Share this post:

The February Challenge

challengesI’ve got a couple of new cycling classes on the schedule this winter and I’m really enjoying the extra time on the bike.  They’re morning classes (9:15 a.m.).  I was worried about taking time out of the work day but I am finding I always leave energized (and hungry!) and ready to work.  (I have a flexible schedule and work a lot of nights and weekends, so mornings are actually easier for me than evening classes.)  After a couple of very poor lunch choices, I fixed the hunger problem by tossing an apple into my gym bag before I go.  (Mmm… Honeycrisp.)


The extra time on the bike has given me the opportunity to think about Schwinn Master Trainer Chris Roche’s inspiring comments.  (I just posted the sample ride he sent me, so be sure to head back to that post to check it out.)  I’ve been teaching indoor cycling for five years but if I am totally honest with myself, I am in a bit of a rut.  I need to grow.  So I decided to challenge myself each month to do something that will improve the way I teach indoor cycling.

First up?  Take other instructors’ classes.  I used to do this all the time (back in the days before kids, when I had free time) and I found I almost always learned a new trick or two.  I miss that.  I miss being able to ride for me.  So my February challenge is to go to two other instructors’ classes this month.

After each class, I’ll post what I learned.  (Nothing like a little public accountability for one’s goals!)  But the other reason I thought I’d post my challenge to myself is to see if anyone wants to join me.  If you’re in, leave a comment to let me know.  When you’ve attended another instructor’s class, drop by and comment again with what you learned (good, bad or ugly, but no names please.)  By the end of February, we’ll all have a crop of new ideas to implement in our own classes.

Who’s in?



38 Comments On “The February Challenge

  1. SpinAddict Reply

    I didn’t “sign up” for the challenge, but hit 3 instructors classes anyway. Spinning is new to our gym (last 6 months), so I wanted to see what other people were up to. One class I went to, it didn’t seem like the music featured. It was just sort of there as background, and most changing was done purely on stopwatch. I found my mind wandering even though the workout was challenging. He also didn’t do much talking.

    Instructor 2 is known to have a hard time hearing the beat of the music, so at times, the beat was strong and quick (perfect for sprint), but was used for a climb. Or the beat was driving and slow (perfect for climb, but was used for sprint. The instructor’s legs didn’t follow her guidelines, either, so it was confusing to see her legs flying on a climb to a fast beat. It’s like her body knew to go fast, but her mouth was telling us to go slow. I won’t be back for that one.

    Another instructor I went to was more solid – and managed to pull off an all Abba remix class mixed in with a few tabata sets (20 sec sprint, 10 sec recovery – 8x). While I’m not a fan of Abba, I found it easier to enjoy the second class because the instructor used the beat and tempo with what we were doing in class. I really think this is important, and reaffirms why I need to continue doing it myself.

    There are 2 instructors I’d love to drop in for.. but one teaches at 5:30am (eeps!) and the other teaches immediately before me… so I’d be depleted before teaching my own class. That being said, I hope some others of you have other ideas for us!

    1. Cynthia Reply

      SpinAddict, this is exactly what I was hoping for! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Do any others have a report for us? What did you take away from the other class(es) you attended?

      I am *still* trying to make it to another class – due to heavy work and family commitments but dammit, I’m going to and I promise to report back when I get to that Tues night class that had them lined up out the door. (There are more than 20 bikes in the class and I am guessing more than a dozen people got turned away, including me.)

  2. Cynthia Reply

    Confession… I haven’t gotten to two other instructors’ classes yet. We were in Mexico for 10 days in Feb. and perhaps my goal to hit 2 additional classes in less than 3 weeks on top of working full time and looking after a toddler was a teensy bit ambitious.

    I did try! I chose a wildly popular instructor’s class & rolled in 20 minutes early. Then I saw the massive lineup to sign in and my heart sank. They gave away the last bike away two people ahead of me – which galvanized me: I HAVE to get to her class to find out what she’s doing.

    I noticed that many who said they were in for the Feb Challenge haven’t been back to post their observations so I am guessing that I’m not the only one who hasn’t gotten to extra classes yet.

    All of which is by way of saying that while I’ll post the March Challenge today, I am going to extend the February Challenge through March 31. If you threw your hat in but haven’t been to another class yet, there’s still time!

  3. spoonfulofsara Reply

    This sounds great! I’m in too! I actually just took another instructor’s class while on vacation and she was pretty good, but played mostly 70s Rock music. So, I realized that variety in music helps so much! I sometimes get stuck in Top 40 stuff…woops!

    But she didn’t do too much correction or actual instructing during class (my biggest pet peeve)! I think we are there to remind our students about their form and challenge them to push further, so sitting on the bike and just calling out counts (at least to me) doesn’t cut it.

  4. Pierre Maes Reply

    Great idea! I am in. I started instructing 3 months ago, and I am having great fun.

  5. tessabain Reply

    Hi! I just started a new blog and posted my own playlist, I included a link to your website because it was so inspiring/helpful! Many thanks for what you do and all of your help!


  6. Chantal Reply

    Hi there! Still new at this instructing thing…since January! I’ve been getting some questions from participants that I can’t answer…hoping someone out there can shine a little light for me! Here goes….
    1) Complaints of ‘air bubble’ in knee, goes away on its own…not pain…but feels like it needs to be cracked….thoughts? Dangerous? How to prevent? How to fix?!

    2) Bruising behind the knees???? This one really through me off! Anyone else hear of this? She had absolutely no discomfort during spin and didn’t strike her legs against the bike she states…..thoughts???

    Thanks everyone for your help! Great site Cynthia by the way!!! but… we miiiissss you and your posts!!

    1. Roland Reply

      I am from Germany and I do not know the law situation in the States, but I would never give medical advice to a participant, because I have not studied medicine or something similar.
      What I can do as an instructor is to correct the position on the bike, advice about cycling techniques and tell something about training plans.

      1. Chantal Reply

        Hi Roland! I’m actually in Canada. I am a nurse too but that is not what I was seeking medical recommendations for them. I was asking if anyone has heard of these issues…and what type of adjustments in position and/technique would we as instructors advise? I have set up these people according to proper set up….but they are having issue…I know i’ve felt the “air feeling” in my knees myself in the past…. anyone else??

        On a side note, I have advised the lady with the bruising to see her doctor (i’m thinking its not related to spinning at all but more of a health issue).

    2. Cynthia Reply

      I haven’t encountered either of these but I agree 100% that we aren’t medically trained – I’d advise seeing a doc.

  7. Kelley Reply

    I am in too! I have been asking other spin instructors for music ideas and have received some positive feedback. But everyone teaches so differently, I’m finding out – so it is great to go to other classes and learn some “gems” from them. Cheers.

  8. Paul Reply

    Hi, I am up to make my classes better & to share

  9. Kim Johnson Reply

    I’m in too! Although the month is half over…agh! I really like @Roland’s explanation of calorie burn. Thanks for all the great info!

  10. Carolyn Reply

    I’m(Carolyn) in too! I also feel like I’m in a rut. I’ve been teaching 3.5 years. I have members who like to ride out of the saddle the entire class, some who want a blend, others who do not like climbing at all. It’s hard to please everyone. At the club where I work, I would say the instructors ride out of the saddle the majority of the time. Here’s a question for everyone–an instructor says it is more efficient and you burn more calories when you ride out of the saddle. How do you explain the benefits of climbing?

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Interesting question, Carolyn. I did some Googling but couldn’t find any info on calorie burn for specific movements. My initial reaction to the comment the other instructor made was that more efficient work should burn fewer calories, not more. Taking it back to basics, calorie burn is a function of intensity. My HR monitor indicates that, for me at least, fast flats and sprints are more intense than out of the saddle climbs, and out of the saddle climbs are more intense than climbing in the saddle.

      My sense is there are a lot more instructors who spend all or virtually all of the class in the saddle (more consistent with outdoor rides) than those who spend a lot of time out of the saddle. Climbing out of the saddle offers a welcome posture break.

      I sometimes include a freestyle song or two in a playlist so that riders can do what they want. Maybe add some of these and for some other songs coach variations (maybe describing how people should feel and a couple of options for how to get there?)

      Does anyone else want to weigh in on this? Which moves burn the most calories?

      1. Rachel Popejoy Reply

        I expierence the same thing and I teach 4-5 times a week and found this very helpful!! I am more of the high intense calorie burning instructor and we dont sit much at all during class and I will be switching it up a little now! Thank you!!

    2. Roland Reply

      Riding out of the saddle is, from an economic point of view, not optimal, means less efficient. Therefore outdoor cyclists try to stay in the saddle as long as possible. The reason is pretty simple. Riding out of the saddle means that you are using more muscles (arm, shoulder and abdominal muscles for example) means you need more oxygen means pulse is rising means you need more energy means you will burn more calories.

      But it is of course not that simple. The advantage of cycling out of the saddle is that one is able to ride with more power because the body weight is supporting pedalling. Most indoor riders do not increase the resistance coming out of the saddle which means that the muscles have to work less because the body weight helps -> less calories.

      In my opinion many instructors prefer riding out of the saddle because they think that riding in the saddle for a longer time is boring to the riders. Also many riders prefer to ride out of the saddle because it is easier to ride a hill out of the saddle (body weight) at least for a short time. (how many riders actually ride out of the saddle with nearly no resistance and do not even sweat… :-) )

      Test it yourself. What I sometimes do with my riders is that I tell them to increase the resistance in the saddle up to a level that makes it hard to keep the rpm level. At that point, and only at that point, they are allowed to come out of the saddle. Suddenly they are able to keep the speed again.

      The benefit of climbing: riding at 70 rpm or riding at 95 rpm both with a decent resistance is just a different kind of exercise. The first is strength exercise the later endurance. Riding at 95 rpm for an hour is pretty exhausting and you pulse will be very high. Riding at 70 rpm you will need a lot of muscle power but the pulse will be lower. Depends what you want to archive with your riders in a class…

      Calories: a fatburner class means that you ride at a low pulse level and the rate of “fat burning” calories in relation to the total calories will be higher compared to an endurance class. BUT, because the total used calories in an endurance class is higher, you will burn MORE total “fat burning” calories even though the relation will be less.

      To be very honest with you the “normal” not-more-then-two-classes-a-week-rider will not experience a lot of difference calorie wise.

      Hope this makes sense to you. English is not my first language and I hope I have used the right terms.


  11. Cheri Reply

    Hi Cynthia…I am in! Tomorrow I am going to try out a spin class with my brother.

    Keep everyone posted..


    1. Cheri Reply

      Here is my feedback from the class. The instructor did alot of dancing in front of the class, put her feet up on the handlebars (I think as a joke but I was pretty much in shock) and provided ALOT of TMI (too much information). Let’s say.. i would like my money back please. On the positive, my brother enjoyed riding with his little sister :) and the owner of the gym was in the class with me. (maybe a teaching opportunity??).

  12. Rob Sharitz Reply

    I’m in! I’m ready to add something new to my classes! I use spotify on my phone and on my kindle to teach class. I love spotify! It’s definitely worth the money!

  13. deb Reply

    the pay Spotify,, are you able to download a playlist to your Ipod or IPad amd play it later or do you need the Web to play as well?

  14. leutnanthathi Reply

    09:15am isn’t early! Our early bird starts at 07:15am ;-).

  15. stevespinlist Reply

    Another great reason to follow your blog…such a great resource!

  16. Anika Vines-Ogle (@spiritfilled_11) Reply

    Hi… I’m in. I use Spotify ALL the time for my classes. If you wish to copy your music to your mobile it is not FREE, but the cost of having the kind of music at your fingertips is priceless, plus it is a tax write off (for spin instructors and operating cost)!!! How fun is that!

  17. scyogagirl Reply

    I’m in! Great idea!

  18. Judy Reply

    I’m IN…here’s my plan, my buddy and I road trip to other local fitness facilities and take classes…we go to gyms where no one knows us. One of the FUN factors-no one knows that we are instructors. We critique each class on our drive home. Since we both hold many certifications we take all sorts of classes, our focus are those deemed the latest and greatest. Next month I am traveling to NY to run in the NYC half marathon. My buddy is coming with me so that we can go to top-rated fitness facilities ( Equinox, Reebok, Soul Cycle, Flywheel Sports, Chelsea Piers…) to experience their newest, trendiest, most sought after classes. Can’t wait! I’m excited to share the good, the bad and the ugly upon my return!

    1. Cynthia Reply

      You too, Judy! I will be in NYC in April and I have thought of doing the same thing. Will you tell us all about your adventure when you get back? Maybe I could interview you or you could do a guest post?

    2. Jeff Snodgrass Reply

      What a great opportunity you have to experience other classes in a nuetral way (not as an instructor that the class instructor is trying to impress). I live in Santa Fe, NM and have been instructing indoor cycling classes for 16 years. It’s a real challenge to find new motivation, but I find it through new music, and the inspiration I’m able to instill in students. I’m going to try getting to as many other classes as I can, and see what I can learn!

  19. Beth Reply

    I’m in! I want to push myself to take more classes, would love the support/accountability and learning opportunity to learn from them and what people think of the classes they go to :)

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Yay! Thanks Beth. Great to have you on board.

  20. ConcreteNCoffee Reply

    I can’t say I could get to two other instructor’s classes in a month (between personal training, working in a restaurant, and mommying, I’m sure you understand!) but this definitely has me thinking about getting out there to see what I can learn!

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Try for one ConcreteNCoffee? I hear you on the schedule. I work full time, lots of nights and weekends, plus have a house, spouse and child, plus teach cycling, plus blog, plus some remote semblance of a personal life… I’ve only been to two cycling classes in the past four months that weren’t my own. With a young child, most of my free time comes after she’s asleep (if I don’t fall asleep too, that is) long after the last class has finished for the day.

  21. Rachel Popejoy Reply

    Hi Im Rachel and think this is a Great idea!! I teach 4-5 times a week and find myself needing to be challenged. Dont get me wrong I push my clients hard and go myself but also need to focus on thier posture and making sure everone is okay throughout class!

    1. Cynthia Reply

      First one in! Thanks Rachel. I’ll look forward to your insights.

  22. gr8tfulm Reply

    I’m in Cynthia!!! I have been doing this as opportunity arises and I find it can be very motivating! Let me also tell you about a page we have over at Facebook. It is called “former Cycling Pingers. If you remember, I-tunes had a site called PING. We were all ‘friends ‘ over on that wonderful site. When they took PING away, we formed this group. We are all cycle and fitness instructors. We post music, playlists and profiles. It’s great for the beginner or advanced! Please look for us on Facebook, again “Former Cycling Pingers” it’s a closed group so ask to join. This is open to all your readers! Thanks Cynthia!!!

    1. Cynthia Reply

      Thanks – I submitted a request to join. Rdio and Spotify seem to have similar following capabilities but they’re not free.

    2. Cheri Reply

      I just asked to join! I hope you accept! I have been teaching in group fitness for many years and I am always looking for a ideas, music or just some place to share my passion. :)

      1. Kristin Reply

        I am definitely in on this too! I can’t wait to hear from everyone! gr8tfulm, I also asked to join your FB group. I enjoy as much networking as possible in the cycling community!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *