A self-described “crocked” ex-runner (that’s British slang for a worn-out horse!), Caroline Rigby knew this was the LAST time she would get jiggy on an indoor bike. (I’m leaving that line open for your personal interpretation!) With the lyrics of American Idol’s #1 diva reverberating in her head, Caroline burst through the locker room door declaring, “I CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT!”
A hefty proclamation coming from someone who had never taught a group fitness class before!
In 2012, just two years shy of her fiftieth birthday, Caroline’s willpower pushed her to complete her Spinning® certification. Yearning for yet more knowledge, she discovered ICA and realized her online access would provide more educational resources than she could get from any continuing education course, for a very small investment.
Because Caroline was confident and ready to bring her “better than that” class to the locker room ladies, her club manager gifted her with those blessed sunrise time slots. “No one came to the early morning classes,” Caroline joked. “I guess it was the hour with the least amount of risk involved? So, I tried everything out on them: homemade video presentations, endurance rides, even recovery rides!” They were her learning curve and it wasn’t long before attendance in her classes exceeded many of the most popular time slots held during the day.
Caroline’s reputation brought her to teach at what she would call a “proper” London cycling studio. It was a familiar studio for her—she had spent numerous hours riding in the front row of Sarah and Sandro Morelli’s (UK Spinning master instructors) classes, and credits their influence in helping to craft her passion to teach physiologically sound classes that are accessible to all rider types.
The learning didn’t stop with her traditional indoor cycling training. A turning point occurred when Caroline participated in Europe’s first SpinPower® certification, where she realized power was the future of our industry. Wanting to gen up on power cycling information, she discovered the Wattbike®, commonly used by UK and European elite cyclists for scientific testing and competitive training. Fitness centers had just begun to use Wattbikes in their indoor cycling programs, bringing superior levels of interaction and data tracking to their customers.
The Wattbike captured her attention. But she wasn’t ready to lead a classroom full of cyclists. Why not? She wasn’t an outdoor cyclist. So she did the next logical thing…and became an outdoor cyclist while completing her Wattbike certification!
We’re not talking about a simple Sunday afternoon rider—but a smashing competitive cyclist! She kicked off 2015 with criterions and time trials, and most recently added Cyclocross to her novice racing agenda. As the familiar saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them!” In Caroline’s case, I would add a concluding phrase: “If you can’t beat them, join them! Until you can beat them!” She acknowledges her outdoor training has been a huge influence upon her coaching methods within the studio.
Today, when you visit Caroline’s Wattbike studio, she’ll be wearing a casual track suit and sneakers. She’s dressed as a coach and not as a cyclist. Rider trust is her highest priority. “I am the coach. And I have no intention of getting on the bike. I can speak in a calmer, more natural voice,” she explained. “At the ICA Conference in London, I saw how Jennifer Sage taught off the bike and I resonated with her ability to remain so calm but in control at all times. And as a rider, I appreciated the space it gave me to think on my own. So, I have learned to speak less, distract less, and move less because it is not required in the studio and I want my riders to stay focused.”
There is no instructor bike in the studio. The cadences are projected visually, as well as instructed verbally and delivered audibly with the bpm of the music. “I don’t have to ‘rabbit’ on about matching my pedal stroke. They know what to do.” During longer efforts, she prefers the back of the room rather than “faffing around” the riders, potentially breaking their focus. There is beauty in her quiet confidence and trust in the bike’s ability to forever change the rider’s views of power output.
Recognizing many IC instructors are nervous to coach off the bike, I questioned Caroline about resources that have helped improve her skill set to deliver not only physiologically sound rides but also direct coaching cues. She recommended the following resources:
- The Indoor Cycling Association.
- “Like” on Facebook: Cycling Inform, Bicycling Magazine, Cycling Weekly
- Read online articles relating specifically to outdoor cycling.
- Study these books: Faster by Michael Hutchinson, The Time-Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael, and Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andy Coggan.
“When you know better, you do better.” Words spoken by Maya Angelou and a philosophy I see engaged in the humble life of Caroline Rigby. Periodically, she will email the riders at her workplace gym and ask them to reply to two items: “Please tell me: 1) One item you feel I do well in our cycling classes, and 2) One item you think I could do better.” Students have the option of responding directly to Caroline or anonymously through the club manager. This is how she repays herself for the time she donates teaching at her workplace club. “The developmental feedback is worth more than a paycheck.”
When you know better, you do better.
Her iron-horse determination to increase her knowledge has consistently made her a better athlete and coach. And the wisdom she communicates to her participants is the catalyst they need to do better. “What matters most to me is knowing I simply made a tiny difference.”
ICA Members, click here to read the 5-part series on teaching off the bike and becoming an empowering coach in the process. It is a veritable CED course on the topic!