I’m still a fairly new cycling teacher myself, but having a new and fresh perspective on teaching as well as talking with and seeing some friends starting to teach, I put together a list of things I’ve learned pretty fast out of the gate. I’d love to hear your thoughts on new cycling teacher tips as well!
8. Don’t fall into the trap of isolations and “catchy” things to do in your classes that aren’t safe
Isolations are easy to add into classes and pretty challenging for students. You may be tempted to add some into your classes, I was tempted as well. But after doing some research, I learned that isolations are not safe for most student’s knees. There’s a reason that cycling is cardio, you use your entire body, and you should. Constricting yourself to only use your legs – putting your knees into multiple unstable places while pedaling, while supporting the weight of the rest of your body, is just not safe. Feel free to do you own research, a great reference is the Spinning training guide and information. A few other things you may be tempted to add into classes are very fast jumps. I love using jumps in my classes, but I make sure to keep them at a 4 count as the fastest (8 count for a fast paced songs). If you add jumps to a 1 or 2 count, you risk your students throwing their weight around in order to achieve the fast switching between up and down. Even though it could be done correctly, chances are that most students will not complete them safely.
7. Make sure you’re pedaling the RPM you’re calling out
Some students don’t like to focus on the RPM number on their computer screen the entire class (I’m one of these students) and instead will watch your feet (if you’re teaching on the bike). Because of this, it’s important to be at the RPM pace that you are cueing. Additionally, if you want your students to maintain correct form, you should ensure you are demonstrating that form. This includes getting on and off the bike, students watch your every move because you are the professional.
6. Focus & cue to correct form
All students, especially new students, can use some coaching to perfect their form on the bike. A common mistake of students is to tense up their shoulders, which leads to neck pain after class. If a student continually has neck pain after your cycling classes, they may end up not coming as much. There’s an easy solution – cue throughout class for students to relax their shoulders, pull your shoulders away from your ears, or however you want to phrase it. Another common form mistake is not pushing your heels back during your pedal stroke and using just the toes or ball of the foot. An easy cue to throw in occasionally in class “drop your heels”. A few others I use often:
“Pick up your knees”
“Light on your handlebars”
“Engage your core”
“Pull up your feet as much as you push down”
5. Don’t be afraid to get off your bike
This was such a challenge for me at first, which was surprising since I’m used to walking around when teaching yoga. I sometimes still struggle with the idea of teaching off the bike. Easy ways to start getting off the bike would be to get off during a song that is a distance/endurance song. Because the entire song is up to the students to reach a distance goal however they’d like, you have the space to use to interact with individual students. I usually make sure I make at least 1 interactions with each student individually during a class. Another easy drill to remove yourself from the bike is a hill climb that maintains a steady cadence. Some reasons to teach off the bike include:
Being able to really examine your students form and offer modifications or corrections for students who need it
Interacting and connecting with students individually
Offer individual challenges to students that look to be excelling (for example during a hill climb I may privately tell a regular student to turn it up an extra time or two or I may set a mileage goal for an endurance song and tell a strong student to push that distance goal by a 1/2 mile more)
Spreading energy around the room instead of keeping it all up front
Keeping students on their toes (will she get off the bike and come over with a challenge for me?!)
4. Maintain yourself as a student (in addition to being a teacher)
Part of being a good teacher is continuing to be a good student. Just because you’ve started teaching a few classes a week doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep going to other classes that work in your schedule. It’s important to maintain your view from the saddle as a student, feel what students feel.
3. Encourage & motivate
Have you ever been in a cycling class where the teacher doesn’t seem to want to be there or doesn’t care what you’re doing? Those are the worst classes. Strive to not be that teacher. No matter what kind of day you’re having, push it aside. This class is for your students, not you. They’ve paid a good price and taken time out of their day to choose to come to your cycling class, of all the others they had to choose from in the area. Don’t disappoint them, bring your A game! Students like coming to group classes for the motivation it provides, anyone can put on some music and bike from their own house, you are the extra factor they come into a studio to find. Encourage them to push their limits a little further, let them know they can do whatever they are trying to accomplish, and whatever other motivating and encouraging words you can offer in an energetic way.
2. Play music you like (and know the music well)
Good music is the best motivation. If you enjoy the music you’re playing in class, your energy will be better and great energy translates to a great class. Don’t just throw songs on a playlist cause they are popular. If you’re not enjoying the class, chances are your students aren’t either. In addition to liking the music you pick, know your songs well. Know exactly when the sprint hits so you can build up the students before it. No one likes the build up in a song to kick off a sprint late because the teacher didn’t know the song well enough.
Don’t try to be say things that you’ve heard other teachers say in class cause you think it sounded good, say things that you mean, be authentic. If a hill you’re cueing is making your own calves burn, say it! You’re human just like your students, and if something is hard for you, chances are it’s also hard for them – be real about it. Don’t just talk to talk, don’t just say words cause you think that’s what the students want to hear, say them because you believe in what you’re saying and it’s what you would want to hear if you were on their saddle.