The Spinning® Witness Protection Program
For Spinning® instructors, the expectations are somewhat clear when it comes to witnessing a “crime” being committed in class. The list of common contraindications is long and rampant. We are expected to teach, inspire, and motivate our students and provide positive reinforcement during their fitness journey. A tougher but critical part of our job is providing corrective feedback for students who are bouncing in the saddle, grinding along at 40 rpms, or exhibiting the wide array of contraindications they may either invent on their own or have been infected by other instructors.
The lines become a little less clear however when we are participants in classes. One of my favorite pastimes is taking classes from various instructors anonymously at different facilities. I’m heartened by the fabulous instructors and dismayed by the awful ones. My non-scientific opinion is that the quality of instructors in general is not unlike the bell curve, with few numbers of instructors qualifying at either extreme and most falling somewhere in the middle. I love to sit in the back row and revel in the student milieu. Like myself, most instructors were students first (for several months or years), and those positive class experiences helped us fall in love with the Spinning® program and inspired us to embrace the teaching role.
All too often however, I bear witness to a crime and struggle with the dilemma of being a more active or passive class participant. I often get asked in orientation what the responsibility is of the instructor who is taking another instructor’s class and sees a contraindication being committed. To me, this represents a “gray area” question with no single best response. The more dangerous the action, the easier it is to jump in and intervene (not unlike snatching the collar of a toddler running toward a busy road). But what about the less critical contraindications? I’m cautious about providing unsolicited feedback in another instructor’s class, and this can be an even touchier situation when the instructor is the person committing the offense(s).
As a veteran fitness professional there is a sense of responsibility for maintaining safety and conduct standards, but that needs to be balanced with awareness of not sounding like a pompous know it all. I know a fellow instructor who has alienated many of his colleagues because he sees fit to publically pass judgment on other’s classes. From his perspective he is providing feedback that I believe is mostly based in an altruistic desire to help his fellow instructors. Unfortunately, he often is perceived as being an arrogant egomaniac. So the question becomes how best to negotiate that space between welcome and unwelcome input. I try to dialogue with instructors prior to class and let them know that if they’d like constructive feedback I’m willing to provide it (and it should be a two way street, ask them to do the same for you). If I see students exhibiting “mild” contraindications when I’m also a student in a class, I won’t get off my bike to correct them (unless I know them personally). If the instructor doesn’t address it I will try to chat with them after class, and mention what I observed. In large classes it can be hard to see everything that goes on in the peloton from the instructor bike, another powerful reason for coaching off the bike regularly during class. I think the most important thing is that communication remains open, positive, and honest.
How do you handle being a witness to a Spinning® crime? I know there are some great (yikes!) stories out there waiting to be shared.