Fit Pros: 7 Tips to Elevate Your Coaching Skills

How often do you challenge yourself to reach new heights in your coaching?  Are you willing to move out of your comfort zone of coaching cues?  It’s something we ask of our riders all the time; why not us? What can we do to push ourselves, to take risks, to put ourselves out there in front of our students and announce to the world that we aren’t afraid of growth? How can we become a better group exercise coach?

Every time you ask yourself that question, rephrase it as a cue you would give for a challenging climb in one of your classes. For example:

Is this the moment you will challenge yourself to stay committed to this long climb? Or are you going to continue to do what you often do and hold back? Remember, everything you want is on the other side of your comfort zone; let today be the day you cross it!

Check out these 7 tips on how to elevate your coaching.

Expand your vocabulary to include more mind-body cueing.

This can be a little scary for new instructors, and even longtime instructors who have a handful of cues they rarely veer away from. If you think about the most famous and most quoted coaches from all different sports, they all have amazing techniques to get into the minds of their athletes to help them motivate themselves on an intrinsic level. This is a special skill and is one of the things that separate some of the best indoor cycling instructors from the rest.

You can become more inspirational! Be willing to stretch yourself to include intrinsic, mental strength coaching!

For more, check out these books << Flow in Sports, Body Mind Mastery, and Thinking Body, Dancing Mind.

Incorporate music that is different than your regular music choices.

We’ve talked a lot about music and the importance of creating good playlists, using licensed music, and even shown you how music is impacted by research, now it’s time to challenge your music selections!  This can be a challenge if we tend to box ourselves into a corner with our own preferences, or what we think our riders’ prefer. You never know if one (or many) of your riders is/are secretly wishing to hear a wider variety of genres.

I’m not saying play music you hate…you can’t be motivating if you hate the song. I’m just saying be more open-minded!

I know for me, a professed pop-music Grinch, playing more mainstream music has been my challenge. But thanks to the incredible music choices offered on the Indoor Cycling Association weekly Mainstream Music Mondays series, I’ve discovered many wonderful songs I never would have considered. I sprinkle a lot more pop music into my classes than ever before, and I admit, I have found I really enjoy some of it.

I bet I am in the minority and more instructors have the opposite problem…too much mainstream and not enough other genres that are often better to inspire intrinsic motivation, such as world, downtempo, psychedelic trance, etc. Whatever music genre challenges you, try it! You may discover a new world of music you hadn’t considered before, and a new connection with some of your riders.

ICA has a free course on how to use music to help your coaching, click here to access this training. It provides you with a list of seven coaching tips, followed by a three-part video training that includes how to be a more intrinsically motivating coach, and how to select music that matches that coaching message.

Ask your students to evaluate you.

This will really stretch you, but it might be the single best way for you to grow. You will learn how you are perceived, how your music is received, and whether your coaching is falling on deaf ears. You’ll also learn how many of your riders really love you but haven’t taken the time to tell you. Do this in a way that their responses are anonymous.

Asking for student feedback also gives you the perfect opportunity to discuss why you avoid certain popular gimmicks if a rider requests them in their evaluation.

This article on the Indoor Cycling Association discusses the rider-centric approach of teaching and running a studio. Asking for feedback is one way to remain rider-centered, focusing your efforts on the needs of the participant.

I guarantee that you will be astounded at the results. Humbled perhaps, but also proud of yourself for being willing to learn and grow. Like a business desiring to improve their customer service through surveys, you are showing your riders you care about their needs while also caring about their success in meeting their goals.

Teach off the bike more often.

I still hear from instructors who say they never get off the bike, and I just don’t get it. They say their students don’t like it. I know that riders like to see their instructor working along with them, but if you are coaching them well, and teaching them to focus on their movement and not constantly fixated on what you are doing, then they do not need to see you on the bike 100% of the time.

There is a time and a place to get off the bike, and it is to…

  • encourage them to commit
  • correct poor form
  • fix poor setup
  • inspire them to give a little more
  • push them in a sprint
  • gently suggest they hold back
  • acknowledge excellent effort
  • take their minds off of you and onto what they’re doing

Learn how to judiciously sprinkle off-the-bike coaching into your repertoire and you take a huge step up as a masterful cycling instructor.

[ICA has a five-part series on how to teach off the bike and includes how to teach an entire class, as well as how to most effectively get off the bike occasionally.]

Learn how to use social media to promote your class/program.

Did you check out our article on social media for the fitness professional?  Are you following the tips?

If so, you will notice that when used properly, social media is a fantastic way to create community and promote your class/program/event. If you are still resisting this amazing method of marketing, what is holding you back?

I follow a lot of studios as well as individual instructors on Twitter and am impressed with the way that some instructors promote their classes, commend their riders for excellent effort and for showing up, share their music, announce when they are subbing or have a sub, and generally engage with their students. I bet many of their classes are full!

Get on board and start promoting your classes through Facebook groups, Twitter, or Instagram.

Do no harm.

Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath when they finish medical school. There is no similar oath in the fitness industry, and unfortunately, there are few standards. But I certainly wish there were. As fitness professionals, we have an obligation to know our craft and to make sure that we maximize results while minimizing risks. You need to know the exercise science behind what we do in our classes.

Even if you or your students aren’t outdoor cyclists, you must know the proper technique of riding a bicycle. Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t really riding a bike in an indoor class; that’s like saying you aren’t really “boxing” in a kickboxing class, not really “rowing” when on an indoor rower, or not really “running” when you are on a treadmill.

Make sure you aren’t resorting to gimmicks to keep your riders engaged. Begin with to a foundation of the basics, fold in fabulous music, sprinkle in the fun, add a dash of excitement, and top it off with great coaching. Now that is the recipe for success!

Keep up to date with the latest exercise science research on our research page.

Understand and learn Exercise Physiology.

One of the primary goals over here at GXunited is to help you understand that “science is fun” and discover how to apply it to your classes.  Here are a few “fan favorite articless” from our exercise science library:

After nineteen years in the industry as a master trainer, unfortunately the majority of instructors I have encountered do not know their physiology.

Is this you? It’s easily remedied! You don’t have to go back to school for it; you simply have to read relevant articles and take the appropriate workshops targeted to programming classes.  As Christine discussed in her article about getting the most you can from a conference, the next time you go to a conference, make sure you are not just hitting all the HIT classes for a great workout; register for the lecture on lactate threshold training! and expand your career!  Find a conference near you in our directory.

What have you done to shift your coaching??

Fit Pros: 7 Tips to Elevate Your Coaching Skills


Jennifer Sage, MS

Founder, Indoor Cycling Association

Jennifer has educated and inspired thousands of indoor cycling instructors in workshops and dozens of conferences over 20 years, first as a Master Instructor with Spinning® and since 2010, as the founder and Master Instructor of the Indoor Cycling Association. The mission of the Indoor Cycling Association is to empower indoor cycling instructors with knowledge, motivation, class profiles and music tips, so they can change more lives in their studios. Jennifer created the Indoor Cycling Summit, the only online conference for cycling instructors and is the author of the popular e-book ‘Keep it Real’ which has become a valuable resource for cycling instructors around the world.

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MS: Business Administration
BS: Exercise & Sports Science

Certified Indoor Cycle Instructor:
Spinning
Cycling Fusion
Stage 5
Keiser
Real Ryder
Stages Cycling

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Fit Pros: 7 Tips to Elevate Your Coaching Skills

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