Monday, August 26, 2013

How Not to be a Spin Instructor

Today's post is brought to you by Barry, this morning's sad excuse for a spin instructor.  For visual purposes imagine the following: a 60-ish year old man wearing very short women's-styled bicycle shorts (note as you form your mental image that I didn't say cycling shorts), rocking a Richard Simmons-esque yet much more flacid perm, and a cut-off shirt, all coupled with a deep baritone voice (think Rocky meets Barry White: "Yo Adrian, can't get enough of your love).

I'm a member of LA Fitness and have been for over seven years.  My relationship with LA is love and hate, but mostly hate. I love my membership fees; for what I pay it is incredible to have access to so many facilities most of which have a swimming pool. I also have access to all their fitness classes which provides me with spin classes to supplement my riding (and replace it in the winter).  Hmm...anything else?  Nope, I'm out of positives. 

On the contrary, it seems LA cares about one thing, and one thing only: getting members signed up. The care, or lack thereof, that they put into maintaining their facilities is lackadaisical at best and more like negligent.  You want examples?  You got it: despite being among the earliest crew at the gym (pre 6am on many days) the garbages are consistently stuffed and overflowing, several weeks ago a smoke detector began sounding its low battery alerts yet it still continues to cry for help, shower curtains are moldy beyond even the lowest sanitary standards, but I will stop there.  As far as classes and instructors go, LA is totally hit or miss. There are some great instructors, along with some horrific ones.  Dealing with these issues (petty though they may seem) and the myriad others is the price I pay for not paying much at all. 

Back to the task at hand though. What made this morning's class so epically bad that I felt compelled to write about it?  Rather than describe the class I think I will sum it up in the following list of what not to do and what to do in order to be a terrible instructor.  Keep in mind this is Barry-inspired and not Barry-specific. 

How to be a Terrible Spin Instructor
Don't: by any means, introduce yourself. 
Do: completely stop pedaling and close your eyes (this is particularly motivating to the class).
Don't: ask if anyone needs help with their bike setup. 
Do: tell people precisely what gear to be in despite their inherent differences in size, power, and fitness.
Don't: give people any idea of what's coming next; instead just randomly yell "jumps" or "climb." 
Do: speak softly so that no one can understand you.
Don't: tell someone when their seat is so low that they are at risk of injury.
Do: tell people to spin as fast as they can (bonus points pushing them to go above 120RPMs or higher than the bike can even calculate).

Just to put this all in perspective, I get that not all spin instructors (or participants) are cyclists, nor do they need to be.  I think, however, that they have a responsibility to run a class that motivates participants and guides them through a class that is both safe and will promote fitness gains.  In order to do this some level of understanding about resistance, cadence, power, and heart rate is necessary.

It's not too difficult to spot the good vs. the bad classes, just take a peek in the window.  Aside from typically being pretty packed (the really good classes sometimes run out of bikes), another sign of a solid instructor is a class in sync.  This shows that the instructor is leading the way; this morning was the opposite.  Barry was lost adrift in his own sea of weirdness leaving us to find our own way (only to be reprimanded when I quietly called out our own intervals).  

I've toyed with the idea of becoming a cycling instructor myself and it is still on my to-do list.  I don't think it will be easy by any means but I think that right now I can run a better class than half the folks teaching at LA Fitness.  And, if I put in the time and effort, I think I can be a damned good instructor.  For now though, I'll have to settle for what they've got and keep building the list of the good and the bad and scheduling accordingly.

For more fun reading on the joys of spin instructors, check out:


  1. This was dinner tonight at our house... I am too tired some days to come up with fantastic or extravagant meal ideas, plus the kids don't eat my best meals anyways. Tonight I wanted them to get some good calories so I added sausage to the recipe. It's delicious and hearty and best of all, it's super easy.
    Geesh, what an ego on this one. Sure hope he and those other Founding Fathers can put in a few clauses about women’s independence in all those documents they’re fighting about because being unable to own property or vote, and precluded by sex from 98 percent of jobs in the Colonies is really slowing down my game. I’d dump this jerk in a heartbeat if I had more options.
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    Since Saturday I decided to take my training for the next few weeks into my own hands as the current training and nutrition style was a little too much. I have 15 weeks to go, so not feeling the need to be so drained so far out.

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