronger, achieving your goals and getting motivation throughout the dark months? Last year there were mugs, T-shirts, calendars and hoodies for the winners!

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What do I do next?

Think about your goals – make sure they are SMART!

If you want to lose body fat% or inches off your thighs or waist or weight ask your gym team to help you get these measurements. Boots have the scales that give you body fat % too so you may want to check it out and keep your report. Think about fitting a power test on a bike in the next 3 weeks. Contact me for help 🙂

Follow me on FB: here and send me a message with your e-mail address. I will absolutely need your e-mail. Follow me on twitter @spinbella

If you have any burning questions, please comment below.

Fellow instructors: if you like the idea and want to join me and do it where you teach – please comment or e-mail me iza_lat@hotmail.com. We could make it big!

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.

“Spinning won’t make you fit”. Or will it?

This week I came across an article on one of the forums for indoor cycling instructors: http://www.stack.com/2015/09/16/spinning-probably-wont-make-you-fit-heres-why.

It has caused quite a stir so I decided to respond to it. I will just take out the main points it makes to allegedly prove why indoor cycling will not make you fit as opposed to having a personal trainer and lifting weights. It is based on an interview with a personal trainer Brian Nguyen. He’s not just a PT. He’s “trainer to Mark Wahlberg” which clearly makes him much more of a fitness authority. Let’s dive right into it.

“Spinning is tough. After an hour of pedaling at high speed, you’ve probably left a puddle of sweat on the floor under your bike. (…)The classes are fun, and the routines can easily lead to the assumption that participants get a great workout”.

Anyone who has taken a properly well structured indoor cycling class with a qualified instructor will ask: are we talking about the boutique style “dance-on-the-bike-doing-crazy-stuff” type of class or are we talking about a proper indoor cycling class? Because the latter involves much more and the speed used in these classes is way more controlled.

If however you refer to the classes advertised as a full body workout involving using tiny weights, resistance bands and full of what we call “fluff” then I wholeheartedly agree. But please do not put us all in the same bag.

“Spinning produces similar effects in the body as jogging. (…) Once you finish a spin class, your body no longer burns calories”

Here is where I got really kind of pissed off (my blog, I can say that 🙂 ). He didn’t even say “running”. He said “jogging”. I used to jog. I lost a bit of weight, gained some muscle but I agree, the results were not WOW. Question to FF CJS members who have ever taken Jitka’s, Cheryl’s, Serena’s or my class: would you compare it to 45min of “jogging”?! What classes has this dude taken in his life to make such a statement? The answer is: really bad ones…

If I were to give an “expert opinion” the way he has I would say even a workout with a personal trainer using weights and what not has the same effects. How? If you have a bad trainer who tells you to use weights that aren’t enough to cause an overload. One that makes you follow a programme that’s not tailored to your needs. What kind of PT would do that?! A bad one. Have I ever seen these? Yes, I have.

Now as far as the second part of the statement goes – that the effects of the class finish as soon as you get off that bike? I really question fitness qualifications of that guy. Whatever exercise you choose: rowing, cycling, running etc you can do them at different intensities, with different goals in mind: speed or strength endurance, HIIT, threshold work etc. If every spin class involved pedalling at the same tempo for 60min who on earth would keep doing it?

And I have news for you Brian. You better sit down though and brace yourself: YOU CAN DO TABATA ON A BIKE!

shocked-face[1]

I am convinced this guy either took ONE class and it wasn’t a good one or is basing his opinions on hearsay. He doesn’t seem to think you can do intervals in a spin class.

Here comes the big one folks:

“Spinning doesn’t build muscle.(…) Cycling never makes your body gain lean body mass, and that’s the thing that burns fat. At the end of the day, metabolism isn’t improved on a bike.”

First reference to spinning is already incorrect but Mr Nguyen goes far beyond that and refers to “cycling” in general. I would ask him to check out a few names and relevant pictures of their legs: Marcel Kittel, Chris Hoy, oh hell: Tom Scotto! And I would invite him to watch this (extreme) little clip:

“Spinning doesn’t give individual progression”

It definitely used to be true however you could always test yourself periodically and compare the results. But these days we have bikes with computer consoles and data. We have coaching by colour brought by MatrixIC7 bikes. Please Mr Nguyen, do your research first.

Finally we get to the last one:

“Spinning reinforces common injuries”

Yes, cycling involves sitting, we agree on that. But it is also the best low impact activity next to swimming that actually helps with many health problems and is used in physiotherapy. There is such a thing as bike fitting Brian, and any good instructor will ensure your set up prevents any back or other discomfort. As per the core not being engaged: you need a strong core to be a strong and efficient cyclists even indoors. You may not feel it as much indoors as outdoors but no, cycling is not a “complete full body workout” nor is it claiming to be. If you refer to those “fluff” classes that make that claim – please make the distinction between those and SPINNING or proper INDOOR CYCLING.

To sum up, Brian seems to know his stuff when it comes to what type of exercise gives what effects but clearly knows nothing about spinning/indoor cycling when he says:

“When combined with strength training, spinning may give you that extra calorie burn you need to accelerate fat loss. When done on its own, your results from spinning will likely fall short of your expectations.”

Spinning is all exercise I do. In 2.5 years dropped 3 dress sizes and kept it off. My recent fitness tests show that my cycling performance levels are that of a trained athlete.

So Mr Nguyen, I respectfully disagree.