One Instructor’s “Superhero Cape” Experience

This week’s article on wearing your superhero cape in the indoor cycling room has generated some great comments by instructors. I want to share one of these successful stories with everyone to inspire you to do the same if you are confronted with rude or challenging students. ICA member Chuck recounts his own story of being faced with a challenging situation and having to wear his own “superhero” cape:

I recently was transferred to a “sister” gym in our company and have taken over a class where it seemed that students did whatever they wished, from riding in the back of the classroom against the wall to texting, talking on the phone, and riding their own class with contraindications.

Upon my first day, I started with coming in early enough to set up the bikes in a classroom format (multipurpose room with no class before mine). As students came in, they tried to set up their own bike in another position, and I firmly stated, “Welcome to my classroom. My name is Chuck, I’m the instructor. I’ve taken the time to set up the bikes for our class. We’re riding together, and I’ve set it up that way. Please leave the bikes where they are.” Some we’re really miffed and stated things about riding away from the fan, liking to ride in the back, etc. With that I gave them recommendations on where to sit without having to move bikes. One student, whom I’ve known, said aloud “There’s a new sheriff in town,” to which I replied “Nah, I’m your instructor, and I’m here to give you a good class and a great workout.”

Over the past month, with giving them great profiles and even a ride on basic movements and positions you should see in a proper indoor cycling class, I have won the students over and have gotten great comments on how they wish other instructors would teach the same way. My class is full and they have had to turn away students. Coincidentally, my next ride is…”The Superhero Strength Ride.” I’m teaching a strength profile where I’m helping to refine their climbing and strength movements using some of the tracks from superhero/adventure movies. I definitely will be wearing my invisible cape, which you have described!

This is such an awesome story, Chuck! It can be very intimidating to take over a class in which the students had free rein to do whatever they wanted. I’ve heard horror stories from instructors about being in this situation and how difficult it was for them to get students to even listen. Imagine an elementary school teacher taking over for a previous teacher who wasn’t skilled in keeping the students in line!

Sometimes our (supposedly adult) students are not a whole lot different than those children. However, I do believe that most of them want and appreciate order, as Chuck’s students have shown. Oh sure, you might get the occasional person who preferred the chaos and hates being told what to do. But if that person decides not to come back, then your class is most likely better off because of it. That person might do better with headphones in the cardio room anyway.

The key is to be firm but compassionate. In elementary school, it might be called “tough love.” In an indoor cycling studio, it’s called being confident.

It might also have been funny, Chuck, if you came to class the next day with a “Sheriff” badge on and jokingly stated that there IS a new sheriff in town! Then walk up to the person who had made the sheriff comment, extend your hand with a smile and a wink and say, “I’d like to offer you the position of being my deputy, do you accept?” then turn to the class and say, “In fact, you all can be my posse!” Then play your first song: “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”

Thanks for sharing your story Chuck, and congratulations. I hope this inspires instructors who are faced with a similar situation.



Not yet a member of the Indoor Cycling Association? As a member, you will not only learn how to gain the confidence you need to manage and mitigate challenges, but also how to be a more inspiring and educated indoor cycling coach with the most motivating profiles and music. Click here for more information on joining ICA. Click here to read what members are saying about ICA.


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