The INS & OUTS of being a spin instructor

I am beyond excited to be writing this blog post, becoming a spin instructor was one of the best decisions i’ve ever made, the job itself is incredibly rewarding, fun, exciting and always challenges me to push farther outside of my comfort zone.

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My hopes with this blog post are to shed some light on what it’s actually like being an instructor for anyone who might be interested in pursuing it as a job or to inspire more people to try out a spin class as a new form of exercise. I commonly get asked many questions about what I do, why I do it and if it’s a hard job to do so I thought I would take advantage of these questions and turn it into a blog post filled with my answers and personal experience of instructing for the past few years. I asked for some input on my instagram stories last week for some common questions that come up when talking about spin and got so many great questions which i’ll be answering through this post.

This blog post is EXACTLY what I would have loved to read before becoming an instructor so my hopes are to share all of the good and the bad with you along with my tips for new instructors, new riders and everyone in between who is simply interested in learning what the heck a spin class actually is!

So let’s start from the beginning, how did I get in to it and why did I choose to say yes to being an instructor?

When I was in college studying fitness and health promotion, our first year was heavily dedicated to learning everything there was to know about the human body, anatomy, kinetics, biology, physiology you name it but on top of that we also did a lot of group fitness training and had the chance to become certified after our practical exams. When I first went in to this program I had no interest in group fitness, my goal was to become a personal trainer and focus more on training clients. I wasn’t fully confident in myself, I had no interest in being in front of a crowd and honestly didn’t even know what a spin class was (oh how times have changed)…. After jumping head first into teaching a variety of group fitness classes as part of my program I had to choose somewhere to go for an 8 week placement in group fitness. my teacher knew I liked cycling and suggested I try going to a spin class they had at the college and learning from the instructor there. After my first class I was HOOKED! The loud music, high energy and heart pounding feeling after 45 minutes on the bike was absolutely incredible. It left me wondering where spin had been all my life (although i’m a firm believer that things happen when they are meant to happen so i’m very grateful I found spin at this time in my life).

8 weeks of training and placement went by like a blink and I learned so much about teaching spin during that time, how to coach, plan playlists, encourage and motivate clients and simply talk and bike at the same time (not the easiest thing to learn lol). I knew in my heart this was something I wanted to pursue and call it fate but shortly after my teacher told me a local studio was looking to hire a spin instructor which definitely peaked my interest! I set up a meeting with them and the next day I was hired and working at a job I had been dreaming about for the past few weeks. I was beyond nervous, especially after learning that this studio wasn’t your typical spin studio. The bikes were a lot different to what I was used to, they lean from side to side and offer both a more natural range of motion and greater experience for riders. I was hooked after a few rides and saw the benefits of these bikes compared to others right away. Not only did I feel it more but it was a lot more fun as well.

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My first few classes I was a nervous wreck to say the least, it’s definitely a lot scarier teaching a class for the first time compared to trying a class for the first time. Being in front of a large crowd, making sure everything flows smoothly, making sure class starts and ends on time, coaching different speeds and gears….it’s a lot to think about but thankfully my first few classes were short and I was able to ease my way in to it slowly. It took me YEARS to feel confident on the bike (that’s right! It didn’t happen overnight) but consistency and a lot of practice got me to where I am now. I am nowhere near perfect (no one is) but that’s completely ok, we are all here to simply try our best and that is all we can do. It took me a few good months to master being able to talk and bike at the same time (and to also remember to breathe), how to effectively coach in a way that makes it easy for the class to understand but also encourages them to push themselves beyond what they believe is possible.

I spend and dedicate a lot of my time to watching what other instructors do, learning new ways to coach, new things to say in class, developing my own skills & strength so I can better deliver to my classes, trying out different classes to inspire myself and surrounding myself with other instructors who inspire me to keep going and try new things in class. This forces me to stay inspired and motivated because it’s my job to deliver that exact feeling to others people. Recently I invested in a Peloton bike to not only enhance my own training and strength but to keep me inspired with how the instructors at peloton teach their classes, it’s been amazing seeing how they coach and learning from the best.

There are SO MANY things that go into this job that they don’t tell you about. Is it hard?…..YES…Is it worth it?……100% YES!

Being an instructor is like being a cheerleader but x100 in terms of motivation and encouragement (you are basically a motivational speaker and fitness instructor all in one) I spend hours making playlists, finding the perfect songs and listening to music all for a 30-45 minute playlist that gets used 1-2 times max. I am always trying to think of new drills to do on the bike, new choreography, and new challenges to bring to class which my creative side absolutely LOVES. Although it’s very hard to turn your brain off at night after listening to head banging loud music meant to push you to work harder…haha. Often times I struggle to fall asleep due to teaching late classes and listening to loud music right before bed, I have to dedicate some time to unwind and relax before sleeping so I can get a good night’s rest and do it all again tomorrow.

Being an instructor is VERY physically demanding, it’s basically a constant leg day, every day mixed in with a lot of muscular endurance, intensity and conditioning thrown in to the mix. You have to always be ready to go, full of energy, motivational, positive, uplifting and be able to push yourself 1000% because if you don’t, the class won’t (all about living by example). Spin class is all about the energy in my opinion, the instructor’s job is to fill the room with an upbeat, high energy like no other which at times can be a bit tough but it’s always fun. Even when your sore and tired you have to be ready to deliver an amazing class, at times I question how my legs are even still functioning…haha. Stretching, foam rolling, mobility and recovery are a daily routine that is non-negotiable. If I don’t prioritize my muscle recovery I won’t be able to perform at the best of my ability! I spend a lot of time soaking in epsom salt baths, going for massages, going to the chiropractor, foam rolling and stretching as much as I can in between classes and at night before bed.

I also have to prioritize my nutrition and make sure I am eating ENOUGH each day so I don’t lose weight or negatively affect my performance. I need to eat and fuel my body as if i’m an athlete. I also do my own strength training in my own time so at the end of the day I am burning a lot of calories so I have to eat a lot every single day. FOOD IS FUEL! Teaching multiple classes per day has made my metabolism “lightening speed” so the hunger never stops, which isn’t always a bad thing, haha. I make sure to eat an abundance of whole foods every day (all plants since I’m vegan), snack frequently and prep a whole bunch of food each week to make sure I always have food on hand when I come home from teaching a busy night of classes. My go-to’s are smoothies (easy to pack in nutrients & calories), oatmeal with fruit & nut butter, snacks of nuts/dried fruit, hummus & veggies and dinners consisting of lots of vegetables, lentils/beans, whole grains, avocados and always end the night with some type of healthy dessert.

Music in my opinion is everything! It has the ability to completely transform a room and create a mood to make people feel energized and motivated to get going. The music in a spin class is meant to help push and motivate the riders to perform at their best so it’s important to have a good playlist each time with new songs and catchy tunes. I’m always looking for new music, fun throwbacks, new music themes to try in class and new remixes to keep things interesting. my spotify is (ashleydussault777) if anyone wants some good playlists. The music is the most important aspect of any ride for me, I want to be able to feel the beats pulsing through my body so I’m able to push harder and get lost in the moment. I live for the moments when I turn the music up and see everyone in class getting ready to push their hearts out on the bike. You can just forget every stress of the day and enjoy the present moment which is pretty magical

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TIPS FOR NEW RIDERS

  • Don’t be afraid of the intensity of class, yes it can be intimidating at first but all new riders have the option to modify anything and take it at your own pace, instructors are trained on how to set you up properly on the bike and make you feel safe before getting started. Make sure to arrive early if it’s your first time so you can get set up and learn how to use the bike

  • Don‘t feel bad if you can’t keep up with the instructor or the rest of the class, it takes time to build up the endurance that an instructor has, just keep going and don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 10

  • Go with a friend, this will help you stay committed and motivated

  • Make sure to eat something light beforehand for some energy (fruit is a good option for easy digestion and quick released energy) and bring water!

  • You are going to be moving around a lot on the bike so tighter fitting clothes are always the best option

  • ADD RESISTANCE, every instructor will be able to relate to this but it had to be said. When we tell you to add resistance do it! We can tell when you aren’t adding any on and are spinning your legs so quick they might fall off (what’s the point?)

  • Yes you will get used to sitting on the uncomfortable seat, it takes time

  • Don’t talk during class, it’s not enjoyable going to a class and having to listen to everyone chatting while the class is going on, it’s disrespectful to the instructor as well

  • Say thank you to your instructor after class, we really appreciate it, a lot of work and effort goes into creating a great class so a little thanks goes a long way. It helps us know that what we do matters

  • Try not to show up late, life happens and we get busy but showing up late (especially if your new) can throw off the whole schedule because the instructor has to set you up and get you ready for class while everyone else is waiting

  • Give spin shoes a try, not all studios have clip in shoes but if they do give it a try because it will help generate a more efficient pedal stroke and higher output during class

  • Don’t bring your negativity to class, leave that at home and just enjoy the positive experience

THINGS THAT MAKE OR BREAK A SPIN CLASS

In my opinion and from what i’ve experienced from the past few years of both teaching and taking many different classes while traveling around there are definitely a few key points that make or break a spin class. I’ve been to great ones and also ones that I would never go back to so it’s definitely worth mentioning these points.

  • The instructors energy, this one is a no brainer but still should be mentioned since it can impact the class more than you think. The instructor’s job is to create a high energy, positive environment that makes you feel ALIVE and excited to be in that room. Monotone voices, quiet music and low energy can really bring the class down. I want to feel the music pumping through my body as I go in to a class and I want the instructor to really keep me engaged and motivated so I can get the most out of the experience. Nowadays with social media it’s easy to search up your local studio and see all of the instructors, choose one who most resonates with you and your training style/goals

  • Quiet music, this is one of my pet peeves in spin classes, I don’t want to sit in a class that is playing soft background music, I want to be able to feel it as I push myself through tough intervals, sprints and climbs. I make sure to adjust my music up and down during key points in the ride when I want my class to clear their mind and really commit on pushing themselves. Music has profound capabilities of affecting our mood and this is definitely showcased best in spin class, MUSIC IS EVERYTHING!

  • Variety, it’s important to have a wide variety of drills during class to keep it interesting, no one wants to sprint for 45 minutes straight, add in a warmup, hills, climbs, intervals and fun drills to keep the class guessing and wanting more. Each studio is different in what they offer so don’t be afraid to look around and find one that best suits you

  • Empowerment, I absolutely LOVE when the instructor takes some time to speak words of encouragement, motivation and positivity to remind you of what you are truly capable of. It’s our job to make you believe in yourself so it’s important to find an instructor that really resonates with you. It’s all about providing that HIGH ENERGY environment that makes people forget about their day

  • Lighting, this one depends on the studio but I prefer the class to be dark with the lights off with a few accent lights around the room, this helps the riders feel less self conscious and really forget about everything and just ride. Some of the best spin classes i’e been to have been in dark lit rooms with loud music, the energy is incredible!

  • Talking during class, the only one talking during a spin class should be the instructor, it’s both disrespectful to the class and the instructor if you are taking over them during class

  • Make sure to cancel class if you aren’t coming, this helps give the instructor an idea of how many people are coming to class or if it needs to be cancelled. No one likes a close to empty spin class

TIPS FOR NEW INSTRUCTORS

  • Adjust the mic/music volume ratio, no one likes to hear the instructor screaming while playing quiet background music, I like to make sure my music is louder than the mic so the class is more enjoyable

  • Don’t be afraid to be YOU, we are all unique and each instructor offers something different in how they coach and instruct a class so do what feels most authentic to you. People love to see your personality shining through your classes, don’t be afraid to crack jokes, play your favourite songs and speak words of encouragement that resonate with you. Don’t copy what others do, try to find your own unique style. This took me many years to fine tune but it comes with time and practice

  • Be a good problem solver, you never know what can happen in a spin class, people show up late, your phone can die, the power can go out, the mic stops working etc.. (yes these have all happened to me) it’s all about going with the flow and being able to completely change everything last minute and still make the class enjoyable for the riders

  • Make sure to stay inspired, go to classes, learn from other instructors and see what they do and offer their riders. I watch other instructors, ask questions and practice as much as I can

  • Get used to being in a constant state of sweat, I don’t even know how many showers I have per day or how much laundry I have piled up. My tips are to bring a change of clothes and get used to having endless piles of sports bras and leggings everywhere

  • Make sure to prioritize your nutrition and recovery both pre and post workout, drink a lot of water to stay hydrated

  • Feel the fear and do it anyway, I know it’s a cliche saying but its true, you won’t ever grow from staying in your comfort zone, this job is absolutely incredible so just do it if you really want to

  • Get used to having a crazy schedule, I often go back and forth to work a few times per day depending on how many classes I teach or sub for that day. Be ready to cover classes if another instructor can’t do it

  • Remind yourself of why you are doing this, some days are harder than others but knowing your why and realizing how much people appreciate you definitely helps

  • Practice as much as you can, especially at first, get to know how to ride on the beat of the music, count the beats in a song, coach/motivate, talk and bike at the same time, and perfect your classes

  • Ask for feedback on your classes, see what people like and dislike and see how you can improve

  • Adjust the music to the class, if you have a younger or older crowd, adjust accordingly, for example…if you have an older crowd they might not appreciate an entire playlist full of “lil John”

  • Show up early before class to chat with the riders and help the new riders get set up

  • Create a pre class routine, mine includes listening to my playlist, hyping myself up, dancing around, drinking water, eating a snack, taking a few deep breathes and thinking about what message I want to deliver to the class

  • Add in strength training or cross training to avoid any repetitive muscle injuries or muscle imbalances from overuse

  • Follow other instructors both on instagram and Spotify, this is a simple tip but it will help you stay motivated, learn new things and follow some good playlists for ideas

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Even though it’s a challenging job to have I wouldn’t trade it in for the world, it’s taught me so much about myself and has helped me grow in to the person I am today and for that I am forever grateful. My legs always hurt and my head never stops singing songs but at the end of the day I feel so incredibly humbled that I get to be the positive part of so many people’s day. When people come up to me and thank me for a great ride or share with a friend how much they loved it I can’t help but smile from ear to ear.

It definitely takes a high energy, positive, uplifting, music savvy person to fill the shoes of a spin instructor but once you get past the challenges and step out of your comfort zone a whole new world of incredible opportunities and gratitude forms for what the body can do and what can happen from facing your fears. I truly never thought I would ever love group fitness as much as I do, it was a gift that I needed in my life to find a passion I never knew I had. It gives me more happiness than I can even express, the fact that I get to pretty much wake up and have a dance party on the bike while motivating others at the same time is a dream come true.

If your new to spin just do it, what’s the worst that could happen? If you’ve ever thought of becoming an instructor…..DO IT! I couldn’t recommend it more! You get to better your own health while helping others do the exact same, all while listening to your favourite tunes.

As for certifications, if you are wanting to become an instructor there are a few options, depending on your country and local studios you will need to search for spin instructor certifications, group fitness certifications and other health related certifications such as CPR. Many studios will host training programs that you will need to audition for in order to become an instructor but even if you don’t make it the first time never give up because you will always learn each time you do it. It will happen when it’s meant to.

I hope this post was helpful and enjoyable! Let me know if you have any more questions, leave them below!