A Blow to Your Core

You read the title above, you’ve stumbled upon this article because you are an indoor cycling instructor (or enthusiast), so you are mentally gearing up to read an article about contraindicated movements or core (abdominal) workouts on the bike, right?


This post is about your core competencies, or what you believe are your strongest attributes as an instructor. Have you paused to think what yours are? What happens when you receive comments about them that aren’t exactly positive? How do you respond?

After many years of coaching, I was relatively confident in my skills to construct a solid music playlist and use it to drive the purpose of a profile. Before we go any further: I typically do not match music to cadence (rpm to bpm) for every song. Can we agree that one’s music preference—and beyond that, the individual songs we as individuals find motivating—is personal? Disclaimer now stated, I believed the majority of my songs were liked by the majority of my riders (can’t please everyone all the time, and yes, there have been times over the years when some of my choices didn’t have the impact I expected).

A few months ago, however, I received an evaluation that prompted me to question my own ability.

Fact about me: I love motivating others. In fact, my Instagram handle contains the word “energizer” in it—a descriptor I included based on observations from others in my full-time work as well as my “side hustle” as an indoor cycling coach. I would also consider the ability to motivate one of my core competencies.

For this particular profile I’m talking about, I selected songs I enjoyed. Truth be told, I was in a rush to create the playlist (we are provided the profiles based on a yearly plan) and quickly picked the songs based primarily on length. The profile intensity was high: threshold, Z5, and several high-resistance climbs. As usual, before I taught it in class, I rode it solo. I liked it!

When I delivered the ride in class, I felt it went over well. As riders exited the studio, several provided unsolicited positive comments about how they enjoyed the music; one participant thanked me for playing songs she knew. Later that day, I received email feedback from our manager who took the class (standard practice at our facility); although she felt my coaching was spot-on and energetic, she felt the music didn’t match the required effort.

Instantly, my usual post-class euphoria disappeared.

How could it not have been motivating? All day I saw the email text in my head. I knew I should let it go, but I couldn’t. I took it personally.

Following that class, I began to take a more critical look at my playlists. Are there changes in the music that might mimic changes in intensity or does the song feel “the same” all the way through? Do I have enough variety of genres to appeal to a diverse rider population? I now pay more attention to some of the features available in Sort Your Music (for Spotify users) to confirm.

Have you heard “feedback is a gift”? For me, it was. I believe it’s helpful to take a critical look at what we are doing and try to see it from another’s vantage point (especially that of one’s manager!), but it’s equally appropriate to continue how you do things if you receive positive feedback and your classes are well attended. You’ve probably heard the phrase “you do you”?

If you’ve been instructing for many years, have you become a creature of habit?

Whether you are a brand-new or seasoned coach, have you received feedback that prompted you to question your core skills? Did that inspire you to make any changes in how you taught or prepared your classes?



  1. Hi Jackie. Nice job on this subject. There is another set of issues for those of us who have been teaching awhile. How do we hang on to what works without getting in a rut with music, profiles or whatever. These are really nice thoughts. Thank you.

    1. Author

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for reading, I know you’re also a seasoned instructor!

      It can be hard to find time to take classes from other instructors, but recently I was able to hop into one, just sit in the back and LISTEN! I’ve quoted her since in my own classes too. I also made some time to take another instructor’s FTP class; it was so nice not to hear my OWN voice in my head!

      One way I get out of musical ruts is to use the social features of Spotify. What songs are those I follow using?

      Facebook has several IC groups – sometimes there are profiles ideas in there! For those of us who coach with power, there are lots of resources (and even if you don’t coach with power per se, there are good ideas for challenges to incorporate).

      Would love to hear your thoughts too!

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