Instructing my first cycle class and tips for new instructors

gear pic

I mentioned some time back that I attended a G.E.A.R. cycling workshop through AFAA in February. The one day workshop was part class format and part cycling. We read from a workbook and listened to the teacher and then did two rides – one ride as students and another where the students took turns picking out a song and ride to go with it.

I never thought I would teach cycling, but opportunity knocked at the door so I decided to give it a whirl! That opportunity being the chance to work at CSS Group Fitness (see badge in my sidebar).

Not being a hard-core spinner or having much cycling experience, I was nervous to teach my first class. In fact, I put it off for quite a while, but finally, about 6 months after getting certified, I taught my first full class this past weekend!

The planning and cuing and mental preparations were so much  harder and time consuming than I ever realized!  I spent quite a few hours these past couple Friday nights  reading through my notes from the certification, reading blogs by cycle instructors, and putting together my play list!

Blog Resources:

Lean Lena – I came across a fantastic blog by a fellow SweatPink and IDEA Inspired Blogger that is perfect for newbie cycle instructors! Lena has playlists complete with profiles and timed cues to go with each song, as well as tips for new instructors!

Chris Spins – Another great blog by a cycle instructor who really breaks down each workout by song and type of ride to go with it.

Strong-Fit-Beautiful – I have been reading Sarah’s blog for a while now and she has some great ideas for songs and playlists.

Spinning Music – Making an one hour playlist for a cycling class is so NOT like putting songs together for any other free-style class that I am used to teaching. I was really glad to find a blog called Spinning Music that has a ton of different playlists and ride profiles, as well as  songs broken down by type of ride (songs for jumps, songs for climbs, songs for sprints, and so on).

What fellow riders and instructors have to say:

I have been picking riders’ and instructors’ brains over the past few months trying to learn what people like and dislike about a cycle class. There was also a comment feed going around on the SweatPink Ambassadors Facebook page a few days ago from a gal who is about to start teaching spin next month and asked for advice and fave songs. I posted a  similar question to readers in my last post (although my comments some how got turned off for like a week before I realized it! #bloggerfail) Anyway, below are some of the answers:

- Jumps!

What I love the most about spin class is that I’m surrounded by other spinners; loud music; and lots of energy. What I usually dislike is that we are stationary, usually in a small room. There was one spin class that was outside during the spring/summer/early fall- that made it fun. It would be cool if gyms did offer trail riding or bike riding as well!

The only spin class I didn’t like was one with music I had never heard the whole time and the guy spoke so quietly I had no idea what he was saying! I love when the instructor is really into it and jokes with you while motivating you some good Britney never hurts either!!

My students love when I teach ladders, loops, and pyramids to keep it fun.

I’m probably too picky about music, but I’ve been spinning for 3 years and I go about 3-5 times a week. The instructors I like the best have a variety of genres of music, wait a while to repeat the songs, use pop radio airplay songs sparingly.
Like someone else said we’re indoors and stationary so I like rides that mix up fast flats, jumps, seated and standing climbs, and sprints.

- Just be yourself.

- It’s OK to have your notes in front of you and refer to them.

- For spin songs, I like fast things like “My Own Way” by Duran Duran, “Thunderstruck” or “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC, “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” by Fall Out Boy, “She” Green Day and “Smooth Criminal” by Alien Ant Farm. “Ali in The Jungle” by The Hours is also a standout song for me when I run. it would be great in a spin class too.

- Making playlists will get easier.


Post class – enjoying some coffee :)

What I took away from my first class:

- Introduce yourself to every participant (if possible) and make sure they are set up properly on the bike. If the bike is set up wrong, it can make the workout more difficult or cause knee pain.

- This one probably goes without saying, but get there early to help any new spinners feel comfortable and get set up properly on the bike.

- Know your audience – if they are relatively new spinners, start slow and build, if they are veteran spinners… good luck, haha!

- Try to engage your participants as much as you can. Cycling is tough, so they may not respond, but at least it keeps things interesting! Examples: Ask what movie a song is from. If it is someone’s birthday, play a special song just for him/her. Throw in a random or interesting fact about cycling (ex: The fastest anybody has ever gone on a bicycle is 152.2 miles per hour. This record was set by American Olympic Cyclist John Howard in 1985.)

- Remind participants to go at their own pace, back off if they feel woozy, push and pull with the pedals, activate their core, and not hunch their shoulders.

- Try your best to read your participants’ facial expressions and body language and adjust your planned workout according to whether they look like the class is too hard or too easy (i.e. make sure no one looks like they are going to die in your class).

- And the most important thing I learned…..drum roll please… the instructor does not have to have the resistance as high as the class! This is their workout, the instructor is there to push them hard and keep the class fun and safe! I started out really pushing myself, and with the combination of constantly thinking about the next cue and shouting over the music, I was out of breath by the third song (and the first two were warm ups)! So, I dropped my resistance 2 levels lower than I told the class to be at for the next song to recover. Another option is getting off the bike for a little break.

My very first cycle playlist:

Here are the songs and profiles I used for my very first cycle playlist (thanks to the above blogs, Wayne from CSS Group Fitness, and reader comments….my part on being creative for the songs and profiles was pretty small! :)

Ain’t Going Down till the Sun Comes Up (4:30)
Warm Up/Quick Sprints – resistance 3-7, RPM = 100-110 a few times for a quick sprint

Footloose (3:45)
Warm Up/Standing Flat – stand on 1:02, 1:59, 2:50, resistance 6-9

Devil Went Down to Georgia (3:35)
Standing Sprints – light resistance, RPM = 100-120 during sprints
:50-1:12 – standing sprint
1:33-2:00 – seated sprint
2:23-2:43 – standing sprint
2:58-end – seated sprint

Still Into You (3:35)
Pyramid Climb – resistance starts at 7 and increases 1 gear every 20 seconds, at 1:45 start decreasing resistance back down, RPM = 60-80

Eye of the Tiger (4:05)
Running with Resistance – resistance 9-12, seated climb between runs, out of the saddle at :10-:40, 1:24-1:43, 2:04-2:23, 2:49-3:09

Holding Out for a Hero (5:50)
Rolling Hills 20/30/60 (high gear low RPM, low gear high RPM) – resistance starts at 6-7, increase to 12-16 for hills
1:00-1:20 – resistance up to 12-16, out of saddle
2:02-2:32 – resistance up to 12-16, out of saddle
3:35-4:35 – resistance up to 12-16, out of saddle

Let’s Go Crazy (4:40)
Tabata – Recover from last song for first 40 seconds, 20:10 splits of sprinting and resting, low resistance, RPM = 110-120 for sprints

Stronger (3:43)
Jumps – 4/4 Jumps at :43-1:15, 1:40-2:10, 2:38-3:10

Friends in Low Places (4:18)
Run – resistance starts at 5, work up to 9

Thunderstruck (4:50)
Sprints – 15/15, 30/30, 30/30, 15/15, RPM = 100-120

Hurts So Good (3:35)
Hill Climb – resistance starts at 5 and keep going up, RPM = 60, stand if you want as resistance increases

Take it to the Limit (4:47)
Cool Down

I know I asked this before, but now that my comments are open… 

What are some of your fave spin songs?? What makes you enjoy or dislike a cycle class?

Instructors – how did teaching your first class (of any format) differ from leading later classes?

#14in2014 – Third quarter check in!

Hello hello,

We are almost three fourths of the way through 2014! Can you believe it!?

I am linking up today with with Melissa from the Valentine RD on her #14in2014 check in.  Here is how it works – at the beginning of the year, I made 10 goals/resolutions with a handful of other bloggers (it was supposed to be 14 goals, but I underachieved apparently).

Melissa hosts a link up every quarter so we can all share our progress and/or remember that we made these goals!

I did the quarter link up (view the post here) but missed the half way point, but am here for the third check in and, I am not going to lie, I totally forgot some of my goals until I re-read them! Which proves why finding a way to hold yourself accountable and revising goals as you see fit is so important!

So, without further ado… my goals at the beginning of the year and my progress/revisions::

run sarah run

rockin’ the #sweatpink shoelaces!

1. Run a couple more 10ks – under an hour! <—Has not happened yet, but I did just run 6 miles this morning with a few veteran runners. They told me we were going for 4, which in my book is a lot, and we ended up running for 6 (crazy runners)! It was not fast, but good practice for the next goal on this list…

2. Do the 5k and 10k at the Runner’s World races next year. <– I need to register! It is in October.

3. Run a race with a fellow fitness blogger. <–Has not happened yet. Anyone running the Runner’s World races in Bethlehem on October 18?

4. Push myself to run 10 miles and contemplate a half marathon… <– I must have been high on life when I wrote that…

5. Go to a fitness (and/or blogging) conference <— Unfortunately, a really busy summer at work prevented this from happening :( Maybe next year.

6. Try to go to a few sessions at the the IDEA Personal Training Institute East in Virginia next year. <– Did not happen, but I still would like to take a workshop or something like that if something interesting comes out my way.

7. Learn, practice, and add another class type to my fitness schedule. <– Well, I taught my first three songs for a cycle class during a cycle-a-thon fundraiser last weekend and am actually teaching my first full cycle class this Saturday! Yikes! I literally spent over 2 hours last Friday night putting a playlist together… I have a new found respect and appreciation for cycle instructors!

I have also been teaching a Core, Balance, and Stability class since June that I am really enjoying as well. I would still like to learn and teach a few more different style classes as well!

post cycle session selfie

post cycle session selfie

8. Take more fitness classes as a participant. <–Eh. I have continued to take cycle classes here and there… to physically and mentally prepare myself to teach it one day, however I still would like to take some different classes.

9. Continue to grow in my fitness knowledge and study for my ACE Personal Training Certification. <–Working on it and hope to complete my certification by the end of the year.  And I have learned quite a bit these past few months!

personal training study

10. Take a fitness teaching vacation <– This was a bit of a lofty goal to try and pull on in one year. While it is not going to happen this year, and maybe not next year either,  one day I think it would be a fun experience .

As I re-read my post from back in March for my quarter year check in, I realized I wrote this:

“I should probably think of 4 more… one of my goals will be to work on that!”

Totally forgot about that! So here are 4 more goals that I plan to accomplish in the next 3 months:

11. Lift heavier weights

12. Prepare more quick and easy, healthy breakfasts and snacks that I can grab on the run

13. Get involved in some kind of health/fitness activity or organization in my community.

14. Do something new to enhance my blog (streamline social media efforts (Hootsuite?), finally go to self-hosting (yikes), write an article for another publication, become an ambassador for a brand, etc.)

I hope you have a fabulous week!

How are you doing on your New Year’s goals/resolutions?

Any tips for a newbie cycle instructor or fave cycle songs???

What is your favorite fitness class to participate in?

Keep in touch, please….with a cherry on top!

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sarah jump

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yoga on the beach

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My dad and I after a 5k a couple years ago!

My dad and I after a 5k a couple years ago!

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