What Can Cycling Instructors Learn From Business Presentations?

ICA member Moritz from Switzerland sent me this article in Business Insider and suggested some of the tips could be helpful for indoor cycling instructors. 

It’s so true that what we do on a bike in front of our eager riders ready to absorb our motivational coaching, insights, and drills, has many parallels to giving a speech before any group on any subject. Even seasoned instructors can get nervous, and being able to channel our anxiety into something more positive is a skill we can all improve. This is especially true when you are taking on a new class or subbing for a popular instructor. 

Does this look at all like something you’ve experienced?

You have to give a big, important presentation in just 15 minutes. Your heart is racing, your palms are damp — you’re starting to panic.

It’s completely normal. In fact, most speakers, beginners and veterans alike, readily admit to feeling nervous in the moments leading up to a big speech or presentation.

Darlene Price, president of Well Said! Inc. and author of “Well Said!: Presentations and Conversations That Get Results,” says that instead of trying to lose the butterflies, you should aim to leverage them.

“The adrenaline surge can fuel your body with the energy and enthusiasm necessary for a great performance,” she says.

I love that idea of leveraging your butterflies and channeling the nervousness into something positive!  

I’ve taken 10 of the 15 tips in this article and translated them into the world of the indoor cycling instructor.

Talk Positively to Yourself
Claim your success before you begin.

“Let’s learn from the experts in sports psychology. They’ve proven that an athlete’s positive self-talk prior to and during a performance consistently creates a higher win rate,” she explains.

Just prior to your class, say over and over to yourself, “You are a dynamic instructor! You are enthusiastic and engaging! You are prepared and confident! Everyone loves your classes!”

Just like we ask our riders to do during a challenging climb, create your own self-affirmations and confidently declare them. Create a self-fulling prophecy.

Use the Restroom
Why, of course! It’s hard to ride a bike without doing so! 😉

Strike a Power Pose
So, while you’re in the bathroom, strike a Superman or Superwoman pose! I love this Ted Talk with Amy Cuddy, and have always thought it could help when teaching before a large group of riders (or in the case of my fellow master instructors, before presenting at a fitness conference)!

Take Several Deep Belly Breaths
We ask our riders to use belly breathing to get their heart rates under control…it will work for us as well! Just prior to class, breathe deeply and deliberately. 

Reframe Your Nervousness as Excitement
This is the tip I love the most! Both anxiety and excitement are states of arousal, and heightened arousal leads to better performance. So just reframe your anxiety into excitement.

“Harnessing the power of the mind-body connection means that you can learn to use your thoughts to positively influence your body’s physical responses,” Price says.

Focus on Giving
My second favorite tip. It’s no secret that instructors give the gift of their passion when leading a class, culminating at the ultimate gift of fitness and wellness. We have so much to give, so why not make that your number one reason for being there?

“As a speaker, think about your presentation as a gift to the audience; a nicely wrapped package full of valuable information, helpful ideas, and meaningful content,” Price says. “The mental attitude of giving empowers you and frees you. It takes your mind off of yourself and puts the focus on helping others.”

Acknowledge the Three Audience Truths

  1. “This audience believes I am the expert.” Your class perceives you as a recognized authority simply because you’re the one leading the group. They (usually) believe you know more than they do about the topic.
  2. “They want me to succeed.” They are rooting for you, and they want and expect you to add value, to be interesting and engaging, and to rock their socks off with your music. 
  3. “They don’t know what I’m going to say.” If you make a mistake, don’t announce it or apologize, just keep going. Your class will never know!

Meet and Greet Your Riders Before Your Class
Welcoming your riders as they walk in the room does wonders for your reducing your nervousness, and doing so endears you to your class. But this tip goes much further than just quickly learning a few names before a class; when you truly know your riders, you turn them into friends and can weave their stories into your class. Having conversations with your students ahead of time transforms scary “public” speaking into natural, relaxed “personal” speaking.

Check Out the Studio and AV System
If you are subbing at an unfamiliar studio or starting a new class, this cannot be stressed enough…you must know the layout of the studio and the stereo system well before you start teaching. Doing so will massively reduce your nervousness and avoid embarrassing fumbles.

Either come in a day or two in advance, or make sure to get there early enough to suss out the system. 

Have you ever been in a class where the instructor doesn’t smile? It’s no fun to be there! 

“Smiling actually relaxes the body. Physiologically, smiling emits endorphins in the brain that calms the nerves, creates a pleasant attitude, and promotes a sense of well-being,” she says.

Your smile conveys confidence and self-assurance and shows your class that you’re happy to see them and enthusiastic about the profile and playlist you are about to deliver.


What other presentation skills do you value when you teach? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. I have suffered from social anxiety, performance anxiety, & the like since high school. My favorite Drama teacher taught me to take deep belly breaths, talk positively to myself, & project confidence just before delivery. It worked then (took 1st place in State for Dramatic Interpretation) & still does now. This is an excellent article. I especially love the bit about giving. Think of the students & the gift you are presenting them. That visual alone is perfect to reign in the nerves just enough. Thank you for sharing!

  2. It is true there are many parallels between public speaking in a business environment and on the bike! I have always struggled with my anxiety while giving presentations at work, which ultimately motivated me to begin teaching cycling-to help tame those butterflies! I’ve been teaching almost 4 years now and I still get nervous sometimes, but it really helps to think of transforming that nervous energy into productive energy. When I feel those butterflies, I add more gear and dig in! Now if only I could ride a bike while giving presentations at work! 🙂

  3. Instead of saying: “You are a dynamic instructor! You are enthusiastic and engaging! You are prepared and confident! Everyone loves your classes!” I would begin with “I am a dynamic instructor…” and replace all “you”s with “I”s and “my” where appropriate. All self-talk ought to address the person him or herself since our brains interpret a “you” to be someone else. Positive self-talk in sports psychology harnesses the power of “I”.

    1. Author

      Hi Kat,
      I agree with you, as that’s always what I’ve heard before when using affirmations. I found it interesting that this article suggests using the “You” instead of “I” form when in a stressful situation:

      “Let’s learn from the experts in sports psychology. They’ve proven that an athlete’s positive self-talk prior to and during a performance consistently creates a higher win rate,” she explains.

      What’s more, research suggests that using your first name or the pronoun “you” instead of “I” can make it easier to deal with stressful experiences.

      In the minutes leading up to your presentation, say over and over within yourself, “You are a dynamic speaker! You are enthusiastic and engaging! You are prepared and confident!”

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