Handling Objections to “Keeping it Real” in a Heart-Centered Way

As many of you know, I’ve been an evangelist for riding an indoor bike like we ride outdoors since the early days of my career with Spinning®. I coined the term Keep it Real in the context of our indoor cycling industry back in 2006 with a conference session of that title, and wrote the e-book Keep it Real in 2008.

Since then, I’ve received hundreds of questions from frustrated instructors on how to counter objections to keeping it real, or to a “cycling-specific” class. I’ve written numerous blog posts and articles on the topic and posted responses to hundreds of queries or challenges in many online forums. Tom Scotto also has written excellent rebuttals to counter the gimmicks that are so prevalent. Programs like Spinning and other indoor cycling certifications have made their stances on safe and effective cycling known via articles or handouts. Schwinn promotes their “Ride Right” stance in every training session.

The problem is, you can read our posts or handouts and still not know how to respond to these questions or comments (sometimes even attacks) in a constructive way that allows you to continue to honor what you believe in while also allowing the person who disagrees with you to save face. You can’t (or rather shouldn’t) be a jerk about it, or put down the instructor who is doing those popular moves. Instead, you should only ever challenge the technique, not the person doing them.)

If you are too harsh in your counter-argument, you may come across as arrogant, contemptuous, or abrasive. That doesn’t really help our cause; we need evangelists who are productive in their responses. It doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t have a strong opinion about the silliness of the movement/technique, but with science and common sense as your guide, you can counter these arguments in a more constructive manner.

The good news is that there is a way to be uncompromising about what you believe without being a jerk!

(Just so you know, there is nothing wrong with being labeled as passionate or a stickler for proper technique!) 😉

One of my own personal goals is to increase my effectiveness as a writer and speaker, both live and on video. This will also help me be better at handling the media. I’ve been studying better ways to communicate and interact with my audience, and this past weekend, I had the good fortune to be in a three-day, one-on-one intensive training that focused partly on strategic communication and partly on being a purpose-driven entrepreneur.

The benefits of my weekend will probably reverberate with me for the rest of my life! Yes, it was that incredible.

It was what I learned over the weekend that got me thinking about how to better respond to these kinds of challenges to our firmly held beliefs about proper technique in an indoor cycling class. For a long time, I’ve wanted to create for myself (and for ICA) a list of the best responses to the most popular questions/comments/attacks about cycling-specific classes, or the “Keep it Real” method. Short, concise responses; soundbites, if you will. I tend to get wordy in a lot of my responses (did you notice?). There’s a time and place for that, but usually, it’s best to lead off with a more concise answer.

The methods I learned this weekend have provided me with a template for doing just that. After I started the process, I realized how incredibly helpful this could be to you, our passionate audience who struggle with this challenge on a daily or weekly basis.

So, what I’m going to do is create a list of soundbites for you for 10 to 15 of the most common, challenging comments we are faced with.

But I need your help. Will you post below in the comments the remarks, questions, or harsh critiques that cause you to struggle the most in finding a solid answer without becoming defensive or counterattacking the person? Or they may be comments that cause you to shrink from even attempting to answer because you either don’t have the tools to answer, or you fear getting into a spitting match with them, or you don’t feel you have the confidence.

Let’s go through the process of how to answer one of these common critiques in a heart-centered way.

Example: Someone tells you that “cycling-specific means it’s going to be a boring class.”

Step 1: Whenever you are faced with a challenge to what you believe, it’s important to first acknowledge what the other person said. There is a reason they have that viewpoint, and for their reality, it may be a valid reason (i.e., they’ve only experienced a boring cycling-specific class). It’s often just a misperception, because they simply haven’t encountered what you know is possible. You must begin by empathizing with them. Use words such as:

  • I acknowledge
  • Align
  • Agree
  • …understand
  • …worry
  • …can’t imagine
  • …I can tell you’re frustrated
  • …wow

The most important thing is to be sincere!

Step 2: Engage them. In answering the question, use tools such as a story, analogy, references, visuals. Keep it concise. But don’t just end it there.

Step 3: Exit the conversation with the STAR method (STake, Action, Results). Put your Stake in the ground (your belief); ask for Action (I’d like you to consider…,” “imagine…,” “the main thing I want you to remember is…”), and follow up with the Results.

You should be able to respond in less than 90 seconds.

Let’s see how this applies to “cycling-specific means it’s boring.”

(Nod and smile) I agree; I think we’ve all been in a boring class before. They are not very fun, are they!

(Pause…and look them in the eye.)

I believe it’s the instructor that is boring, not the technique. My experience in instructing indoor cycling is that there are three key ingredients to being a good instructor.

First, they have to have a solid understanding of the foundational sciences. That includes exercise science as well as cycling science. This helps them create meaningful profiles/class plans.

Second, they have to be able to interact well with the class. This means possessing good communication and coaching skills, being able to engage the riders, and playing great music.

Third, and most important, they have to be able to motivate riders from within, not just by yelling at them. In my experience, about 90% of instructors seem to be missing this key ingredient.


These three things are the keys to making any class exciting, effective, and fun!

The main thing to remember is that riders buy the instructor before they buy the technique.

That is just one example. (Remember, you don’t need to add everything to every response.)

It takes me about one minute to say that in a calm voice at a moderately slow pace, with pauses and emphasis on the bold. How about you?

So, let me have them!

Give me your most challenging questions, comments, or harsh critiques you’ve received about either your own classes or about teaching cycling-specific classes. I’ll run them through the template and create a handout for ICA members. I bet you’ll want to keep a copy in your gym bag so you can practice saying them fluidly. This will also help you create compelling, sincere, heart-based responses to other questions you encounter.

Post your comments below. (Please keep them short and specific.)


  1. Author

    These are some great ideas. I’ll be working on them in the next couple of weeks and will let you know when they are ready!

    Thanks to everyone who submitted ideas. I’m sure there are more! =)

  2. I would like a concise way to answer these – a popular instructor at my facility, who has been a Mad Dogg instructor for years, does hovers, isolations and very fast (130-plus) cadences with little resistance. How to best answer
    – why don’t you do them?
    – so, why is he doing them?

  3. “Why don’t you have us hold our abs in, like the other instructors?”

    That’s a great question, I recently attended several workshops on breathing, (i.e. the Indoor Cycling Summit, as well as other ICA resources), and I also taught Karate many years ago, where breathing technique is important. Cycling is an oxygen fed sport, and we need to get as much oxygen as we can. Holding your abs tight limits the volume of air you can take in. Imagine running a couple of miles holding your stomach in the whole way. Your abs will get a better workout with some core exercises.

    I also tell people I can get them references to what I’m telling them if they like. It’s hard to argue with the science of the sport, and I don’t want them to think I’m just making this stuff up.

  4. This extends to the problem of people who refuse to allow you to help them adjust their bike to fit them properly. They feel that they have it perfectly setup for their preferences and they just don’t care about a real bike fit. I had a woman walk out on my class recently because I suggested she might consider raising her saddle. She let me help and I asked her to try it for one class. She said o.k. but left after the warm-up. Never saw her again. We have the Keiser bikes and I would say that she was about 5 feet 3 inches tall, but her saddle was at the utmost bottom that you could possible get it. She had so many reasons why she didn’t want to raise her saddle. Among them were: “I thought only men need to raise the saddle.” “I don’t want to hurt my back and if I raise the saddle my back hurts.” “I do not get as good a cardio workout if the saddle is high.” I was so perplexed by this woman. I suppose with so many reasons to justify her bad seat position I should have just left her alone?

    1. When new riders set their seat posts way too low (before I’ve captured them for a proper set-up) and are resistant to my suggestions, I demonstrate for them that if they were out running, the low position of their bike seat would have them running with legs bent at 90 degrees (or whatever that Groucho Marx walk was!) ,and kill their knees and inhibit their effort. Also, that a set-up appropriate to their height allows for a smoother pedal stroke.

  5. “what’s so wrong with pedaling backwards. I believe everything in moderation is ok and safe to do. with little resistance on i don’t believe i endanger my knee. Pedaling backwards gives the muscles full movement all the way around and that’s good.” this coming from a gentleman in his upper 70’s receiving injections for a very bad knee. I quickly felt he has his opinion and not open to changing that.

    That’s what we used in Air Force Recruiting.
    Restate their objection: Let me understand you clearly, you FEEL that cycling specific work outs will be boring.

    Commiserate a little: I FELT the same way before I tried them.

    Lead them to the path of success: I FOUND they can be quite challenging and I have increased my VO2 Max by XX (lost XX pounds, never felt more energized, or state some other benefit).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *