Sub Standards, Part 1: Respect My Subs, or Else

It is not uncommon for riders to play favorites when it comes to which indoor cycling classes they will take. As instructors, we see our regulars every week. They often go out of their way to tell us how good of a job we are doing and how much they loved the whooping we just planted on them. The indoor cycling world spins happily on its axis week to week, and all is well until…we need to find someone to substitute our class. Chaos. Struggle. Picketing. Riots. Panic.


  1. First of all, I have to say: Fantastic topic, and awesome article!!! Thank you Jennifer and Tom, for being the best team a cycling instructor could ask for.
    I have my own studio, and I hear from my regular riders who are not happy when I have a sub. It is an evolution that we are going through as I am doing more traveling and asking others to teach. Here are some of my thoughts and observations:
    First of all, I do not like to use the word sub because it sets up a situation in which that person is automatically being compared to me. The word sub is not accurate. That person is not a substitute. That person is a teacher. Period. No one can be my substitute. I cannot be anyone else’s substitute. Rather, I tell my riders that there will be a teacher named such and such who will be teaching the classes on Wednesday.
    In terms of keeping it real, I talk with my regulars about how to train themselves properly no matter what the teacher is saying-including me. If I am getting carried away with some drill, I want my riders to keep their heads and dial it down-no matter what I am saying. I want them to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em-to listen to themselves first and foremost. That way, when there is a teacher that they are not familiar with, they will know what to do to get the training they are there to get, and be safe.
    That being said, I also emphasize the importance of being part of the team, and supporting the person who is teaching. Honestly, the group at the studio where I teach is very sensitive and supportive of teachers, and they are always on the lookout for what that teacher did right. But I do hear about the stuff that my riders did not like about the teacher. In my five years of owning my studio, I have had only teacher that my students asked me not to have back again. I am cool with that.
    If I want my riders to be respectful and not judgmental, I ask myself if I am being judgmental-am I saying all of the right words but giving the subtle signals that I feel better than that person? It starts with me. So, I take what goes on when I am not there as a reflection of my management of my classes. It is a tough standard to live up to, but I am responsible ultimately no matter who is teaching.

  2. Great post Tom,

    In the past Jennifer, Tom and I have had some spirited discussions on various topics. BUT ON THIS WE AGREE COMPLETELY!!!

    Subs are the lifeblood of group exercise. Moreover, at most facilities it is our job to find a sub. Unlike almost any other place of work, we cannot not just call in sick or plan a vacation or business trip. We must make sure our classes are covered. We do the best we can for our riders not for ourselves. The subs from our A list are not always available.

    And speaking to the ‘B’ Team subs out there. If you get the chance to sub for the Tom Scotto’s or Jennifer Sage’s of the industry, consider it your chance to raise your game in pursuit of your own very popular regularly scheduled class. Subbing is a great way to gain experience especially when subbing for the very popular instructor.

    As for style, it goes both ways as well. God help the keep-it-real sub that is pinch hitting for a soul cycle like instructor. It has happened to me. I arrive to sub a class and riders have already selected their upper body weights. OMG! I tell everyone to put the weights aside while we warm up and then conveniently forget all about them.

    I always enjoyed subbing. There were some classes that just would not cut me any slack. Still, I looked on it as a challenge to win them over. Nothing like an aggressive warm-up, a few steep hills followed by some explosive efforts to wear even the most loyal down.

    I’m looking forward to part 2 & 3.

  3. This is a subject you won’t find anywhere else. And it’s so important. Our subs are our lifelines at times, so the more they feel welcome, the easier it is for us to find them.

    Thanks Tom!

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