How to Make the Best Of a Small Class

As instructors, we like big classes. They affirm us and stroke our egos. They make it easier to access that sense of shared class energy we all love to experience.

But what about the small class? How do you create energy and fun in a group of four or five?

My classes are usually pretty well attended. In fact, my Saturday 8 a.m. class through the winter is full and wait-listed as early as 7:20. But recently I was given a new class to teach mid-morning at a suburban location. Attendance has been four or five students.

My first response was to question how I might draw energy and enthusiasm out of such a small group to create the dynamic feeling needed for a good class. I found two answers:


  1. Author

    Hi Wanda. I am glad you found that helpful. Good luck with the new studio!

  2. I opened a studio in March (20 bikes). We are growing each week, although slowly. There have been many times my instructors had 1 or 2 people in the class. I LOVE your idea about coaching side-by-side Bill!! Thanks to Indoor Cycling Assoc for so much GREAT info supporting my belief to keep it real!

  3. My classes generally run around 10 to 12 participants but I have had classes with only one. I found that they gave me a chance to really connect and get the best out of me and my rider. They are the classes I remember the best.

    1. Author

      Hi Robert. One student is another special case, I think. If that happened to me, I think I would move next to the student and coach side-by-side. Talk about individual coaching! It sounds like you made the best of it when that has happened to you. Great that you appreciate and remember those opportunities. Talk about getting to know someone! Great job!

  4. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been getting a little discouraged. This really enforced that I am doing what I need. I just have to keep at it.

    1. Author

      Stay on it, Frederic, it is an opportunity to really coach your riders. And it will be fun for you to watch the class grow as people learn how much attention you pay to them.

  5. I also love to coach smaller classes and give them individual challenges and lock them into meeting them. I remember subbing a class and the profile was based on increasing intensity through pace – took it from 80 to about 105 in increments, adjusting resistance.

    After the class I had a participant come up to me and tell me she had never reached a pace of 100 and been able to maintain it. She was so elated and loved that she was ‘coached’ to get there. Like you say Bill, this is what makes us as instructors want to work harder – for our participants.

    1. Author

      Thanks for that account of your experience. You clearly “get it”. And, maybe we can take what we learn in our small classes and apply it to our larger ones.

  6. Author

    Shortly after posting this article, I read a relevant article in Spinning Instructor News. The article describes the increase in the number of privately owned “boutique” Spinning studios. It notes that Shape Magazine named the increase of smaller specialty studios as one of the hottest fitness trends of 2013. The article goes on to distinguish between the variety offered by the large health clubs and the intimacy offered by smaller clubs. The intimate approach helps clients get support for more personalized goals. That discussion parallels my discussion about the differences between teaching large classes and small classes.

Leave a Reply

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