Teaching to a Variety of Different Abilities in One Class, Part 1: Five Categories of Riders

The unprecedented global pandemic of 2020 that closed businesses around the world and sent people into their homes for months has created some unique challenges for fitness instructors who are just starting to come back to the cycling studio. Some are lucky enough to have had this opportunity for the past few weeks or longer, but as of this reposting (early August 2020), instructors and studios in some places—especially in the United States—still don’t know when their classes will commence again. Whether you’ve already started teaching again or are still waiting for the go-ahead, you will have to deal with differing abilities in your classes. Some of your past riders will have been riding virtual classes (maybe even with you!) and others will be struggling to regain their fitness.

You may need a little reminder how to best handle these differences in your classes, especially if pre-covid you enjoyed a group of very loyal regulars. 

Which seems like the perfect time time bring back this great 2-part series on teaching to a variety of different abilities in one class by Cori Parks, long time Spinning Master Instructor. I’ve known Cori for many years and I have always been impressed with her empathetic and caring way she connects with all of her riders, no matter their level of fitness or their experience in a cycling class. 

The very simplicity of indoor cycling means that classes are often filled with participants who have a wide variety of fitness levels, skill levels, and experience. This presents challenges for instructors who strive to be both attentive to each yet mindful of all. Instructors may wonder if they’re able to give equal attention to all of the riders, or if that is even necessary. Subbing a class or teaching a regular class with an influx of new riders (typical in the new year) is a balancing act.

Fortunately, these challenges come with opportunities for all instructors to up their game in coaching to varied abilities.

The factors that distinguish riders from each other fall into five categories.




  1. Thank you, Cori. I am a newbie here, and I am very happy to have found this site. I recognized some of my challanges in your article. One of the most difficulties in my practice is to convince those who have no experience to allow themselves time, before they do as the experienced ones…

    1. Beata, I have a saying…Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. It is a challenge because we all want maximum gains in the shortest amount of time as possible, but recognizing that time spent leads to the most sustainable growth is also the most rewarding. Welcome to teaching!!

  2. That’s great, Lyn…let us know how it’s going! I do love a homogenous group with a singular focus, but for the most part, the groups in front of us are very varied and that creates an awesome dynamic and keeps it interesting!

  3. LOve this article. And yes I teach at country clubs where there are 20 year olds all the way to 85. It is a challenge but its been working out great. I definitely take everything you wrote into consideration. Looking forward to part 2.

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