For Instructors

Changing Behaviors

As some of you know, my career and education are both in behavior management. On a daily basis, I work with very young children who are special. My aide and I utilize our words, our actions, and our environment to help each participant develop appropriate social interaction skills and spontaneous expressive language.

The most frequent fitness related behavior question I get is usually on the topic of coaching through contraindicated movements during classes. My answer is that you can’t stop behaviors, you can only anticipate their occurrence and attempt to modify your words, actions, and environments to lower their frequency.

Words:  Always speak to the actions you want to see, never summarize the actions you are currently seeing.  A good coach/teacher can speak to specific responses that they are looking for. During a class, those prompts might include: keep your elbows soft, move side to side when you stand, grip the handlebars with your fingers.

Actions:  If you have ever taken a workshop of mine, you know how I feel about teaching off the bike. Do it if there is a current or potential safety concern, otherwise lead by example. In other words, the most powerful impact you can have on good riding form is to demonstrate it yourself. The visual imprint of your demonstration means a lot more than endless strings of words or stories about trees and rivers.

Environment:  This is a subjective suggestion because each of us have different elements in our rooms that we can, and can’t control. I’m assuming most of you can select your music choices and your class designs. Moderately paced music allows students to be more open to making form corrections because it gives them time. When the music pace is too fast, students feel rushed and are much less comfortable with change. The same can be said for transitions, make them simple and repetitive until you get the responses you’re looking for. I like what I call simple splits, two movements with two clarified skills. Once the participants have them mastered, move forward with additional challenges.

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