How to Educate Your Riders, Part 4: Using Storytelling and Non-Cycling Examples

Continuing our series on Educating Your Students, Christine gives some suggestions about how to use non-cycling examples to help students understand cycling technique and what they should be feeling while pedaling, both intensity-wise as well as understanding the pedaling movement. She does this primarily through storytelling in her profiles, although that’s not a prerequisite of the method. Christine is an expert at this technique and has been extremely successful educating her students. 

In this series on educating your students, Bill, Tom, and Jennifer have made it clear that there are many approaches to pass information on to your students. I have worked hard to find formats that make complex and sometimes dry material palatable to a wide range of learners. In doing so, I have had to rise above the delivery techniques that I was exposed to in college and grad school and have learned to create various types of theatrical productions—think of them as drama, comedy, action/adventure. I then have developed a persona that allows me to offer the scenarios in ways which engage my students. At no time, however, do I disguise the fact that I am delivering an educational experience and my classes know that I expect them to be attentive and to use the information I provide.

A good example of this can be seen in my Hounds of Halloween profile. In a comment about that profile, Ramiro Morejon wrote:

I love the hidden training purpose of it. I found interesting the fact that when on regular basis I try to describe road conditions, people do not usually engage very well. Yet with this story the game changed. The feeling of running back to the house, pedaling on the water, climbing the stairs to to roof of the house, all those elements changed the feeling of the ride for the participants!

I taught it 3 times this week. This morning something interesting happened. Even though I explained the nature of the ride, there were 2 rude people who had me stopping my story telling at one point and asked with bad manners to play “Spinning music.” I was very pleased with the reaction of the rest of the group. They appreciated it, and lectured those two individuals.

One participant said at the end: “I have not taken vacation for a while. This was my vacation trip, my adventure. It was great. Thank you!”

I was delighted when I read those words. Ramiro saw the philosophy behind the silliness. Most participants in indoor cycling classes do not ride outside. As a consequence, while they are happy to play along as we describe hills and flats and cycling tactics like attacks or pacelines, they have not felt those things in their own bodies. This makes it difficult for them to evaluate whether they are experiencing what we are attempting to create for them.

More in this series on educating your riders:

Should Indoor Cycling Instructors Educate Our Riders? Part 1

Educating Your Students, Part 2: Using Humor, Metaphors, and Analogies

How to Educate Your Riders, Part 3: How to Teach Without Being “Teachy”


  1. I am happy to hear that others enjoy story telling classes. It is so rewarding to find ways to link students’ real life experiences to the movements and effort of cycling.

    Bill, I am so glad that you mentioned entertainment as part of our job. I agree completely. It is is easy to embed a lot of useful content in a package that genuinely engages our students and it is our responsibility to do that at all times.

  2. Great article and insights. I love to teach training rides and story rides….my class looks forward to holidays knowing that it will be switched up and often times….a raffle!!!! Who does not like winning the prize?
    I want my class to love cycling and look forward to class and training in the greatest light, form and laughter.
    Thank you for all you do here on ICA to make that possible and for me to look good! LOL

  3. Christine, this knocks it out of the park! I firmly believe in the power of our exercise experience as a metaphor for life. You have cleverly reversed this logic to use real life as the metaphor for exercise. We are both coaches and entertainers, you’ve given us a new way to balance the two. Nice job.

  4. I am so glad that I read your article because it reinforces the way that I teach. Just this morning, I taught an endurance ride (being well aware of the challenges of keeping riders engaged during this zone) I told them we were going through Creve Coeur Park (a local park) and was very specific about where we were throughout the ride. I was able to describe various cadences by telling riders to let their legs be “free” as if they didn’t have a care in the world”, when we added wind, it was because we could “see” the sail boats on the water, when we could take a little off the bike it was because we found relief in the shade of the trees. By keeping members focused on the environment, trees, shorebirds, a crew team on the lake, they were able to avoid the feeling of monotony in their legs. Members came up to me after class (taught this 4 times this week) and each time was how much they loved the ride and the descriptions that went along with it 🙂

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