When Honesty is the Best Choice

Learning how to talk less when coaching your classes is one sign of confidence, but it can take time to allow yourself to get to that point. In my article on learning how to be more comfortable with silence, I suggested that you can be honest with your students and let them know that this is something you are working on. This is what Robert posted in the comments:

During pedal drills, I will take the last minute or two for the participants to practice what I’ve been showing them. I’ll tell them, “I’m going to do something that’s very hard for me. I’m going to stop talking and let you guys concentrate on keeping it smooth and round” (thank you, Jennifer, for the cue). I always get a positive response and good efforts from the people.

Thank you, Robert, for your comment. It is so true, isn’t it? You bared your soul in a way to your students; you let them know you are human and have some challenges. I bet every single person in the room was able to empathize with you and more easily accept your challenge of staying silent for longer.

This got me thinking about other scenarios when it’s more helpful to just simply be up-front with your students and let them know you are facing a challenge. Maybe it’s that you are new to something, or you are working on your own abilities; perhaps you have difficulty with something, or maybe you need to confess you are sick and won’t be doing what you are asking of them. Sometimes this kind of up-front honesty can diffuse a potential negative scenario; nip it in the bud, so to speak.

You can use wisdom, humility, humor, or even, in some cases, a bit of self-deprecation (as long as you don’t take it too far and beat yourself up). Following are seven scenarios that came to mind. If you have any additional ideas for the examples I pose below, or even more situations in which you felt being completely up-front with your students about not knowing something or being new at something was the best choice of action, please share it in the comments below.

Faced with a brand-new class:


  1. One helpful thing regarding the sound system and the craziness that can occur with these wonders is to take a few pictures of the set up with your phone that you can review at home or prior to your workout. This is especially helpful if you teach at different locations with different sound systems. You also might get together with the person who set these things up for a quick review on troubleshooting.

  2. I can be sucky at counts, so I try to head it off at the pass: My go-to, when I know I’m not great at maintaining (especially 8-count beats) is to start us off together. After everyone has found their rhythm/RPMs, I let them know, that, following a few jumps together, they’re on their own for a minute or so to maintain those jumps. (I sit down in the saddle
    or walk around the room) I’ve found it helps riders focus on their OWN pedal stroke and rhythm. Many riders mimic instructors, which is ok, but this method gives both instructors and riders a break from normal.

    -After that 1-2 minutes is/are over, we come back together. Then I’ll set a 4-count, go with, then let them be on their own again.

    Good songs for standing jumps/ jumps on a hill:
    – Golden Flowers- “Rivers of Babylon”
    – Beyonce-“Daddy Lessons”

  3. Ha! I’ve also miscounted or lost track during some intervals. My go-to joke is that I can’t count/do math and ride a bike at the same time!

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