Alisha Shulter is an indoor cycling instructor who recently taught her first class entirely off the bike. But, she hadn’t planned on doing it that way. The results, however, were magical and taught her a lot about herself and her students. She wrote this blog post about it and gave me permission to share it with you here at ICA.

Do you see yourself in her words? Have you discovered the magic of teaching off the bike, or are you still tenuous about it? Please share in the comments below after reading Alisha’s article!

Lessons off the bike…

The damn video just wasn’t loading. The mouse icon sported its familiar circular “thinking” pattern, letting me know that something was happening in the guts of that computer, but there was nothing to show for it. 5 minutes in… okay, something might… if I just restart this, and maybe open this one instead?… Ack! 10 minutes in to class now! Things are really running behind!I finally had to face it. For the first time ever…

Total. Catastrophic. Equipment. Failure.

I sighed, closed the laptop, and hollered out to the class my deepest apologies.
Despite arriving to class an extra 15 minutes early (I’m always there 15 minutes ahead anyway, so this day I had now driven in all the way from Edmond to arrive extra early right when the Colvin opened at 5:30), I just could not get the equipment working that day. And I’m a pro at this! I’ve been the one training instructors how to do this for years! Add in the extra frustration I was feeling that one of my participants had gone out of his way to supply me with a really boss video projector just for this class (seriously, I’ve been using it since this day – absolutely fucking rocks), PLUS the fact that all the DVDs of these videos I had oh-so-carefully burned and placed in the instructor sound system had mysteriously disappeared. That’s right. I was using my own personal backups of these videos, and I couldn’t even get those to load. Whoever had last used that poor computer had done a number on it, and there was nothing I could do to rescue it.
So it was time to move on to my backup of my backup plan: regular cycling class it was!
Now because of the enormous amount of setup time it takes to display cycling class videos (which involves maneuvering all the bikes around the studio to make room for the sound system in the center, all just so I can place a projector on top and point it at the wall where I normally lead class) at this point it was impossible to revert back to the standard class setup and still have any time to coach a workout.So instead, I plugged back in my iPhone and quickly launched a playlist, an oldie-but-goodie workout: 3×7:00 negative split sets. I began coaching my class completely off the bike… for the first time ever.I had had moments where I coached off the bike before. In fact, I frequently leave my instructor bike at the front to do any number of things, such as give one on one feedback, help a particular student through difficulty with a set, assist with mechanical failures, talk to students to help them check on levels of perceived exertion, etc. But never have I coached and entire class on my feet.

It was exhilarating!

Magically, somehow, I was still able to capture that high group energy! I thought I would have been bored through the long 7:00 sets, but instead they absolutely flew by! Plus, without the distraction of actually pedaling, my coaching improved 5-fold as my brain was able to access more blood! Huzzah!

I am not talented enough with words to adequately explain just how amazing this experience was (no matter how much punctuation I use). And I could tell it was not just me. The participants were reacting very positively – they had more smiles, more excitement, more energy!, then I’ve almost ever seen.

So this post is just about that. This magical experience of actually coaching off the bike. I don’t know why I have never done it before. Why I never listened to seasoned instructors who preached of it. After 5 years, I finally experienced the magic. It was epic. We had a great class. We turned a negative into an overwhelming positive. I will always remember this moment, and I will use it as a weapon in the future. A weapon to not only help me become a better coach, but to help me connect with my participants more, and to help inspire my participants to engage in their own workouts in a new and different way.

So thank you Jennifer Sage and your wonderful crew at Indoor Cycling Association. You were so right! Ride on!

1 Comment

  1. I think “magic” is a great word to describe the feeling of engaging one to one, off the bike with your riders. Something happens magically for you and your riders that doesn’t happen any other way. A personal connection happens that let’s them know you are engaged, beside them, behind them and know they are capable of giving their best, whatever that is for that day and that body they brought to you. I find myself sometimes off more than i am on now and the riders that have been with me for 3+ years know and trust the reason why and when. It gives me a chance to talk with my riders, find out their PE, listen to their conversation back to me, their breathing intensity and mental focus. I can take a quick glance at their heart rate to see if there’s a good match up. I have developed strong relationships with many of my riders that wouldn’t have happened if I had stayed in my safe, protective, cacoon on the bike.

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