Raising the Bar with Spinning
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®, RPM from Les Mills and other programs, but I was swept away by the convenience of the pre-conference Schwinn training.
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 Orientation. 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 of all, if I was going to work in this industry, I needed a supportive network of like-minded instructors and an archive of current and relevant research materials in order to continue to strive 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.
Most indoor cycling programs would 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 together 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.
I can identify Spinning enthusiasts who walk through my studio doors in an instant. They already speak the language. I would venture to guess that if one of my clients walked into a non-Spinning class, they would know it, and if they found an authentic Spinning class, they would slide right in. Why? Because the guidelines of the Spinning program are clear and concise—there are three hand position and five core movements. That’s all there is to it.
Almost 20 years after its creation, the Spinning program leaves no questions to be answered and nothing to guess about. Instructors are encouraged to be creative and experimental with music and visualization—not the program. 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.
Ultimately, I am glad to have gone through the Schwinn training. My mentors were great and my experience with them fondly memorable, with their familiar starting point amongst fitness professionals. However, my affiliation with Mad Dogg’s Spinning program bumped me up simply because the bar was raised. 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.