There was a time when I thought the hardest part of opening a new cycling studio was finding the right space. Now I understand that after finding the perfect location, recruiting and retaining quality Indoor Cycling Instructors is your next major challenge.
I had a very disturbing phone call yesterday. It came from an Instructor who I would describe as an Indoor Cycling Zealot. The conversation left me feeling very sorry for whoever had to manage this person and the poor people who have to suffer through his classes.
Do you have any Instructors on your team that sound like this guy?
It became obvious that I was talking to a very passionate person just moments into the call. I asked; “what can I help you with?” (this call was preceded by an email asking questions about his ICI/PRO subscription) and he launched into a disconnected rant, rambling on about other instructors that he teaches with including contraindicated movements, broken seat posts, connective tissue damage and a bunch of related stuff I missed because he was talking so loudly that I needed to hold the phone away from my ear. After what seemed like a full ten minutes, he finally asked me*; “so what are you going to do about this?
“Do about what, exactly?” was my response.
“Stop all of these Group Fitness Instructors from teaching like they are… they’re hurting people!” You are an influential voice of Indoor Cycling – you need to put a stop to these contraindicated classes!”
30 years of sales experience has prepared me for situations like this: listen respectfully and then begin asking probing questions. I started with; “have you ever been to a SoulCycle class?”
“No… but I’ve seen a video that showed me enough to know that the riders will be injured”… and then he launched into another long rant about how he tells his participants how dangerous these other classes are and that they should only attend his class because he alone is concerned for their safety.
When he came up for air I explained that I had been to two SoulCycle classes and many others that were similar. I didn’t see anything alarming/dangerous or find reason to feel they need to be stopped – by me or anyone else.
“I’m researching an article I plan to write that will expose these Instructors for who they are and the dangerous movements they teach.”
I explained how his perception of these classes may not be accurate and I don’t believe telling or lecturing riders will be productive. Actually, IMO the effort will probably end up as counterproductive to what he intended.
“How could educating people ever be counterproductive? These people need to know the truth!
So I asked; are you a father… have you raised kids? He had told me early that he was over 50 years old.
He responded that no he hadn’t. But if he had kids, he would want to protect them from these types of classes.
The reason I asked about being a parent was this – parents quickly learn that telling some children; “don’t touch that… it’s hot!” will result in the child feeling compelled to reach up and touch it. They need to learn for themselves that the stove gets hot and they’ll burn their finger if they touch it.
Telling your class that some other Instructor’s, or studio’s, classes are dangerous could have the exact same effect – cause them to be curious about and then want to try those other classes. But unlike the hot stove, these people will take one of those “dangerous classes” filled with “contraindicated movements” and nothing bad will happen to them. There’s a good chance they’ll actually enjoy those classes due to the additional movement and fun they offer – and you may lose them forever as a customer.
I offered him my advice, that he just teach his own class and ignore everything else – which he didn’t like. “So I can quote you saying that you’re for classes with contraindicated movements?”
I replied that that wasn’t what I said – I said his perception of those classes may not be accurate and suggested that he take the time and go take one of those classes before writing any article and re-think the value of lecturing his classes.
“Perception is reality” was his smug response. And then in his best Donald Trump voice he said “I’ve got a class to teach… so you’re fired!” and he hung up on me.
If you’ve had anyone like this on your Instructor team – how did you deal with them?
It began as the dream of many Instructors – starting your own fitness business. Charles (Spook) Hilgartner made his dream real by opening the first dedicated indoor cycling studio in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. It was very sad to hear that InSync Cycle Studio closed last month.
Spooks final note from their website…
On a personal note:
For the past three years, I have enjoyed the challenge of creating and operating InSync. I have had the pleasure and privilege of meeting and greeting hundreds of riders and making some special friends.This, I will really miss.
But what happened in the studio, during class was really incredible. We have had the best instructors! Their teaching skills and unique styles, music and personalities created an amazing cycling environment that all of us have enjoyed. I thank them for that.
It’s the combination, of instructors and dedicated riders, that has made InSync Cycle Studio a pretty good place to ride.
Some of Spook’s Instructors created this very touching video as a good-by.
I’ve known Spook since before InSync and appreciated his agreement to be interviewed on the Podcast. Our intent is to help other existing (and potential) cycling studio owners. We discuss his thoughts and feelings about what he did right… and what he did wrong.
Two main points surfaced during our conversation:
Spook’s experiences reinforced the absolute importance of having quality Instructors + a bench of available substitutes.
He feels he would have benefited by having a partner with complimentary skills to his.
I wasn’t previously aware of this regulatory issue > Depending on your studio’s pricing model, your state or city may require you to secure bonding to protect customers who purchase ride cards with future expiration dates. Spook explains this need for bonding during the interview.
Looking for a used studio sound system? You can contact Spook 444-722-5433 or Spook@indoorcycleinstructor.com
I’m seeing Barre (pronounced “bar”) classes getting more popular – and they appear to be a relatively inexpensive option for adding additional fitness formats to your class schedule. Traditionally used in Ballet training, Barre classes are an interesting combination of; Ballet, Yoga and Pilates – there’s even Barre Boot Camps!
The Life Time Fitness where I teach recently install ballet barres around the perimeter of the room. One of the Instructors told me Barre classes appeal to a completely new niche of participants, who wouldn’t be interested in conventional Group Fitness classes.
Where can I find certified Indoor Cycling Instructors? Great question. Depending on where you’re located, the population of qualified Instructors can be quite low… and they are all gainfully employed. Your best option is to post your listing on this instructor jobs board.
On the other side of this, we frequently hear from people who are interested in teaching, but can’t find a certification that’s close enough to attend – or the next scheduled event is 6 or more months off in the future.
Now I’m willing to bet you’ve got a few (or more) passionate participants who sound and look like they would make fabulous Instructors. So maybe the solution for solving both problems is to host a certification at your own studio and create a few new Instructors!
While I was recording Schwinn Cycling Master Trainer Denise Druce last week, I asked if she ever conducts certifications and/or continuing education workshop at independent studios (she does) and she told me how Schwinn loves requests from clubs and studios interested in hosting an Instructor certification.
You can virtually meet Denise in this video.
She asked that I share this with you:
Are you interested in hosting an Indoor Cycle Certification course at your facility?
Schwinn Cycling Certification is the industry’s most respected and progressive indoor cycling instructor-training course.
In one power-packed day your instructors will have the tools they need to become a successful and sought-after instructor on any bike.
This critically-acclaimed certification includes bike fit, cycling science, class design, music, and the Schwinn® Cycling Coach’s Pyramid, a specialized system that makes teaching simple for you and an incredible experience for your students.
Email Denise Druce at email@example.com to find out how you can schedule the course that offers continually updated material, making this the one certification worth repeating to refresh at your skills and inspire your teaching.
**Minimum of 20 registered participants at $219 per person.
Denise provided me with this sample handout used by a studio that recently hosted a certification.
UPDATE: Sadly CycleQuest closed last summer. However, If you’re looking to find that perfect instructor who can fill the studio every class – indoorcyclinginstructorjobs.com can help 🙂
CycleQuest Studio owner Joe Ducosin is really good at communicating with all of his instructors – two of which are Amy and me.
Thanks to all of you for continuing to be part of the CycleQuest Studio instructor team. This is the busiest time of the indoor cycling season where attendance is going to be at its highest over the next few months so we need to continue to provide the best workout experience in our classes to maintain a high customer return rate.
Here is my quarterly reminder of instructor expectations and tips on creating a positive workout atmosphere at the studio. I know the list is long but please read through them. Thanks!
Don’t just instruct, anyone can get in front of the class, play music and run through drills. Inspire, encourage, interact, create a “motivating positive atmosphere”, know what the class wants; make it fun!
Stay connected with your instruction, let the class know what they should be doing every moment; emphasize certain key parts of a song for motivational effect. How long are the intervals? How long to the end of the drill? Are you ending with the song?
For new customers give options to long climbs out of the saddle, isolations, quick jumps, long upper body arm workouts.
Drills I discourage: 1) clipping out of a pedal to use only one leg – riders tend to put their free foot on the frame of the bike which scratches the paint and they end up knocking their water bottle on the floor. Also the pedal can easily hit their shin on the backstroke if they let their leg hang free. 2) Pedaling backwards – this causes the drive belt to wear incorrectly and track wrong. 3) Using dumbbell weights on the bike.
Articulate other aspects of fitness while instructing; consistency, diet, nutrition, cross training, goals, and competitive events.
Learn rider’s names. Introduce yourself, use MBO and the sign in sheet or go around the class and have them introduce themselves. This is the best way to make that personal connection.
Monitor the studio temperature with the display in the stereo cabinet. Open the back door only wide enough keep the max temp at 72 with fuller classes. If the studio temp drops below 68 the door needs to be closed again. The back door should only be opened to get in fresh air in and slightly cool down the studio. Take charge on regulating the studio temperature and the back door. When the studio is colder than 64 degrees wait a few songs until everyone is warmed up before turning on fans.
Before playing a DVD movie get approval from me. No rated R movies and for PG-13 watch the segments you will play to see what might be inappropriate. If there is inappropriate dialog do not turn on the closed caption.
When setting up new customers on the bike be sure to explain the computer, what they should expect during the class, options, what their challenges are being new and proper form. Proper leg extension and seat fore/aft position are the most important parts of the setup. Let me know if you have any questions on this topic.
ALWAYS use the headset mic! This is a requirement. Having everyone in the class hear you at all times without having to yell is key to a great workout experience. Ask the person furthest away can hear your voice through the mic can be heard. If you are not comfortable using the headset mic please consult with me. There are two headset mic’s – channels 1 and 2 on the soundboard. Let me know if you need help understanding how to use the board properly. When the mic starts to give a heavy echo typically the foam end piece is full of sweat and will have to be dried out using a paper towel.
Music sound level – Be aware of keeping the music level appropriate for creating a “motivating workout atmosphere”. Ask the class how the sound level is and adjust per their feedback. You should be constantly turning up the sound level to emphasize a certain motivating essence of a song, like feeling the driving beat, and then turning the sound level down to give instruction. When giving small talk be sure to turn your music down. Having the music too loud is just as de-motivating as too soft.
Thefts in building – It has been reported that there were attempted break-ins in a few of the offices of our building. If helping at the front desk and the front desk area is going to be unattended please close the front studio door when classes are in session as many customers leave their coats, jackets and boots by the front door.
Announcements – Continue to talk about what is happening at the studio from the announcement sheet on the instructor bike. Encourage everyone to use the small fitness studio to stretch or get in a light workout before or after class when a personal training or group strength class is not in session.
Try to arrive to the studio at least 15 minutes before the start of class to help with bike setup and meet new customers.
Address studio etiquette to customers when needed: do not answer cell phone in class, keep personal discussions to a minimum so as not to disrupt the class (loud and consistent conversation not related to the current workout), being respectful.
As you can see, a “motivating and positive workout atmosphere” is the theme I am driving home here. Thanks for taking the time to review my expectations and let me know of any concerns you have with the topics listed above.
I haven’t sent an instructor email out in a while but with the weather quickly changing and the attendance at the studio about to pick up I wanted to make sure that all of us are on the same page as to procedures and how we are instructing classes at the studio. I would never tell anyone exactly how to instruct or what type of music to play as the freedom to be creative is so important to being great at your craft, but there are some guidelines that we need to stay within for consistency and a positive experience for participants in our classes. So please consider these tips as we present ourselves in front of the class, plan our playlists, profiles and drills.
Mic up! – I always suggest using the wireless mic because your voice has to compete with music from the speakers, and the music has to be louder to be motivating. With smaller classes you can probably get away without it but the experience when you can be heard throughout the studio is always better for participants, especially those toward the back of the class. Take a class from an instructor that isn’t mic’d up and sit further away and you will know what I am talking about. When mic’d up properly you should be able to hear your regular voice through the speakers. If you don’t use the mic be careful to pay attention how loud and piercing your voice can be to those close to you in the front row and be careful not to scream to instruct above the sound level of the music.
New wireless mic – The new mic sounds great but needs to be adjusted to fit properly. Take time before the start of class to adjust the ear piece to fit snug on your ear and adjust the length of the boom to be as close to the side of your mouth as possible. The new mic adjustments are a little quirky but proper mic placement is key to your voice being heard well through the speakers. Also throughout the class do a mic check with the person farthest from you in the class.
Music volume – I can’t emphasize enough how this is one of the most motivating aspects of indoor cycling. Every song in your playlist will play at a different sound level depending on how it was recorded or copied. You should consistently be adjusting your music volume, turning it down when your instruction or side conversations with the class needs to be heard and back up so the driving beat can be felt.
Explicit lyrics – Please choose the clean versions of songs. If you’ve played music with explicit language, please remove it from your playlist.
Learn customer’s names – The studio was founded on creating a welcoming fun fitness atmosphere. Learning customer’s names and being personable is key to creating a following and you can’t go wrong with the attendance list being online and at the front desk. Introduce yourself to all customers you don’t know and identify those new to the studio and make sure they are setup properly on the bike. Explain all options on the computer, your instruction style and what they should expect.
Be enthusiastic and create high energy. Your enthusiasm is infectious and you have to be prepared to bring it every class. Keep your music fresh and vary your drills. Don’t just be good, be great every class. What sets you apart from all of the other instructors? Don’t teach a class just running through the same motions every week.
Don’t leave the class guessing – give specific instruction. If going through the song break let the class know. Tell them how long the interval will be, when the effort will end, how long until recovery and how they should be feeling. Be engaged with the class and aware of how you are motivating with your enthusiasm at all times building up the intensity and controlling every moment with precise instruction to keep the energy created high. Silence in the studio when not recovering or in between a song break is not motivating. Take advantage of all the features on the bike computer to run your drills – watts, cadence, rpm, gear and heart rate.
Get your music going before the official start of class. A lot of customers get to the studio early and motivating music should be playing while they are warming up.
Remind friends that are new to the studio to create an account first to make their check-in at the front desk faster.
Remind participants after every class to gently lower seat and handlebar to the frame and wipe down their bike and the floor and don’t forget to wipe down your own bike and floor around the instructor bike.
Inappropriate dvd movies – All movies should be motivating in some way. Be very careful of the language in closed caption, inappropriate sexual scenes and unnecessary violent content. Before playing any PG/PG-13 rated movie during class contact me for approval. Also make sure you have watched the portion of the movie you will be playing so as not to be surprised by something inappropriate.
If you have questions about any these topics or need clarification please let me know. Patti and I appreciate all of you contributing your special talents and being part of CycleQuest Studio and look forward to many well attended fun classes this fall and winter!
“So Joel, how do you know who to listen to and who to shut out?”
“I try to only listen to those whom I’m confident are on my crew…”
My question came during a conversation I was having during coffee with Joel Johnson, the pastor of my church. Joel had recently officiated the wedding between Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries- the Humphries family are long time members of the church and his parents were at one time frequent participants in my Indoor Cycling Classes, until switching locations.
If you follow the tabloid’s you know that the marriage was dissolved, almost before Kim’s bouquet of flowers had wilted, with Kim profiting to the tune of $17.9 million. As you can imagine, the drama surrounding the whole event within our church was immense and the criticisms of Joel were brutal. Lots of “I told you so”, “you should have never done the wedding” plus no shortage of destructive gossip going on between church members.
“We were getting so many calls and emails that I had to seclude myself and only engage with the people who continued to demonstrate that they were on my crew.”
“I’m not sure exactly what you mean by; on my crew?” I told him.
“Let me show you…”
Joel grabbed a napkin and drew this simple diagram.
And then he explained to me that you can assign the people in your life/church/business/community/etc… into one of the four quadrants, each being similar to the roles of the people you would find on a seagoing ship.
Joel then described his drawing (which he told me he learned from someone else, but I can’t remember who) and how it identifies:
Involvement – is the person directly involved in your enterprise, Yes or No?
Vision – does the person believe in your vision for the enterprise, Yes or No?
Placed in the context of your Fitness Business:
Your Crew – Involved and believe in your Vision. The loyal Instructors, employees and vendors who work for you. Ever faithful, the people on your Crew are actively (and selflessly) involved in helping you create and maintain a successful business. As the term “Crew” conveys, these people are Team Players, the “life blood” of your business, embracing your Vision and demonstrating it toward your customers and the other members of your Crew. They are the people you can count on. The person who jumps in when something needs to be done or when an emergency sub is needed. Crew members put the needs of the team ahead of their own, working continuously to promote the studio and other Instructor’s classes.
Your Passengers – Not Involved, but believe in your Vision. Satisfied, regular customers who believe in your Vision and participate in fair exchange with your business*. They bring their friends and speak positively about you to others – while communicating concerns directly to you. Passengers add value to your business both financially and through the positive energy they bring to class. *Fair Exchange is a concept I learned from Dr Shannon years ago, where two people exchange value for something. As long as each feels the exchange is “Fair” then it’s all good 🙂
Pirates – Involved, but don’t believe in your Vision. Trouble makers who use the word “ME”, instead of “WE”, demonstrating a belief that it’s “all about them”, instead of your Team. Pirates can be Involved in your business as Instructors or employees. They contribute to your business, while promoting their own agendas, instead of (or at the expense of) your Vision. They may try to encourage your customer’s to attend classes they teach at other locations and may be heard cutting down another Instructor’s class. They may be so bold as to sell merchandise out of the trunk of their car. Pirates think nothing of showing up late, being unprepared or calling in sick on short notice. Pirates are very selective of which classes they would consider subbing and will use the opportunity to promote themselves.
Stow Aways – Not Involved nor believe in your Vision. The customers who take advantage of your good will. They insist on free/discounted classes and complain frequently. Stow Aways are the participants who show up late, do their own thing (complete with iPod/earbuds), disrupt class or may even be disrespectful to your Instructors.
“Joel, what do you do with the Pirates and Stow Aways once you identify them?”
“You need to decide if they are worth keeping around. And if not, I bless them, thank them and say good bye.”
He is after all a Pastor.
What prompted me to write this post was an episode of Kitchen Nightmares , a show I love and feel teaches some valuable lessons that you can apply to your Indoor Cycling Class and/or Fitness Business. The story line had the head chef (a Pirate) ruining the restaurant’s reputation and yet the owners felt powerless to fire him, because they didn’t think they could survive without him. I’ve seen (and heard of) similar situations at studios with a prima donna Instructor. Very popular with clients, the Pirate’s destructive behavior may have you questioning whether or not you should keep them on your Instructor team.
Have you experienced Pirates or Stow Aways at your studio? If so, how did you deal with them?
I love knowing what’s expected of me and I bet you do as well. It makes life so much easier! When told; “I need you to do X,Y and Z”… I know to do X,Y and Z. But we’ve all been in the position of being told something was expected of us, but the “something” was never communicated and then the problems begin.
Have you delivered clear expectations to your Instructors?
Mine has 🙂
It came in the form of a well written, three page document from my new boss, Joe Ducosin. Joe is the owner of Cycle Quest Studio where I recently started teaching. Here’s the begining:
CycleQuest Studio Guiding Principles for Instructors
From Joe Ducosin 9/27/11
This document outlines the expectations of CycleQuest Studio instructors and also provides tips and guidelines to follow to create a motivating and enjoyable indoor cycling experience for all customers. Instructor responsibilities
Try and arrive to class at least 15 minutes before the class start time. Remember that not only do you have to change into your workout clothes, get your own music, bike, stereo, and video setup, but there may also be a few new customers that need to be setup on the bike properly, have the bike computer explained to them, and instructed on what their expectation of the class should be. Also before class is the best time to connect with them on a personal level, learn their name, what their fitness goal is and answer questions they may have about the class and the studio. This is the most important aspect of the studio that sets us apart from other indoor cycling studios – that we are customer focused and make sure all beginners are setup properly on the bike and made to feel comfortable in the class.
All classes should start on time and you should not wait for customers that are running late. At the end of class remind them to gently drop their handlebars and seat, and wipe down their bikes and any wet spots/puddles on the floor with the paper towels and anti-bacterial soap on each side of the class….
This was really helpful for me because after 10+ years of teaching I have become a bit set in my ways and some of what Joe is asking from me is very different from what I have done in the past. Joe understands what he wants for his studio and has taken the time to lay it out in a format where I can understand pretty much exactly what he’s looking for from me.
The funny thing about communication is it takes two willing participants for there to be any communicating. Each person involved is equally responsible. If I have expectations for you, I need to clearly communicate them. And the opposite is true as well; If you aren’t getting clear expectations from you manager you might want to let them know you don’t fully understand what’s expected of you.
Take a few minutes to read Joe’s Guiding Principles for Instructors and decide if having some clear expectations would be helpful at your studio and feel free to use this to draft your own list of expectations for your instructors.
If you find this of value can I ask that you drop Joe a quick note of thanks? His email is firstname.lastname@example.org