This ain’t yo mamma’s aerobics class…


I’ve been an indoor cycling instructor for over 12 years, and in that time, my teaching style has evolved. When I first started out, I didn’t ride very much outdoors and admittedly, I didn’t realize the difference between an ‘aerobics class’ and training for fitness. I went onto aerobics instructor websites – even some for just cycling classes – and saw what everyone else was doing: rpm at ridiculous speeds,  push-ups on the handlebars, millisecond ‘jumps’ out of the saddle, etc. I thought ‘Heck, if these instructors are doing that, I should do that too…because then everyone will like me and come to my class!

In the years that followed, I began to ride more outside, got my first road bike and became more and more interested in becoming something other than just an aerobics instructor.  I wanted to help my participants to reach their goals, whatever they were. To do that, I had to become a true instructor.  I needed to learn how to teach.

I read several books on training for cycling, biographies and autobiographies of professional riders and Directeur Sportifs of pro teams.  I read about strategy, about heart, courage and sacrifice.  I was completely hooked on the sport and develop my own Tour de France rides that follow the race every July.

[I recently became a contributor for the Indoor Cycling Association. My profile for Stage 20 of this year’s Tour de France was included in ICA’s TdF package. Also, my profile, ‘The Grimpeur‘, which told the story of Mara Abbott’s fight up the Mortirolo in Stage 5 of the Giro Rosa is featured. (If you are interested in the profile, let me know.)]

The focus of my class changed to follow ICA’s mattra: ‘Keep it real’.  I was very fortunate that the new club where I started teaching had brand new Keiser M3’s with watt computers (brand new in 2010).  I learned everything I could about training with watts, which while the calculation varies, the training principles do not. It was then that I became familiar with true suffering and became a devotee to @TheSufferfest. (I love/hate you Dave)

Nowadays, I get a little pinch when I see another evening instructor’s class fill up, while my class count rarely goes above 7. The biggest advantage that instructor has is the slot time at 5:30pm while mine is 6:45pm on Thursdays. (I work at my day job until 5:30, so earlier is out of question) I also teach at 5:45am on Wednesdays, which again, I have a core group of 5-6, but sometimes goes to 10-12.  Early mornings are hard. I know.

The difference between our styles is obvious.

I focus on goals. Each class is a piece of the overall goal of increasing aerobic and muscular conditioning. I ask effort from you. I try and give you a better understand yourself and how you can put aside your preconceived notions of ‘hard’. I have found cycling is as much a mental sport as it is physical. I try to show you that not only can you climb that hill (inside or outside) or get through multiple ten minute, steady-state efforts, but also that you can apply that perseverance to other parts of your life.

Over the course of winter training from January to late March, that Thursday night core group of mine saw an 8-10% increase in watts. They put in the time and effort, asked questions and gave feedback. It wasn’t easy by any stretch, but they committed and saw results. One participant even rode in a bike tour with me in the summer – something she has not wanted to do in the past because, in her words, “I can’t keep up with you.” (I’m a slow B/fast C club rider). She did, though. I might climb faster (which is funny because I’m heavier), but she kept on my wheel through the tough headwinds to finish the 20 mile segment with a 14 mph average.

me jen
Jen and me


Anyhoo, my class is starting a round of ‘maintain, don’t gain’ at the LAFitness where I teach and I’ll be posting the profile and musical selections that I used on Thursday night on Fridays, in case you’re interested.

The period will culminate with a special class. In years past, I have lead a 50 minute climb up Alpe d’Huez (we’ve done all 21 switchbacks) or the Tourmalet. This year, I thought I’d tie in my romantic women’s fiction Wheeler- The Course of True Love Never Runs Smooth  by putting on the final race in the book – the UCI World Championship Individual Time Trial in Richmond, Virginia.

You are welcome to use the profiles and/or songs I post in your own training. If you do, I would love to hear back how you liked the profile.

#KeepItReal my friends.

3 thoughts on “This ain’t yo mamma’s aerobics class…

  1. You know, for the longest time, I’d see commercials for spin bikes and wonder what in the hell those women and instructors were doing, bouncing on their bikes… I was incredulous. What could possibly be the answer, certainly nobody in the history of cycling would actually RIDE like that. The topic came up on a spirited 20+ mph average ride (we talk until we hit 25-ish, after that it’s @$$holes and elbows) so I voiced my consternation. It was only then that a friend of mine explained that some instructors like to treat a cycling class as some kind of ridiculous “all body” workout.

    Suffice it to say, keep at your style. Sooner or later the real cyclists will start seeking you out. You’ll be known as an instructor for “real” cyclists. All of my friends attend spin classes, but only if they can find an instructor like you. You should advertise your classes at all of the local bike shops. You’ll fill up in a minute… especially if you add the part about the 10% increase in wattage over an off-season!

    Liked by 1 person

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