By Caroline Dawson, Spinning® Master Instructor
The music is pumping, the lights are dim and the energy is high. Your class is about to finish and your riders are working hard to give it their all. The culmination—the final sprint of class—is just ahead. The group is driven and determined to finish with power and speed.
As you are about to lead the team to a victorious finish, you see them. Two riders in the corner of the room that have so little resistance that they are pedaling out of control, the shape of their legs barely visible as their pedals whip around. It is a pivotal point and a challenge that so many instructors face: how do you reach those two riders who need you most without losing the energy and focus of the rest of the group?
As instructors, we have all had riders who make poor choices on (and off) the bike. Why would they want to ride without resistance? Maybe they’ve seen it in a non-Spinning cycling class. Maybe they’re looking at the guy on the next bike with washboard abs and just following his lead. Or maybe they’re just so zoned out that they don’t hear your verbal cues. It’s our responsibility as instructors to provide corrections, but doing so isn’t always easy.
Getting to know your riders, understanding where they’re coming from and being empathetic are the first steps toward providing effective advice geared at advancing riding technique and keeping riders as safe as possible. The key to making effective corrections is to be discreet, professional and non-threatening at all times. Every suggestion should be presented in a positive and upbeat manner, without ever alienating or criticizing your riders. Making corrections should never distract from the ride itself, but rather enhance it by heightening your riders’ self-awareness.
Start by looking at your riders. If a good portion of the class is making the same mistake, your cueing may be the culprit. Try making the same verbal cues using different words and see what happens. If only a handful of riders are making a mistake, perhaps it’s that they aren’t paying attention. Try making a general cue to the group, which will prompt all of your riders to take a moment, get off autopilot and pay attention to their form. For those riders that have nothing to correct, it acts as a friendly reminder and reinforces that they are riding with good form. For the handful of riders with something to fix, it provides them with the information they need to make the necessary change. If these general cues are not effective, your riders may be assuming that you are correcting someone else or they may not realize the correction applies to them. If this is the case it’s time to get off the bike.
When cueing off the bike and providing individual feedback, there are a couple of points to remember:
- Be discreet. Turn your microphone away and make your comments as discreet as possible. You may want to consider consistently teaching a portion of class off the bike and checking in with your riders on an individual basis from week to week. That way when you do need to approach a student and provide corrections, no one will realize that it’s anything more than the typical ‘check-in’ that the group has come to expect. The student you are correcting will have seen you speaking with other riders, making it less likely that they’ll feel singled out.
- Give them a “sandwich.” Your technique for correcting riders can prompt a student to thank you—or tell you to mind your own business. Using the ‘sandwich method’ of surrounding the correction with praise is an effective way to provide feedback and makes it less likely that the correction will be taken as criticism. Below are a few examples:
“You are working hard and look focused.” (praise) “Make sure you have enough resistance on your wheel so that you feel like you have to really fight to get just a little extra speed on this last sprint.”
“Make sure your legs don’t feel as though they are out of control.” (correction)
“This will allow you to keep every ounce of power you have been fighting for up to this point.” (praise)
Another tactic for educating your riders before they fall victim to bad habits is regularly providing them with useful information. Try having a ‘focus of the week’ where you offer a friendly reminder on a specific area that may need improvement. Below are some examples:
- Review the basics of bike set-up, which provides a great reminder for beginners and experts alike.
- Spend a week focusing on a light touch to the handlebars. Remind riders to support themselves with strong legs and powerful core.
- If you’re doing a strength ride profile, focus on the pedal stroke during a seated climb. Remind riders to create smooth, continuous circles.
As your riders employ these suggestions in future classes, you’ll be able to reduce the number of corrections you need to make over time. Remember, with cueing, the possibilities are endless.
Responsibly use your creativity to cue your riders for success—and they’ll keep coming back for more!
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