10 tips for spinning instructors

Don’t get me wrong – I’m really grateful to spinning instructors. If it weren’t for you, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have finished the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge in the phenomenal time of 7 hours and 13 minutes. Or raised R113 000 for childhood cancer research.  You’re awesome, okay? But perhaps you’re not quite as awesome as you think you are, and I’m here to give you some tips from the other side – that wall of sweating middle-class humanity you see in the half-darkness when you give your classes.

So here goes:

  1. Introduce yourself

You know who you are, and probably most of your regulars do too, but there will always be new people in the class. And frankly, before I’ve had my morning coffee, you all look the same to me. White okes of a certain age (35-45), short hair, average to above-average height, just about no body fat, pouring with sweat. Some of you are a bit bulkier than others and every now and then there’s a chiquita leading the class, but honestly I can’t tell the difference between you guys most of the time. A name would help. And then I could come up to you after class and pretend to be cool: “Yo Mike! Awesome class!”

2. Don’t doubt my commitment.

I’m here at 5h15 am – I’m committed, capiche? Don”t say things like, “I can see some of you aren’t trying hard enough. Turn that dial to the right!” Do say, “It’s 5h15 – well done! You guys are the best! The rest of Joburg is snoozing and here we are, exercising together. Let’s go!” Yes, you can use lots of exclamation marks to get us going before we’ve had our coffee.

3. Some of us love it when you go through the basics again

Most of your class seems to know exactly what they’re doing, so you’re not talking to them. You’re talking to the numbskulls like me who can’t remember their own names at 5h15 am. Feel free to tell us over and over again how to set up our bikes, what “hand position three is” and remind us that “abs are tight”. I love it when you tell us “abs are tight” – it’s so much more positive than “tighten those abs” – more like a gentle reminder than a harsh instruction. And sometimes I even imagine that my abs really ARE tight.

4. No negative talk.

None whatsoever. As far as I’m concerned, your job is to lead to me to fitness while having fun. I don’t need to learn about suffering from you – trust me, there are more than enough people and situations in the ordinary life to teach me about suffering. I need to learn endurance in your class, which is different to suffering, And there’s nothing wrong with sharing a few endorphins between friends. So let me rephrase that: lots of positive talk, please.

If I had listened to some of the negative talk I’d heard in spinning class before the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge I might not have made it. Sure, Rothberg and I walked into class six weeks before the race and you spotted us and we didn’t look like the sub-three types, and we might not have looked like contenders, but we finished the race, which was all we were aiming for. And spinning helped us get here – YOU helped us get there. SO, thank you.

5. The microphone is your friend

You may have super powers, like doing a sub-three Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge, but speaking louder than loud music is not one of them. We all have limits. Yours is being heard at the back of a room full of panting people over loud music.  We need to hear you. You may be able to hear yourself – congratulations.  Me, just human. None of those super-powers here. Use the damn microphone already.

6. Nostalgic music is good.

In fact, nostalgic music is fabulous. Anything that gives us a little jolt of pleasure is a winner. Music from our youth with some beats over it is a good idea. Something like Fast Car,  Jungle Jim or the Chieftains’ Cotton Eye Joe remixes. (Ya gotta watch this one – it’s the best online antidepressant you’ll ever see.) Music is important to a spinning class. It’s not just something to drown out the sounds of the wheels of the bike going round and round, or the drops of sweat going PLAT on the floor, or the little whimpers of people like me trying not to have a heart attack. It’s for taking us higher and higher, for telling us that we are the champions!

7. Use that music

Please, I’m begging you, make a real playlist. Don’t just come to class with some random selection that acts as a backdrop. Here are some songs that I find always get me going: High I go,  Take me to the clouds above and Beware of the Boys. Mix up those genres (DJ Cleo, Kelis, Panjabi MC )throw in some surprises and a bit of humour (Kiss my Irish ass,  Gangnam Style) is always welcome. Go oooooon! You know you want to have more fun!

8. Some of us need direction

Lots of direction. I’m one of those people who absolutely cannot participate in an aerobics class because once I join in, the class looks a like a giant game of dominoes with people falling all over the place. When the instructor says lift your left leg and your right arm and turn clockwise, I fall over, taking everyone with me. Reminds me of when my mother tried to teach me to drive – “Slow down, take your foot off the accelerator, put the indicator on, press on the brake, turn left”. I just kept on going at exactly the same speed. What was I supposed to do? There was just too much information coming at me.

So, please give us direction. Don’t leave us for four long minutes with no guidance. I can’t be the only nonco in the class, surely. (Please let me not be the only one.) Simple things like when you say something about cadence, go “one, two, one, two” in time with what you want us to do.

Telling us to “breathe, breathe!” is perhaps taking it a little too far. Dude, if I weren’t breathing, I’d be lying on the floor and you’d be trying to remember your CPR classes.

9. Feel free to get off your bike

Come and visit us – see how we’re doing. It makes us feel special and seen. And if you make us feel special, we’ll come back and get fitter and the world will be a better place… Okay, maybe a teeny bit of exaggeration there. The thought of those endorphins is getting me high. But give it a go – come and correct our posture or encourage us to tighten those abs, or look in the mirror, or whatever you think will make us better.

10. Go online to find inspiration

There are so many resources to help make your class fabulous: here’s one, and here’s another. There’s no excuse nowadays for not finding your groove in everything you do. Dr Google is there to help you.

And lastly – if you catch me mouthing swearwords at the back of the class, don’t worry. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m just struggling to become my better self and sometimes I need to cuss a little.

Thanks to all those awesome spinning instructors out there. I owe you. And go buy some of that super Saffer music. No one likes a pirate.

               At the gymnasium