I was headed to the gym for a workout, and upon reaching the entrance, bumped into a friend of mine who looked as if she had just been run over by a bus. Knowing the unlikelihood of large motor vehicles operating in the club, I decided to ask her what happened.
“Hey, how are you?” I said in apparently too chipper a tone. She turned only her head and glared at me with one eye bigger than the other. Her facial expression compelled greater curiosity, so I continued. “Did you just get out of a cycling class? How was it?” She released the gym bag in her hand as if dropping a heavy sack of potatoes. “You can say that. The instructor was a maniac.”
I have been a coach for 15+ years, and have come to realize that everyone has their own perception of what is hard and what is easy. Since their perception is often different than my interpretation, I find it best to get clarification; plus I was particularly interested in her definition of a “maniac” instructor. Anticipating a juicy story, I prodded further. “Wow, sounds pretty extreme, what happened?”
Her stare became intense and her tone aggravated. “Our regular instructor was away this week, so we had a sub. I think he was either new, insecure, or just terrible. Our instructor’s class is quite popular. People really respect her workouts. She has a reputation of giving a hard class that provides a perfect balance of work and recovery. Maybe this sub felt he had some big shoes to fill or maybe he decided to show us how hard he can make us work. We barely had a warm-up and were immediately thrown into a hard climb followed by 10 minutes of jumps. Then some long sprints where he only provided 15 seconds of recovery, followed by another climb and more jumps. He ran us ragged with no rhyme or reason until 2 minutes before the end of class when he told us to cool down and stretch on our own. With the exception of those 15-second recovery periods, I don’t think he gave us any other break. I don’t know why I tried to keep up. I think I was just aggravated and hammered away in frustration. Oh well, I’m late for work so I’ve gotta run. I just hope he never subs our class again.” She peeled her gym bag off the sidewalk and continued out of the club.
This is not the first time I’ve heard this unfortunate tale, and my mind started connecting a few of the stories. Many of them involved a sub which people deemed “horrible.” Now I certainly don’t believe all subs are horrible. I’m sure we’ve subbed many classes ourselves (I hope); I know I have. However, I do think there can be a greater tendency to overplay our “A” game when walking into a cycling studio with new or unfamiliar stares. Let’s face it, it can be intimidating to enter a room when you’re NOT the person everyone is expecting. I’ve even had a rider walk out of a class I was subbing moments after I walked through the door—before I even had a chance to reach the stereo or say a word. So I understand the pressure of feeling the temptation to overcompensate for not being THE instructor. The bottom line, is the class we are walking into is not ours; they are not our riders and not used to our style.
In two days I will post part 3 of our series “Sub-Standards,” which will focus on BEING the sub. Before doing so, I’m curious if any of us have been a part of a class led by one of these overzealous subs. What did you observe? I look forward to sitting back with a scotch and enjoying your stories. 😉
P.S. Just in case you are sweating and nervous—no one who has ever subbed one of my classes has been accused of this.