By Cori Parks
When I decided to become an indoor cycling instructor, it was as easy as tacking an extra day onto a fitness convention. Of course I had heard of Mad Dogg Athletics’s Spinning® and other programs, but I was swept away by the convenience of the pre-conference training with another provider.
Quality Trumps Quick
The huge hall was filled with two hundred bikes, each with a chair and slender instructor-training manual next to it. What is undeniable is that I was in a room full of talented people with extensive backgrounds in the fitness industry, all committed to the industry convention. I left feeling empowered and ready to climb aboard the new bikes that awaited me at my gym back home. That is, until I got there.
Several of my colleagues at the gym had gone through the Spinning Instructor Training. They showed me their manuals and explained the expectations of Certified Spinning Instructors. At first glance, I thought, “Wow, this looks intense.” But there were several factors about the Spinning certification that I could not ignore.
First, to be a successful indoor cycling instructor, I wanted a supportive, passionate network of like-minded instructors and an archive of current and relevant research materials in order to become better. The Spinning Instructor Training Program equips instructors with on-going research on all things physiology, periodization and coaching, which helps the instructor truly engage each and every client before them. With a broader perspective, the Spinning Instructor Manual serves as a resource that I can refer to and know that I am consistent with the well-thought-out expectations of a professional body of excellent instructors. But most of all, Spinning has a well-established community with an open dialogue for instructors, facility owners, cyclists and enthusiasts.
Many indoor cycling programs agree that cadence, heart rate, perceived exertion, hand/body position and duration of class are important factors. However, the Spinning program is based on real road cycling and knits these factors into a concrete training plan. Spinning instructors have the opportunity to really grasp the breadth of science that shows why the settings on the bike are so important and what role a heart rate monitor plays in displaying the body’s real output or performance, rather than simply going through the motions to accomplish a workout.
Safety Trumps Risk
I can identify Spinning enthusiasts who walk through my studio doors in an instant—they know the Spinning language. They can probably walk into a non-Spinning class and know it. But they can slide right into an authentic Spinning because the guidelines of the Spinning program are clear and concise—there are three hand positions and five core movements. That’s all there is to it.
Instructors are encouraged to be creative and experimental with music and visualization—not the program, so instructors and their riders stay safe and keep coming back. Facilities that allow indoor cycling instructors to, for instance, speed above 110 RPM or grind below 60 RPM, pedal backwards, remove seats, add weights or bands for upper-body work, disengage a foot from a pedal, hover—all things that are explicitly contraindicated by the Spinning program—are at great risk of legal liability and frustrated clients. The expectations and guidelines of the Spinning program are not meant to squelch the creativity of instructors; they free instructors to allow their participants to grow from within and grapple with the workload that is pure and safe, not complex and irresponsibly dangerous.
My affiliation with Mad Dogg Athletic’s Spinning program made me a better instructor because they’ve raised the bar. As an instructor, working my way up through the ranks and through the mounds of support material for continuing education credits, which simultaneously keep my other credentials current, I have grown, and continue to grow, as an instructor and fitness coach.