The holidays are here, and that means we can expect the usual highs and lows of the season. Typically full classes can seem to dry up overnight as external pressures mount on your regular riders. Holiday parties, family demands, travel, shopping stress, and flu that spreads like wildfire when people move indoors for the winter can leave the indoor cycling instructor staring at a cycling studioroom dotted with empty bikes. It’s time to leverage your experience and boldly step forward into the most turbulent weeks of the year with these tips from ICA contributors.
Helping your regulars cope
Bill Roach suggests that you recognize that stress is stress, no matter how it comes to you. “I don’t teach my hardest profiles during December. The body does not distinguish between emotional stress and physical stress, so why do a lot of physical stress when there is plenty of emotional stress already present?”
Jennifer agreed about the need to pull back a bit on the intensity and added a handy script you can use when introducing an endurance ride to participants who think they need to be beat up during high-stress periods:
Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Kwanzaa or whatever you celebrate, everyone! Thanks for taking time out of your VERY busy schedule to come to class today. I’m sure all of us can agree that although the holidays can be fun, they are also very stressful. I am so happy you recognize the the importance of taking care of your own needs in this busy time and that you showed up today.
Did you know that the body doesn’t differentiate between where your stress comes from? It can be emotional, mental, or physical—it is the same chemical reaction, regardless of the source. It manifests itself the exact same way in our bodies. And when your body is bombarded by stress hormones, you know what it needs the most? You might think you want to be beat up today, to push REALLY hard, to combat the stress. But that’s really the opposite of what you need. It will just bombard you with more stress hormones.
So today I have put together a delicious ride for you, one that will feel awesome, cause you to sweat, help you to focus, but won’t batter you with additional stress hormones. It’s a tempo ride in Zone 3 (what some refer to as an endurance ride), a range that should feel moderate to moderately hard but never hard, never breathless. There are so many fantastic benefits at this intensity, I welcome you to embrace it and enjoy it and allow yourself to become immersed in what we are doing. It will feel good and do you good but won’t leave you in tatters.
Not to worry, we’ll start increasing the intensity gradually over the next few weeks.
Karen Cruz adds that regular riders should also be encouraged to seek out yoga classes. “I find there is a nice overlap in relaxing your shoulders and upper body, as well as effective breathing cues that apply to both classes.”
For more on yoga across the holidays, here are 10 yoga poses that fend off stress during the holidays.
Welcoming the newbies
Karen also has suggestions for instructors facing a a studio full of new riders. “Create playlists that have long intros that are predominantly instrumental so you can talk to the new riders while the rest of the class warms up.”
Lengthening the warm-up with lyric-free music gives you the opportunity to speak with new riders about what to expect from the class as well as instruct them on proper form and contraindications. It is also a perfect time to recommit regular riders to the pillars of safe indoor cycling: what to bring (towel, good shoes, water); how to be hydrated, nourished, and free from distraction; and why we do what we do (and don’t do what we don’t do). The new year brings a fresh start to everyone and you have the opportunity to reset in areas where you may have become lax.
Taking care of yourself
You cannot forget that you are priority #1 during the holiday rush, because if you are scattered and stressed running into your class, you will not be present for your riders, new or longtime. Just when it seems you have so much more to do, you suddenly have less time to do it. You must build into your day delays in traffic, crowded parking lots, inclement weather, and for those who teach early mornings, potentially later bedtimes (you know, those holiday parties!).
One of the most important tips I can pass on to you is to remember that the holidays are not the time to be crafting your next greatest class. Rely on your library of oldies but goodies where your experienced coaching comes through fluidly with less preparation.
This is also the time of year when you can expect to be called to sub more often. If you have the bandwidth, do it to help out fellow instructors who may be more stressed and stretched than you are. In most instances, this gives you some caché for when you too may need a sub for your classes. However, before agreeing to simply cover every class presented to you, suggest swapping classes rather than just subbing to help you alleviate a possibly overwhelming accumulation of classes.
And finally, don’t fall into the “holiday treat” mindset. Special care should be given to your commitment to moderation, whether food, alcohol, spending, or sleep-depriving partying. As a fitness instructor, you are in caretaking mode with your riders, so taking care of yourself is a must!
Check out this article on Instructor Self-Care (link)
Your studio needs attention too
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to look at the studio with fresh eyes. You are not only making first impressions, you are showing your regulars that you care for the equipment they use. Do you have a supply of straps for the toe cages? The end of the year is a good time to replace the aging ones and order more for backup.
Do a full maintenance on the bikes, the sound and light systems in your studio, and remember to clean the blades of the fans. If the new year is the time to change fire alarm batteries, make sure that gets done. Check the first aid kits to make sure they are fully stocked and ready for an emergency. This is also a good time to review with the entire staff the policies and procedures for emergencies.
Most of all, enjoy the holidays. Know that your work is appreciated and important in the lives of the people who come to you for indoor cycling.