How Can You Reach Your Destination if You Have No Destination?

Today’s article is from ICA contributor Izabela Ruprik’s blog SmartFitnessUK. Izabela lives in London and has been collecting indoor cycling certifications. She is certified in Spinning (including SpinPower), Keiser, Team ICG, Velocity Indoor Cycling, Wattbike, and YMCA, and she says she’s hoping to add Stages to her portfolio soon! She also attended the ICA training weekend when we were in London in 2012.

Izabela has a passion for safe and effective instruction, and for teaching cycling-specific classes that are also engaging and fun.

You can read the original on her blog here, where you can learn more about Izabela and where she teaches. 

With a view of possibly teaching at a new location that has the new Stages bikes, I went to take a class there this morning.

And I had to write this post…just had to. This message is extremely relevant regardless of what bike, or what level or type of class you teach. If you are new to teaching indoor cycling, I would recommend making it your mission to get this point in capital letters on top of your computer as you are creating EVERY class:


Seriously, I spent 45 extremely frustrating minutes of my Sunday morning wondering what the heck we were doing, how hard I should be working, etc.

We were riding the Stages bikes. They—just like some of the Schwinn bikes—have a STAGE button. It displays rpm, watts, speed, and heart rate, all on the console, as well as an average for that stage, which is great.

As you start riding, you can see “WARM UP” across the top of the console. 

We started the warm-up. “Warm up! Work!” was the direction given by the instructor! We had no idea how long it was for or what intensity. Without knowing what was coming later in the class, I had no idea how far I should go with that warm-up. Imagine people who are new to indoor cycling thinking, “How the hell do I ‘warm up’?”

Then we heard, “Two more minutes! Work!”  

To all instructors who say, “I have a loud voice, I don’t need a mic”: Yes, you do! This guy had such a booming, high-pitched voice, when he was yelling I was wincing and sinking in my seat as I thought my ear drums would explode. But then, especially when trying to give some direction, he would use his normal tone which came across as “(Mumble mumble) resistance…rpm now drops. You are (mumble mumble) rpm (blah blah). Work!”

The gym charges instructors for using licensed music, so he opted for license-free. That is fine, but all songs were 64 rpm. No variation. Looking at his legs, there was some variation in cadence for the trained eye. I could see that he was pedaling at 80 rpm, 90 rpm—but if he was giving instructions, we couldn’t hear him, and the music stayed at the mind-numbing 64 rpm.

Now onto the stages. He explained that we would be pressing the STAGE button at the end of each stage. Great! How many stages will there be? No idea. How long for each stage? No clue. What will the next stage be about? Not a Scooby.

Jeez! How am I to pace myself?

We started one stage with the instruction “We go 20 seconds fast, 20 seconds recovery. Every one we increase! Go nice and fast!” Come again? What is “nice and fast”? We increase what, length or intensity? How many are we going to do, three or ten?

Another stage he shouted, “Put the resistance up to the right! Stand up!” Put it up how much? What should it feel like? He kept us standing for two stages, which was 15 minutes! This without advanced warning, options, or anything.

Instructors’ Takeaway

You may start preparing your class whichever way you prefer—music first or profile first. You don’t have to be fixated on numbers and have your intervals exactly the same increments of time. You may go with the music or keep it as a background. This is all individual style…but for crying out loud:


Your class goal may be FUN WITH MUSIC, or a mixed workout, that’s fine. But tell us that and say what is coming in the next song. 

For example, you may say, “Next is an 8-minute song, a flat road at 80–100 rpm. There will be three challenges during that time where we will increase the resistance. I will tell you more when we get there.” 

Or you may say, “We have a series of intervals that are 15–45 seconds each. There are six songs, three intervals in each.” Or, “Today is about speed endurance, mostly working in the saddle. It will be fast and you will sweat buckets. Your legs will be fine—we are not climbing. The focus is technique.”

Please do not say, “Go all out 100% effort! Now!” without telling people how long you want them to go for.

If you have a great bike with stages and a display of your maximum and average efforts at the end, give me a goal to achieve at the start of the class so when I look at the results I can see how far off I was. What is the point of looking at those numbers otherwise? 

Also, please use the RPE scale—it’s a fantastic tool.

And yes, there are some people who do not mind not knowing. Their goal may be to spend 45 minutes away from the kids—but they won’t mind if you explain the goals anyway. They won’t care. But those of us who like knowing the point of those 45 or 60 minutes on the bike will appreciate it.

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  1. Excellent words for instructors…… read and reap!

  2. I concur. Excellent article. I often visit official Spinning® facilities & non to compare. I keep many factors in mind when attending, which is covered perfectly in another article here, on what to consider when taking a class. I take away the positives & truly consider the negatives & think about my own instruction to tweak or prevent this from happening in the future.

    I like knowing how hard I have to push, for how long, & when to conserve. It’s extremely frustrating when an instructor barks out go hard & I’m anaerobic at heavy resistance for 2 minutes, need to sit, & he/she isn’t sweating it as he/she more than likely isn’t even at heavy resistance.

    If I’m frustrated as an instructor, I can only imagine students. Not to mention the trust factor: I don’t trust you if you lead me into battle unprepared.

  3. Good article. Thank you. It is so good to put ourselves in the position of our students. They can’t read our minds. Sometimes, I think those that don’t say the goal don’t know themselves. Thanks for sharing.

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