When Tragedy Strikes and the Ride Must Go On

This is advice I hope you never need to use: how to deliver a class when tragedy affects your community.

But with what feels like an unending string of tragedies that can make delivering a properly-pitched class a challenge, it seems fitting to share tips from instructor Laura Iwan who had to deliver just such a class in 2018. Many of you may remember the limousine crash that ended in tragedy for 20 people and their families in upstate New York. Members of the community affected by the tragedy regularly attended the fitness center where Laura taught cycling. Laura was scheduled to teach her Saturday morning class, timing that fell between funerals.

The process she stepped through is filled with insights worth sharing, not only if we find ourselves in a similar situation with the natural and manmade disasters that continue to occur, but also for cycling-based fundraisers for people in our communities hit with health issues and financial hardships.

Here are seven walkaways Laura shared in an ICA article and during a phone call I had with her to discuss this unique and important subject.

  1. Prepare a minimum of two profiles: an upbeat profile that can be modified to accommodate stress-related physiological fatigue, and a lower-intensity aerobic Endurance or Recovery-type ride using soothing, mellow music.
  2. Carefully review all the songs and eliminate any tracks with lyrics that could trigger thoughts of the tragedy.
  3. Greet each participant; assess their energy, mood, and body language, then select the profile that aligns best with rider’s energy level and emotional vibe.
  4. During the ride, pay particular attention to riders who appear to be struggling emotionally and acknowledge positive things about their form, cadence, and effort—anything to make eye contact and distract their thoughts.
  5. Intermittently teach off the bike to create individual communication and connection.
  6. As the instructor and leader of the class experience, it’s imperative to stay positive – transcend any personal feelings of grief for the duration of that class.
  7. For the cool-down, select songs that can create an emotional bonding to close out the ride. For example, Laura used “Together We Are Strong” by Jools Holland, Sam Moore, and Sam Brown and “Friend Medley: Stand by Me / Lean on Me / Time after Time / I’ll Be There for You” by Anthem Lights.

Both in creating the class, and taking the time to share her experience, Laura personified what makes being part of the cycling instructor community so special. No doubt her deep experience as an instructor shone through for riders that day, but I suspect her compassion, caring and thoughtful insights were even more powerful than she will ever know. Like Laura, you have the power to impact people’s lives every day, with every ride, despite the circumstances.

Thank you Laura, and thank you to each of you for doing what you do –

Stay Awesome

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