The suggestion that there is a difference between keeping it “real” and keeping it “fun” in a Spinning® class or indoor cycling class is a false dichotomy. It assumes that the population of clients for cycling classes is homogeneous in their definition of what is fun. It also suggests that instructors are limited to position changes and non-cycling-related activities to make their classes appeal to the widest range of clients.
Rather than return to the well-worn “we say, they say” paradigm of discussing this question I prefer to base a discussion on the definitions of “real” and “fun.” Jennifer Sage has been very articulate about what “keep it real” means in practical terms—what should and should not occur with respect to activities on the bike. We have not been provided with a similarly clear definition of “keep it fun.” In the absence of a statement from the proponents of “fun” to the exclusion of “real,” I will base my thoughts on the dictionary definition of fun.
Fun: A source of enjoyment, amusement, diversion, etc.
Let’s start with the first part of the definition—enjoyment. It is defined as:
the state or process of taking pleasure in something
the action of possessing and benefiting from something
Pleasure, possession, benefit are all words that can be used to describe the reactions of a certain cohort of our class population. These are people who revel in having good form, in receiving information that will enhance their workouts in class and other activities and wish to see a progression in their performance. We can provide enjoyment to those people through education and coaching regarding biomechanics and physiology.
Let’s assume, for a moment, that that cohort is a minority of our students. (My experience leads me to reject that assumption but that is a discussion for another day.) That leaves a majority of students who find their fun in other ways. That brings us to the second aspect of the definition of fun: amusement.
the feeling of being amused or entertained
something (such as an activity) that amuses or entertains someone
In a heterogeneous class, one person will find something amusing or entertaining while another finds it cloying or too serious. As indoor cycling instructors, we are very lucky because we have multiple opportunities to modify our classes so that they meet the wide range of needs in the groups we serve. We can make choices regarding the construction and content of our profiles, our music selections, and, finally, our own approach and attitude. Novel activities on the bike are not required to add complexity to what are already rich choices of ways to entertain and engage our students.
The final aspect of the definition is diversion:
something that takes attention away from what is happening
This is the nub of the question. People come to our classes with different goals but they are similar in their desire to be removed to another world, to be diverted even for an hour. But there’s no conflict between that and an introduction to the world we know and love. Excellent instructors will find a way to make that introduction by integrating information with their profiles and music. In doing so they will create a product that is always fun as it keeps it real.
I call that approach “edutainment.” If you were to take one of my classes you would realize that I am one of the most “serious” instructors out there. It really matters to me that people in my classes learn about good cycling form and exercise physiology. But I also step outside of my comfort zone daily to construct and deliver classes that make people smile. It is my responsibility to keep it real and fun at the same time.