Uncomfortable and Self-Conscious

It is 5 minutes before class begins. The last few riders scurry to their bikes. I’m nervous and uncomfortable about my ride, and more specifically, the playlist. As the class starts and the music unfolds, I feel self-conscious and not myself. Only the cool-down can save me now.

A few days earlier, I looked over all of the weekly music posts on the ICA website; the songs are all submitted by passionate, experienced instructors with a wide variety of musical tastes. What if I build a class profile solely from the ICA music library? This is a great way to demonstrate the value of one aspect of an ICA membership. I decided to further challenge myself by using an assortment of music, bridging multiple genres such as pop, electronic, world, alternative, hip-hop, and rock, each chock-full of vocals. The result is a playlist that is sound from a workout perspective, but it turned out to be truly outside my comfort zone for music selection.

I survived the class but wondered what the riders thought. I received a “thanks for a great class” from a number of unknown riders, which I took with a healthy dose of suspicion.

Now it was time to ask those who return week after and week and are accustomed to my music style and delivery. The five riders I cornered simply said it seemed like a typical Tom Scotto class. Huh? Didn’t you see how uncomfortable I was? Didn’t you notice all of the pop and vocal songs? Didn’t you realize how different this class is from what I regularly teach?

Apparently not.

I got to thinking (which is always dangerous)…if a “master” instructor can feel this detached from the norm when challenged to venture outside his comfy saddle and iTunes playlist, how do other instructors overcome the trepidation of trying something different?

Learning and expanding our world is exhilarating and also downright frightening. It also demonstrates the fact that many instructors—myself included—place too much emphasis on music style, believing they could not “bring it” unless using their favorite tunes (or what they believe to be the favorite tunes of their riders).

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that instructors need to be motivated by the music in order to infuse energy into the profile and the class. What this experiment does suggest is that we do not have to be held captive by our music style and likes. Might I also derive the conclusion that what we are self-conscious of often goes unnoticed by those that love our classes? In other words, they have no idea we are so freaked out about something!

Maybe the next time someone suggests I add a song or music style to the class, I don’t have to internally scoff, recoil, kick, and scream.


An old dog learning new tricks.


  1. Hi
    Ive not been teaching long about 8-9weeks and have my own studio!!I use all different music from right now to the 70’s,remixes,instrumental,pop,trance anything on every profile unless i have a theme like my movie ride profile.
    I have never had one issue with my clients not liking my music selection!!They totally get that its about the ride and purpose not the playlist:)so long as the bpm fits the movement i use it????

  2. I love that picture!

    1. Author

      My too! I left it on my computer screen for a week because it made me smile 🙂

  3. Tom, you’ve GOT to give us the profile you created with all ICA-suggested songs! Yay!

    1. Author

      I believe this will be our profile for February 🙂

  4. When I purchased the TdF profiles in 2014, there were two rides (of the 5) that absolutely terrified me. I had the exact same experience you describe above. For me it was trance music, what? Where’s my pop lyrics? But you know what, the class absolutely loved it. It opened my eyes to a TON of new music, new styles, and re-energized me by challenging me. Thanks to ICA for forcing me to teach out of my comfort zone – it made me much better coach, and much more excited to take risks with profiles and music now.

  5. I’ve definitely been feeling this way lately! I’ve been using a lot of new music found from this site. Most of the classes are taught w/ 80’s music so that is what I’m comfortable with as well as most of the members. I’m also teaching off the bike. I pulled ligaments in my foot over Christmas break and am not able to put weight on it. Both of these things have me feeling uneasy although as time goes by it does get easier. This is a great learning experience for me! As far as new music goes, I definitely feel I need to listen and get acquainted with the songs to really feel comfortable with them and to learn cuing before introducing the class to them. It does get easier over time. Thanks for all the encouragement and assistance I get from this site! 🙂

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