The Instructor as Catalyst for “Revolution”

Christine Nielsen is a longtime contributor to ICA and an inspiration to her riders. Hopefully you’ve tried one of her very creative profiles. This is a repost of a story from 2012 about how she took a group of her students from the indoor cycling studio to the open road in the form of a four-day ride outside (and not an easy one, mind you). None of them were outdoor cyclists prior to riding with her. They trained together throughout the winter, they all bought bikes, and Christine taught them outdoor cycling skills and led them on the four-day event.

Guess what happened the following year? Even MORE wanted to get involved! Christine shared her story about how she decided to take on this challenge, reflecting on the revelation that you the instructor can become the instrument of change for your students.

Christine later wrote a series on how to take your riders outside, with practical advice, encouragement, checklists, and more. 

The Instructor as Catalyst for

Here’s a quote from Jennifer’s terrific How Big is Your Why profile:

What is the definition of “Revolution”? A dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works, or people’s idea about it!

And that means YOU. Change the way YOU operate, for the better.

As instructors we find ourselves in the position of supporting our students and inspiring them to set goals and find ways to reach them, particularly at this time of year. But, as Jennifer points out, we all need a Revolution. That revolution can start with you. 

Perhaps the change you make this year should include a different way of interacting with your classes. Instead of reacting to their goals, consider setting some challenging goals for them. After all, you are in a position to know their strengths and potential. You have unique insights into the world that lies beyond their imagination. 

I did just that in 2012 when I set the goal of taking my indoor cycling students (none of them cyclists) on a significant multi-day ride outdoors. The stories of that adventure are for another day but this week I am seeing one result of that experience. The students who did the big ride last summer are different. They are confident and happy and are stepping into the New Year with ambitious goals based on a new understanding of their abilities. Their attitude is influencing the people around them. I have been quietly astonished by the challenging targets set by students who have only heard about what we accomplished. Better yet, there have been many conversations that include the phrase “If I can, you can,” as last summer’s group supports the others.

I can see the changes in myself as well. My skills as an instructor and coach were enhanced by the challenge. I am a better observer and listener and am more able to translate what I see and hear into concrete tools for both indoor and outdoor riders. I am using what I learned in other areas of my life as well.

We all gained more than I expected when I set a truly challenging goal for my students. What goal could you set for your classes which would take them to a previously unimagined level of achievement? How will you learn and grow as you support them?

As Jennifer wrote: Once you’ve decided to take on an important and worthy challenge for yourself, then it’s going to be much easier to turn around and inspire your own students.

Christine’s 5-part series on how to create an outdoor cycling program for your riders (even if they are not cyclists) can be found here.

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