More Than Fitness

A couple of weeks ago I was hit with a virus that kept me from the indoor cycling studio for two weeks. For those of us who love to teach, that can feel like an eternity. In addition to being sick and missing class, as instructors we are tasked with finding other instructors to substitute for us. After a week of sending sub requests, making phone calls, and offering bribes, I had yet to secure a sub for my 6:00 am Friday class. The general manager of the club said she would take care of it and told me to rest. I was relieved and did as I was told.

Upon my return, I asked my class if they missed me and if the subs had sufficiently kicked their butts. As it turned out, no instructor showed up for the Friday morning class in question. I then learned that one of the riders plugged in an iPod and everyone stayed and rode together. There was no instructor and no instruction. Everyone just did their own workout and enjoyed the company of their fellow riders.

Coaching, Not Cajoling

I smiled like a proud parent. Abandoned, my class could have decided to leave and take another group fitness class, weight train, or hit the showers. Instead they remained and said they still got a great workout. Many of the riders told me they could still hear my voice coaching them, keeping them on the bike, keeping them focused, keeping them from backing down. I couldn’t help but beam. One rider said, “You taught us how to train. We had no excuse.”

It is incredibly satisfying to know that all of the workshops I’ve attended, all of the articles I’ve read, all of the methods I’ve studied, and all of the other instructors I’ve learned from helped me to educate, train, and motivate my class.

It Takes a Village

There is something special about a class that really enjoys coming together. They talk amongst themselves (sometimes to the point of disruption) and connect outside of class. I’m am blessed to have taught this particular class for ten years—same day, same time. We have seen riders overcome numerous challenges, including cancer, and return. One rider takes everyone out to breakfast every three to four weeks. Even though I’m the instructor, I do not feel like the sole person holding the group together. It takes a village or a community to raise an inspired and dedicated class. It is important that we take the time to thank our riders for everything they bring through the studio door.

Don’t Be Shy

I’m sure there are many stories and examples like this. Please share about your class and how experiences, bonds, and community were created beyond the focus of fitness.


  1. My club has an issue with subs not showing up as well. My cycling students do the same thing. In fact, this had led to several students becoming instructors. My students have become a family!!!

  2. Basia….you are so correct.

    My first experinces in IDC were in an environment where there was such a strong class vibe that my classes were wait listed a day ahead of time. Thankfully, I had enough gumption to be aware that it wasn’t 100% me….

  3. it is not always because of the instructor but because the class participants are invested in their own workout. This is more likely to happen in early morning classes than those later in the day.

    Not putting down anyone’s coaching, ability to motivate or anything else, you have to consider the demographic and timing.

  4. You know what, Tom, MY riders often “hear your voice”……with my accent of course……as I bring so many of your workshops to Sherborn!

    Oftentimes, I get the impression that some members of my class don’t want to hear my voice at all but I can think of a couple of instances that make me still do the do….

    Years ago, I had a potentially *nasty* accident in class (a rider fell of her bike…..I jest not) and, along with all the rigmarole of writing out accident reports etc. word made its way around the gym such that, when I pitched up for class a mere 2 days later at least 3 class members who weren’t there at the time asked how come it happened as I cue so many safety checks at the start of class. Good!

    A couple of Christmases ago I had a Merry Christmas e-mail from a member (who, among other things, had followed my suggestion to do a VO2Max test with you) and updated me on what he’d been up to. Had done a 14 day bike tour in Italy with a group that included his lady friend. It involved a loada climbing every day. Apparently, he gave thanks for one of my mantra….”Listen to me now……or believe me later”……when he had to dig a bit deeper than he cared for. At the time, he was 82 (you know who I mean now, right!!!) Better!


    1. Author

      Vivienne, you are too kind, and I love your accent!

      Those are great testimonies. I love that mantra and will definitely steal it 🙂

  5. My whole journey through teaching was inspired by one instructor named Jim. When he left the club some of the other gym instructors were “trained” to teach the classes – frankly they were rubbish, so myself and a handful of other regulars decided to go it alone and basically “do” Jim’s class alone. The club didn’t like us using the studio unaccompanied so we couldn’t continue that way, so instead I took it on myself and started my training ASAP, and picked up a class within 2 weeks of my first course (coincidentally being made redundant from my IT job the same week) -after that I trained with Schwinn and with Spinning and duly became the Group Ex co-ordinator for that club.
    Unfortunately, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the club closed in June very suddenly, due to somewhat “sharklike” business practice of the owner, however from the beginning of October, myself and a fellow instructor started delivering our video classes again in a nearby start-up studio – many of our members have come across with us and they are actively seeking to bring (among others) our Tuesday evening class together – as they said “its like getting the family/clan back together after all this time” makes you feel good doesn’t it 😉

    1. Author

      Wow Melanie!!! That is an incredible story and testament to your dedication to indoor cycling and building a community. I love it!

  6. Yes, this conversation makes me smile. I too have had a rider say, “I can hear your voice in my ear when the ride gets hard.” It makes me feel good. It lets me think that my work extends outward from the cycling studio. Anne, I’m happy that you love your riders. It seems they love you.

    1. Author

      Thanks Bill, when riders make this type of comment, it shows you are not merely a instructor, but a coach. It feels very good to know we can help others beyond the studio.

  7. I had a sub not show up a couple of weeks ago. Wish I had thought of this when they called to tell me!

    1. Author

      It is always frustrating to learn that your riders are not taken care of in your absence. Maybe you could compliment your class and let them know you have confidence in them that someone could lead if ever in that position again.

      I was taking a friend of mine’s yoga class (yes, yoga). She was running 15 minutes late and asked if I would start class and begin the opening flows. I was new to yoga, only took maybe 6 classes total. I thought it was a joke when the group fitness manager made the announcement. Let a cycling instructor teach a yoga class?!?! I guess I should use my cool-down voice 🙂 Needless to say, it felt great to be trusted with another instructor’s “baby”.

  8. That was a wonderful testament to you Tom as a leader. Most of my classes are a mixture of “seasoned” riders and “first time” riders. i provide two sets of instructions for both sets of riders to keep everyone safe and my seasoned riders challenged.
    One of my students in particular Jennifer who is both a road and mountain bike rider often tells me “you are the birdie on my shoulder as I ride” encouraging me up the hill.

    I feel blessed as an instructor and I tell my students that often. They motivate me to each ride to always “strive for more and to continue improving as their instructor, coach, mentor motivator.

    Have a great weekend.


    1. Anne,
      your post made me smile. You say you have a rider Jennifer who says you are the birdie on her shoulder….well I have a rider named Annie who used to tell me I was always the birdie on her shoulder! (I miss having her as a rider! She no longer goes to that club, going to a computrainer one instead.)

    2. Author

      Anne, You have a great heart toward your riders and being an instructor. I love that you provide 2 sets of instructions. It shows your desire to ensure everyone has a great experience. “Birdie” status is awesome 🙂

  9. This is such an amazing testament to an incredible coach Tom! I’ve heard this from my riders when they’ve been in a similar boat before, and ICA members have told me similar stories.

    It’s like when one of your regulars tell you that they hear your voice when they are struggling up a hill on their bikes outside, and because of that, they stay committed!


    1. Author

      Best Feeling EVER!!!

Leave a Reply

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