(Note: This article originally appeared in 2012. With the new year just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to repost it. You may encounter some unfit or obese riders in the onslaught after the new year. I’ve updated the article with additional suggestions.)
This email I received brings up an immensely important issue—how to work with obese and/or very unfit students. There are many things you can do to make these students more comfortable and increase the chances they will return. But it takes some hand-holding and gentle coaching.
Are you willing to do what it takes?
I received this email from Matt:
Last evening when I taught my class, given that it was the day after Christmas, class was empty sans two brand-new riders. One of them, an obese 16 y/o girl, had never ridden a bike before. After getting her set up on the bike, it became evident that her aerobic base was almost non-existent and she was struggling to ride in gear 1 (we have Keiser bikes).
It was uncomfortable for her to ride in the saddle after a while because the saddles, as we all know, take a little getting used to, but paired with her weight, it was obviously a little too much. To get relief, we stood up, but that seemed to be just as difficult because she couldn’t get the resistance set appropriately. Any increase was too much for her to handle but the low resistance required her to lean on the handlebars.
I used the music as background noise and just rode easily with them to acclimate them to the bike and discussed their fitness goals, how to ride in proper form, and the importance of starting easy but staying with their fitness program. Something I couldn’t have done if it was a normal week.
Any advice on how to encourage and acclimate this type of rider?
Matt, this is one of the more amazing opportunities we can have as indoor cycling coaches and trainers, and how you handle this can plant a seed in this person’s mind that might change their life forever…or not.
I don’t wish to put all the pressure on instructors, because there is so much more to a person committing to an exercise program than just one encounter with an instructor. However, we’ve all read the stories of people who talk about how one particular instructor or trainer was the one that inspired them to seek the path to greater health. It is so rewarding to help someone make that lifestyle change that leads them to a better quality of life. Here’s one inspiring story how a woman went from fearful obese rider to confident instructor.