Ask The Expert: What Do You Do When A Rider Is Late to Class and Misses Warm-up?

Following our in-depth series on different kinds of warm-ups for different types of classes, I received an excellent question from ICA member Ellen Chan.

Thank you for the wonderful articles on warm-ups. I understand why warm-ups are required, but how do you approach a student who is 10 minutes late to class? They do not warm up and begin right away to work out.

I am sure we’ve all encountered this. I’ve got five ways that will help you manage latecomers to your classes so that they don’t miss out on the warm-up and can benefit from your hard work on your profile. How you approach your riders to ask them to warm up on their own is largely based on what you learned in the six articles of our warm-up series.  

Five Ways to Manage Late Arrivals

  1. Don’t allow students who are late to class.

The number one way to mitigate this problem is to post a rule that there is no entrance to the cycling studio once the class has begun. Allowing people to come in willy-nilly is not helping them or your class at all. Not only do they miss out on the important warm-up, but you might be in the middle of explaining the profile and the required intensity parameters. Distracted riders will likely miss out on important elements about the ride. If you have to stop and set the newcomer up, it ruins your delivery and flow even more.

This is worthy of its own discussion so I’ll expand on ways to implement this policy in an upcoming article. However, I do realize that some clubs or GXDs are, for some reason, unwilling to restrict entry to class. If that’s the case, then you have to manage your latecomers carefully, and individually, as in the following tips.

  1. Teach your riders how important the warm-up is to the quality of their workout.

    How do you handle a latecomer to class?




  1. Our classes are sold in 9 to 12 week blocks so the people have prepaid for a set number of classes. As such I don’t feel right denying them entry if they are late.
    I usually welcome latecomers with “you’re here and that’s the important thing! Just do your warm up and join in when you’re ready.” I always get a nod of agreement and I watch them do their warm up(from my bike) and signal to them when I figure it’s time for them to join in.
    I have the occasional person come in halfway through the class and I will follow the same routine with them. If I get the chance, I will approach them after the class and stress the need to arrive on time.

    1. Author

      This is very similar to my classes. I do 6–8-week periodized clinics in the winter and participants pre-pay. So we can’t keep them out. And I had one couple who were almost always late this past winter! Picking up kids, snow, school meetings, too much snow on Vail mountain… They were a great couple and always appreciated my suggestion to warm-up before joining us on the harder parts.

      But if I was in a regular studio, I would suggest to have a posted rule. However, I wouldn’t be 100% hard-ass about it. I understand there are always things that happen. Heck, I’ve been delayed by traffic accidents and weather (living in a ski area we are used to it). But those are exceptions, not the norm.

  2. I certainly don’t mind the occasional late comer, but what does everyone do with the member who is late to EVERY class. It varies from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. Other members have complained about her tardiness and it has become a problem. Multiple instructors have tried addresses her but she becomes defensive and even combative. The club does have a policy about not entering after ten minutes but will not allow us to enforce it.
    any help would be appreciated.

    1. Author

      now that’s a great question.
      Part of the issue is management—if it’s policy, they need to enforce it. Perhaps have a meeting with the GXD and general manager to see what can be done. Come equipped with the reasons it’s not a good idea to allow late comers. For the late person, they miss out on the important warm-up and on the explanation about the class profile and intensity. Often that person just doesn’t care, and maybe they don’t go hard anyway, they just like to get a little easy cardio in. But most importantly, it’s very distracting to others, unless you have a door in the back and they can sneak in quietly.

      Next i would try as much as possible to approach her about it, but before doing so, make sure you establish trust first. For a class or two, simply ask her name, include her in some supportive comments in class, such as, “Way to climb that hill Mary. I think you left Bob in the dust!”

      If you are doing some pretty high-intensity work, you may want to go near her while you are preparing the others for the interval, and then just before you go, cover your mic and say to her softly, “Mary, you should hold off of doing these since you missed our warm-up. Take the next 6 or 7 minutes and gradually increase your effort, and then you may be ready for our final two intervals. Will you do that?”

      When you do approach her after class, make sure it’s not in an offensive way—or she will become defensive. Start by saying something nice, and then add, “I just want to understand what is causing you to come in so late. I am concerned you aren’t getting the benefit of our workout without the warm-up and explanation about the profile. I don’t want you to miss out on the benefits of the intervals like we did today, but everyone needs a good warm-up before doing those. ”

      Hopefully she will share something with you. Maybe she comes from work and it’s the earliest she can get there. Or has to drop off a kid she picked up from school (I don’t know what time your class is so not sure what her stressors might be).

      Anyways, once you understand what’s holding her back, it’s easier to be empathetic, and maybe find a way to integrate her without anyone feeling defensive or put out. If there’s no way she can get there on time, suggest she slip in quietly and take a bike at the back, and promise you she will always warm-up on her own before pushing hard with the rest of the class.

  3. This is helpful Jennifer. I think your multi-part answer indicates that the answer is indeed, “it depends”. I always welcome late-comers and in fact I tell them I appreciate that they still made the effort to come when being late could be an excuse to skip. I particularly like your approach where you go over and extract the promise to warm up properly. It absolutely depends on the circumstance but that is my go-to solution. Good discussion.

  4. There are two categories of response I have: one for new students, and one for existing students. For students who’ve been to class before (my regulars), I would MUCH rather they get a 30, 35 or 40 minute workout in than none at all! The *last* thing I want is for them to look at a clock at work, realize they’re running late and use that as a decision not to come take care of their bodies. No one is perfect, and no one who knows a cycle class should be turned away for being late. All my students know they are welcome to come late AS LONG AS they agree to always warm up for 5 minutes. I remind them regularly during introductions so they all know. When they come in late, I get off the bike and remind them and they usually give me the thumbs up. It works great. They love class and are rarely late. For new students, it depends on how late they are. If I have time to size them for the bike, I will, otherwise, I’ll explain that I need to introduce them to the bike to keep them safe, and unfortunately I need to start class, so please come back at X time and day so I can get them ready to ride properly.

  5. I do not have the ownership of being able to refuse anyone entering no matter their arrival time. I have a few stragglers due to work/travel commute by be 5 or 10 minutes late but i understand and am fine with that, however, i also have certain others who regularly walk in 30:00 late for a 45:00 & 60:00 class. Don’t get why but they do. I figure it’s there loss. I say hello, remind them to take the first 5:00 or so to warm up and a brief overview of what’s coming. Other than that i don’t take much more of my focus away from the participants who came reasonably on time.

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