Being “Different”

What to do when you are the ONLY one at your club that teaches a “real” cycling class?

I’ve received this question quite a bit. “How do you handle teaching a class that is so different than what other instructors offer at your club?” Although we can be really excited to learn something new (or just get reinvigorated), the excitement can wane when we think of how it will be received by our riders or our club as a whole. Those who love our rides are also bombarded by other indoor cycling classes that may have little resemblance to biking or training.

Try to Avoid Bashing Other Instructors


  1. So happy to read this article. I’m a new instructor up against a seasoned instructor (his numbers are double mine) and I’ve heard so many comments comparing the two of us and it makes me feel as though I am doing something wrong. One person asked if I could do hovers because the other instructor does them and ‘It really worked my arms. I could feel it for days’, or ‘he has us go up hill and then take off ALL the resistance and go as fast as we can.’ I just smile and say it’s good that we have two types of classes.

  2. sorry Marsha, I meant to leave that response on the thread above yours, (old guys and electronics, what could happen) But I do like and agree with your post as well 🙂

  3. I frequently tell my class that my goal for them always is that they have the opportunity to improve their fitness on a bike, not just get a workout. My best marketers are my outdoor riders who come back from their season, vacation, event, ride,or whatever bragging about how much better they are.

    I’ve been the odd one out for so long now that I actually fit. Some clients like to dance on a bike, some want to improve.Like you, I try to treat every student and especially every other instructor with respect. Sometimes this is challenging.

    1. Kudos to you Marsha! Your approach and mindset is spot on. Part of being a professional is not just having the knowledge and the ability to use it, but navigating the tough situations and still remaining respectful and humble. As you say, sometimes this is a BIG challenge.

  4. Oh, been there. As I am a sub, I don’t like to undermine the instructor’s authority over his or her’s but, but man, sometimes it drive a crazy. I often tell them I just attended a bunch of seminars about … whatever subject, I’m trying to “discuss”. (it’s true, I listened to all the ICA Indoor Summit sessions. I liked yours a lot btw). I like them to know, I didn’t just pull things out of the air. Someone asked me about a weird position last night, that the regular instructor does all the time, and I answered , “I’m not a big fan of that,but she’s a good teacher.”

    Anyway, I enjoy the columns, videos etc.

    1. Joe, we are certainly glad you enjoy the education we are providing. I like your response as well, “I’m not a big fan of that, but she’s a good teacher.”. I may have to use that in my travels. Subbing can be a awkward situation because, unlike having your own class and being different, being different as a sub can almost appear as if you are “challenging” the teaching style of another instructor directly. I’ve had instructors who refused to allow me to sub for them. Now they didn’t say this outright, but I would respond to an email request for coverage literally within a minute of them sending it only to be told it was already filled. I’ve been messing with this one instructor for a while. I try to sub every class she posts (even if I can’t cover it) just to see if she will let me sub. It is always miraculously filled as if other instructors have ESP and accept before she hits send. Hey, if we can’t have fun and laugh at life, it is time to pack it up 🙂

      1. I agree. You do what you can do, you work when you can, and never take anything personally. Funny about the instructor that won’t let you sub for them. A little intimidated are we? Which
        is crazy, it’s not an instructor competition to see who’s the best. You just do your best to not waste the students time. 🙂

  5. I’m always covering for a ‘roadrunner legs’ style instructor who loves to whoop a lot and never has much structure to her class. I always wear proper cycling kit (a jersey from a ride I’ve done or an official Spinning top emblazoned with the logo), and introduce myself as a spinning instructor, cyclist and triathlete to get my credentials out there. I warn the class that my style is very different and make a little joke about not whooping as much (in the UK we don’t tend to whoop really so she stands out) and then teach the best bloody class I can, with emphasis on why we do things and how they should make the riders feel.

    I know that my style is not always what people expect when they’re used to how the other instructor teaches, and when I get asked why I’m different, I always say that I’ve had different training and approach the class as if it was a real cycle ride or training for a bike ride.

    It is tough not to bash other instructors, especially when you see people doing stuff that I’ve been taught is detrimental – I have to resist and say things like ‘I don’t encourage x/y/z, why not try a/b/c instead and see how that feels'(most often with people trying the ‘tri’ position!).

    To be honest, one of the reason that I recently left a facility where I’ve been teaching (for free, long story)for almost a year is that the other instructors are PT’s who’ve been forced to teach and given, at most, 2 hours of training. I could not watch/listen to them. I offered further training (couched as suggestions for class ideas, drills, that kinda stuff) but only a few of them took me up on it. And like Robert says, the amount of times I’ve set someone up on their bike even though they’ve been coming to others classes for ages… well, I’ve lost count.

    1. Pru, thanks for fighting the good fight. I just told my class last night that I’m not a cheerleader. My approach is to tell them what they will feel, how difficult it can be, and the result if they are willing to challenge themselves. In the end, I want them to find their strength and motivation from within and when I’m not present to jump up and down to “whoop”.

      I like your tact in redirecting people to a better option than risk bashing another instructor. It can be a tough and awkward situation at times. I also taught at a club (which I left for the same reason) where they allowed personal trainers teach cycling classes. They were untrained but had a large following. One of the personal trainers would curse at his riders the entire class. I’m not talking about covert words, but rather F-bombs. Seriously. Because of the PT’s popularity, action was never taken so I left.

      The craziness we deal with is…. well, crazy!

  6. One of the many things I like about teaching beginner’s classes is that I usually have a “fresh slate” to work with. I can start the participants off with proper set up and work from there.

    One of the things I hear so often from people that have done some spinning before is “nobody ever told me how to set up a bike before”.

    I just smile and carry on.

    1. Robert, this is so true. I also love beginners for the same reason. They have this smile on their face and you get to watch them enjoy their first class (taught correctly). You also know they will now judge every other class based on what they experienced with you. The way uneducated instructors setup riders will never seize to amaze me.

  7. Our club just did the power training classes taught by Spinning in January. I personally love the training and have found it make a huge difference in my training. The problem at our club is that the other instructors don’t get it. They took the training but have gone back to teaching the old way just using new terms. They expect students to be at a zone three for 3-5 minutes in a standing climb with little or no recovery. One instructor only calls it a climb if they are in a standing position. No seated climbs in her class. Another one has the students start at 100 wattage and then increase resistance the whole class with no recovery at all. I am only a sub so I don’t have my own class but I find it extremely frustrating when I hear students say they are just going to go back to doing their own thing. They also advertise all of these classes as “Power Spinning” but everyone is teaching it different.

    1. Joyce, I should have titled this article, “Super Frustrating”, because that is what it is. Unfortunately, we are not different because we are polished or a step above others because of what we’ve learned. Often times we are vastly different because we actually have knowledge and the humility to learn more. I certainly feel for you. For some, at least we can say they are not pursuing education and that is the reason for the free-for-all. What you describe is downright angering. It appears they are totally disregarding the education they are being taught and possibly paid for. It is pathetic. Stay different and stay true to what you know is right. People do notice the difference even if your peers are stubborn and oblivious.

  8. Tom, I am also one of those instructors that teaches like you describe. Thanks for your article.

    1. Pat, I always appreciate your comments and for holding down the fort. You are very welcome!

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