Help New Students Feel Welcome to Your Class, Part 4: A New Student Handout Can Be a Lifeline

New students don’t know the importance of coming to class early and speaking with the instructor beforehand about their concerns or questions. It is not their fault they usually come to class at the last moment; perhaps it is a reflection of their nervousness about coming at all.

You do your best. You get them set up. You follow the suggestions given in parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series. You follow up at the end of class with good listening and encouragement.

You have invested a lot of work. Will you ever see them again?

What if you could send the new student away with something tangible? Something that would remind them of the most important points you’ve stressed? Something that will answer the questions they forgot to ask, or were afraid to ask for fear of seeming uncool?

A great answer to this problem is a simple new student handout. You can keep a handful in your teaching bag (along with music backup, stopwatch, goniometer, and other handy items). In the long run, having a new student handout will save you time and it will help you gain committed new students.  

What do you say in your new student handout? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Below you can download  the handout I use at my YMCA. You will want to make changes so your handout will be as specific as possible to your own unique class circumstances. This article will give you more ideas about what to say in a new student handout and how to say it.

Ask yourself, “What do new students want to know? What do they need to know?” Put yourself in their place and think about how you would feel and what you would need. Imagine knowing nothing about how the bikes work, how to set it up, or even how to control the pedals. What kinds of questions are top of mind for your new students? What questions are you asked most frequently?

Here are some specific things to consider for your own new student handout:


  1. Hey Bill, I took your welcome handout and married it with mine (included class rules/etiquette and how to find us on FB) and am very happy with the results. I’m looking forward to using it. I wish every Y would use this! Thanks for your insight and perspective.

    1. Author

      Hi Karen. Thanks for that. What you have done is exactly what we hoped — take mine and make it your own. It is such a powerful tool for new students and it makes our jobs easier in the long run.

  2. Bill this is a great resource that I will use to help my new students become more comfortable.

    1. Author

      Thanks, John I am happy you will find it useful. Happy teaching!

  3. Bill, Excellent article. One question, what exactly does an “isolation” look like on the bike. Is it similar to hover? I know I don’t do hovers, but some of our trainers do. Thank you

    Debby Pegg

    1. Author

      Hi Debby. Really good question. I will do my best with this but I encourage others to chime in.

      The terms “hover” and “isolation” are used sometimes almost interchangeably and there is confusion. Both isolations and hovers involve holding your body still and thus putting all the force generated from pedaling into joints not intended to absorb that force.

      A hover is a specific isolation where you “hover” your butt over the saddle and to pedal in that position. An isolation is any move that causes you to “freeze” any part of your body to similar effect. So, in a sense, a hover is a form of isolation.

      For example, in an isolation, the instructor might ask you to hold your hips completely still and suck in your abs for a “core workout”. This gives the appearance of hard work since your quads and glutes will begin to burn from having to perform work for which they are not intended.

      But that does not make the work effective. You are creating less power in a compromising position and, in effect, training muscles to do what is not natural to them.

      The burn you might feel is because of the inefficiency of having a secondary muscle do work that should be done by the primary muscle for that body movement. In exercise physiology, we call this synergistic dominance. It is a bad thing to have your synergist muscles do work intended for primary muscles to do. “Isolations” trains you to do precisely that.

      I think of isolations as a broader term involving any kind of body freezing. And I think of “hovers” as a particular and popular form or isolation.

      Does that help?

      Good wishes and thanks for such a good question.


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