Overcoming Uncertainty: Finding a Mentor
By Bob Rebach
Congratulations! You’ve taken Spinning Instructor
Orientation, and now you’re ready to go out and teach. Wait—what do you
mean you don’t think you’re ready? Sure, after completing Orientation,
some people rush off to a club, strap on a microphone, clip in to the
bike at the front of the Spinning studio and start teaching. But the
fact is: some new instructors aren’t so quick to find themselves in
their own classroom. What’s up with that?
For some new instructors, the enthusiasm they have
about their newly acquired skills is over-shadowed by uncertainty. This
is especially true for people who are new, not just to the Spinning
program, but for those new to group fitness instruction in general. If
this is how you feel, I’m here to tell you that it’s OK.
I’m sure you appreciate my empathy, but what you
really want to know is how to get to be like all the other instructors
at your club. Well, you could stalk the popular instructors at your
facility, do what they do, wear what they wear, say what they say;
however, this is rarely, if ever, a successful strategy.
The answer may be found in a corporate workplace
trend that is starting to make its way into the fitness industry. This
practice pairs an entry-level person with an experienced veteran to
smooth the learning process for the novice. This is a mutual
relationship in which parties are willing participants, working for
their combined success. This kind of mentorship can be of great benefit
to you as a new instructor.
The main benefit of finding a mentor is the
opportunity to learn in a non-threatening environment, and to develop
the skills needed to become successful. With the support and
reassurance of a mentor, a level of self-confidence and experience can
be achieved that couldn’t be obtained alone. This is much better than
the possible alternative: a lonely struggle ending in frustration
That may sound a little bleak; the road isn’t
littered with the sun-bleached bones of people who couldn’t find their
way out of the wilderness because they were left with no one to help
them. Obviously many people make their way into the Spinning studio on
their own, but there is no doubt that having a helping hand makes every
Watching an experienced professional in action
provides you with an opportunity to learn visually. As you begin
to explore things on your own, your mentor also acts as a sounding
board for new ideas. The benefit for the mentor, in this mutual
relationship, is that his or her own knowledge is reinforced and
strengthened by sharing it with others.
So how do you find a mentor? If you’re one of the
lucky ones, there is a fitness facility in your area that already has
an established program. If this is the case, I strongly urge you to
apply for it, and you’ll be fast on your way to becoming a successful
Spinning instructor. If can’t find a facility with an established
mentoring program, you’re not out of luck; there are a number of other
options to explore.
Just ask. Find an instructor you
admire and ask that person if he or she is willing to help you learn
the ropes. Yes, I know, this may not be the easiest thing to do, but
keep in mind that compatibility is definitely a key factor when looking
for a mentor. Find someone who shares your sensibilities; this will
help ensure that the mentorship becomes a positive experience. Just
understand that not everyone has the time, energy or confidence to take
on this kind of request.
Just watch. As baseball great Yogi
Berra once said, “You can see a lot just by observing.” Part of the
learning process is watching how an experienced pro teaches. If you
can’t find a mentor right away, you can still watch other instructors
in action. If you belong to a club, take a class with all the
instructors at your facility. If you’re not a member of a club, many
facilities offer a free assessment period, usually a week or two, for
Watching other instructors reinforces the positive
things you learned in Orientation. It can also underline the things you
think should be avoided when you finally find yourself in front of a
class. As you watch other instructors, keep in mind that style is a
part of presentation. What works for one person, in terms of music and
tone, may not work for another. One of the beauties of the Spinning
program is the individual expression that comes out of different
personalities interpreting the creative component of the class.
In the end, it may be that simply spending extra time
in classes with instructors you enjoy and admire will give you the
sense of comfort you need to start teaching classes of your own.
Talk to a Master Instructor (MI).
Spinning Master Instructors present at fitness conferences, conduct
Orientations and teach continuing education classes. Although most MIs
probably won’t be able to be there all the time as your personal
mentor, they can lend you expert advice on teaching the Spinning
program. The Master Instructor who taught my Orientation, Dixie
Douville, has been an invaluable resource to me throughout the years.
Go online. There are a multitude of
resources at spinning.com for new instructors including Spinning News
archives dating back to January 2006, weekly playlists that you can
download from iTunes, student handouts, a job board and an instructor
forum. The Spinning Instructor Forum offers instructors a place where
they can post questions, share experiences, and trade ideas about music
and class design.
In the end, finding a mentor is just one of many
solutions toward becoming a successful instructor. However you achieve
it, the goal is to find the self-confidence and comfort to get into a
classroom, and inspire your students.