Teaching Across the Spectrum of Ability and Effort
to a survey conducted last August by one of the gyms in which I teach
Spinning® classes, Spinning students generally tend to be divided into
two groups when it comes to characterizing the difficulty of classes:
those who think classes are too easy and those who think the opposite.
Interestingly, the length of a class, its instructor, or the age range
of the students had little to no effect on the overall findings of the
survey, which indicated that this difference in opinion exists among
all of the students in all of the Spinning classes taught at the gym.
than likely, these findings don’t surprise you. You’ve been there
before—looking out over your class and seeing half of your students
lounging on their handlebars, attempting to give their legs some rest,
taking a water break every minute or so, sweating profusely, and giving
you the look of death. They’re not keeping pace with you, possibly
because they can’t—and there are 25 more minutes to go. What do you do?
You want to help these folks out, but making your super-fit students
work up a major sweat is equally important.
may sound surprising, but you can actually accomplish both objectives,
as long as you give both groups of students serious consideration.
Here’s how you can construct a class that is both challenging and
rewarding for everybody:
how to make workouts fit individual, daily objectives and fitness
levels, and reiterate that it is up to each person to control the
intensity of his or her ride. Remind everyone to ask you questions if
something is unclear.
“Remember, everything I say in this class is a suggestion. You can use
more or less resistance to work on strength, and you can move your legs
as fast or as slowly as you wish when we work on speed. A ‘small hill’
or a ‘70% effort’ is what you perceive it to be, given what you want to
ask whether anyone in the class is a first-time participant. Explain
terminology, bike setup and adjustment before class begins.
sprint like a cheetah in the first half of class unless you know
everyone can keep up, which is rare. You don’t want to burn them out
class will mimic you, so set a good example. If you don’t require
recovery, pretend that you do. When you tell the class to turn down the
resistance and slow their legs for recovery, do the same. When you ask
your students to drink up, swig some water yourself. Save your hardest
workouts for when you’re a student, not when you’re up front.
on the students who seem to be taking the class at a higher intensity
level and show them a drill or sequence. Once you’ve shown them the
speed you’re aiming for, come down a notch. Demonstrate a second speed
and explain that the main objective is to go faster than you were going
before. Remind students to base this on their fitness level, or how
they’re feeling on that day. The higher-intensity folks will maintain
their fast groove even if you lower yours to speed #2. If the drill
lasts several minutes, you can turn it up to the higher pace, but be
sure to demonstrate both paces and clarify the objective.
ask people their names after class. Though you probably won’t remember
them all, you will remember the folks at the two ends of the spectrum,
and they’re the ones you should periodically ask for specific feedback
about difficulty, time spent on speed versus hill climbs, etc.
instructors cannot please everyone. They can only hope to foster some
enthusiasm for the Spinning program and fitness in general, and leave
the legwork and attitude to those looking up at them—maybe that
reminder should have been first on my list.
DiMauro is a Certified Spinning Instructor and an avid runner living in
Boston. She currently works as the managing editor of a publishing firm
and teaches Spinning classes at a health club and a local university.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.