Hey Five Spokes riders – does this scene ring a bell? Your instructor looks out at the class and says, “Relax your shoulders and soften your elbows” and you automatically have one or more of the following thoughts:
- She/he isn’t talking to me.
- If I hear that one more time.
- I wonder who she/he is talking to. It’s probably that rider in the front. He definitely has his shoulders in his ears.
Or perhaps you have no thought at all because once you climb into the saddle, especially if you’re an experienced rider, your brain primarily listens for what move is next, for how long it will be and how hard. Period. The rest sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher – Wah, wa, wa, wah.
So how do you know if an instructor’s coaching is aimed at you? Sometimes the instructor will look your way, or perhaps directly at you if they feel whatever they see is potentially putting your safety at risk. More often than not, however, coaching is delivered more broadly, because the last thing instructors want to do is make you feel picked on or like you’re being schooled.
The best rule of thumb? Always assume whatever the instructor is saying is aimed at everyone in the room, including you.
No matter how experienced you are, when you get tired, the first thing to go is your form. Hearing the instructor’s reminders to “lift your chin” or “anchor your hips” can trigger you to check-in with your body, scan it head to toe, and make adjustments to help optimize your ride. Even small tweaks can have a big impact when you’re averaging 4,000-6,000 turns of the wheel per class.
One of the most challenging aspects of being a cycling instructor is how to deliver coaching that resonates. We know we tend to say the same things over and over – there are only so many ways to say relax your upper body – and that is one of the reasons it’s easy for you to tune out.
We know you love a good challenge, so here are two: the next time you ride, challenge yourself to take stock of how closely you listen and respond to what the instructor is offering, and ask yourself how you might phrase feedback in words that would resonate with you. Share it with your instructor after class, or leave a comment and share it with all of us. We love learning from you!