Aisha asked me this question:
Hi Jennifer, hope all is well at your end. I have learned a lot from your cycling studio forum and cycling instructors groups on Facebook. Here is a question that maybe you can answer through your experience. How much cueing is too much cueing in a spin class? Thanks.
First, I want to differentiate between “talking” and “coaching” the workout. While there is a time and place for general chitchat, I will cover that in more depth in another post (although I briefly address it below). In this response, I will stick to the question of when an instructor might be coaching too much in class, and how to tell the difference between essential and non-essential cueing. I will also briefly address the question as it relates to subbing.
Can someone talk too much? Absolutely. But if it’s needed in the moment, then it’s appropriate.
Here is a case in point. I teach periodized winter training clinics (8- to 12-week, depending on the situation). The first few classes take a lot more cueing. I have to explain power (wattage), lactate threshold, pedal stroke, RPE, and more. As we move through the weeks, I talk a LOT less. In fact, I love it when my riders are educated and all I need to do is say a few words and they get it.
BUT…that takes work. That takes time.
In a typical class where you have your regulars but also see a steady stream of new people, there are other things to consider.
So the answer is…it depends!
It depends on many factors, but specifically the following 9 things:
The type of profile you are teaching
A complicated profile, especially if it’s about targeting a specific physiological adaptation or if it has a lot of changes, needs more cueing. If you’ve done the profile before, or a similar one, you can get by with less explaining.
Whether you have newbies in class
New riders will need more guidance; in fact, some may need some real hand-holding. That guidance you give out during the class can only help your regulars who might have forgotten (or never really learned) some of the things you’ll teach your newcomers.
Whether you are introducing something new…
Pedal stroke drills? A new partner drill? Mental focus? They will need to hear your explanation.
…or you are doing something they are familiar with
It’s wonderful when just a few short words get nods of understanding. This is your ultimate goal, while also remembering that even longtime riders benefit from reminders.
Is it a mental-training class where silence is welcomed?
There is nothing I love more than an introspective, mind-body-focused ride with long periods of not saying anything. Even then, riders still need to be given a task. Give them something to focus on for a long segment (like an introspective climb). Include a cadence range and intensity goal, as well as a mind-body connection, such as tying their breath to their pedal stroke or a mantra to repeat. Then tell them you’ll meet them up the road in 5 minutes. Without this information, they will wander as if they are lost.
Is it just chatter for the sake of saying something?
There is a time and place for chitchat, but a whole class? I’d be running for the door! Keep chatter to a minimum, perhaps only in the warm-up, maybe a little in recoveries if your class likes to talk, but when it’s time to get down to work, shut it down and only talk about the ride at hand.
Is it an interactive class where you want audience input?
Great! You’ll need to talk more. This could be a theme ride or a game such as a trivia class or having one side of the room compete against the other. But make sure you don’t overdo the chatter.
Is what you’re saying benefiting the class’s understanding of what to do?
Except for the rare chitchat mentioned above, make sure what you are saying has a benefit to most people in the class. In other words, is your cueing essential or non-essential? You may be explaining the objective of the profile, or how what you are doing meets the objective you described earlier. The latter could include a story or theme. You could be describing technique, power, or physiology, which obviously need more explanation. Perhaps you are giving a description of intensity or how they should be feeling. Don’t forget to add your motivational, mental-training, and inspiring cues to keep them committed (although that can be overdone as well). But if what you are saying doesn’t meet any of those requirements, then you might want to hold back.
Are you subbing a class?
You may need to talk more than usual when you are subbing a class, especially if you do not know the participants and they don’t know you. But this could potentially backfire if you are seen as talking too much, and I’ve heard instructors say they were criticized by riders for talking too much in a class they were subbing. My suggestion would be to use an uncomplicated profile that doesn’t require a lot of explanation when you are subbing a class. It’s also a good idea to know a little about the regular instructor for that class—what is their style, do they talk a lot or are they generally more reserved, and what kind of music do they typically play? This will help you understand what the expectations of the students might be.
After taking the above scenarios into consideration, remember that the rule of thumb is to focus on the quality of what you say, not the quantity.