Cycling Class Etiquette

by Krista Popowych on Mar 23, 2015

A cycling instructor wears many hats: coach, trainer, motivator and mentor. But one title many of us would happily relinquish is “enforcer.” It’s never a pleasant job to police workout etiquette. From time to time, though, situations arise that must be dealt with. Knowing what to do, or at the very least knowing how to respond, can make tricky cycling studio dilemmas less uncomfortable and easier to manage. Here are effective responses to some sticky situations.

Texting During the Ride

We’ve all done it: sent a last text message as the lights go down in the movie theater or snuck in a few extra texts during a meeting. But what about participants who continue to text or who check their phones while working out? In a society driven by instant communication, it’s hard to shut down—even for an hour. The Nielsen consumer research company found that “not only are consumers spending more time using their phones [over 34 hours per month], they can’t seem to put them down” (Nielsen 2014). Yes, we are addicted. But it can irritate fellow attendees. So what can you do?

First, it may help to have a facility-wide policy. Post a workout code of conduct in a visible location. It’s a helpful reminder about proper exercise etiquette. Still, while this policy is nice to have, people don’t always read it or take it seriously. Another strategy is to address the issue head-on. At the start of class, make a sweeping statement: “I am looking forward to a great workout with you. To make the most of the next hour, please ensure your bike is set up properly, your water bottle is filled and your cellphone is turned off.” The comment is directed not at any one individual, but at the group as a whole.

Dan McDonogh, senior manager of group training and development for TRX® and a cycling instructor at 24 Hour Fitness® in San Francisco, finds that humor, with an underlying message, can work well in these situations. “When I notice someone on their phone in the middle of class, I have said, ‘Since you’re on your phone, would you mind checking your GPS to make sure we are riding in the right direction?’ More often than not, offers McDonogh, “they smile and recognize what they are doing.” Direct comments can be tricky, though. It’s all in the delivery and the connection you have with the group. Fortunately, humor can go a long way.

Julz Arney, Schwinn® Cycling education program director, takes a different approach. She works “phone breaks” into her recoveries. “I let riders know they will be given opportunities to check their phones at three specific moments during the workout. I’ve found that this simple trick relieves anxiety, and many participants never pick up their phone even when I allow them to.”

And if none of that works? There is only so much you can do. “I let the behavior go,” shares Arney. “Who knows why they need to continue to be on their phone, and who am I to judge whether it is legitimate or not? Perhaps their children need them, or they need to be available to solve some problem at the office.”

Because the show must go on, continue to teach your workout as you normally would. It’s never good to get into a tiff with a member. Your goal is to teach. If you do that well, ultimately you have done your job. And as Arney observes, “Forcing people to uncouple from their technology is not my role. Teaching a fantastic class is.”

Riding to Their Own Beat

Some participants come to class with their earbuds in, apparently listening to their own music. Because they’re attending a group fitness class, the assumption is that they’re there to learn with the group. The best solution in this situation may be to speak to these playlist pariahs after class. Ask them what types of music they like to ride to and suggest that for the next workout you will try to incorporate some of their favorite tunes if they will agree to work out to the class music from start to finish.

Coming Late to Class

In a sense, the instructor should be happy that tardy students make it to class at all. Perhaps latecomers are new to the studio and are still finding their way around their new workout environment. Or maybe they were trying to make it to class on time but got waylaid by traffic, were delayed dropping kids off at school or encountered any num- ber of unforeseeable challenges. Suzette O’Byrne, a yoga therapist and Keiser® master trainer based in Calgary, Alberta, doesn’t take lateness personally or make a big deal out of it. “I acknowledge [late-comers] as they come in and then try to be as welcoming and helpful as possible,” she says.

In this situation, it may be best to change your mindset. Instead of viewing late participants as a disruption, accept that perhaps they had a valid reason for being late. This will make the transition to the workout easier and more efficient. Quickly set latecomers up while continuing to cue the warm-up for the rest of the class. Assist tardy class members as best you can, and remind them to warm up at an easy intensity. At the end of class, set aside a little extra time to review proper setup and answer any questions.

Note that some studios have a no-late-entry policy. If that’s the case at your facility, it is up to management to help enforce the rule. If you must turn members away, ensure that the microphone is turned off when you thank them for coming and tell them that you would love to have them join you next time.

To read about more cycling class blunders and how to manage them with grace, please see "Top Five Cycling Class Etiquette Blunders" in the online IDEA Library or in the February 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

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About the Author

Krista Popowych

Krista Popowych IDEA Author/Presenter

Krista Popowych, B.HKin, has been inspiring fitness leaders, trainers and managers for over two decades with her motivating and practical sessions. As the 2014 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year award winner and a two-time Can-Fit-Pro Canadian Fitness Presenter of the Year, Krista has shown an outstanding commitment to fitness and truly walks the talk. As an international trainer and education consultant for Keiser® and JumpSport®, TV personality, DVD creator and talent, past program director, published author, professional speaker and Adidas 3-stripe team sponsored, Krista spreads her passion for fitness around the globe. Krista’s goal has always been to inspire others through education and movement. Her energy, mega-watt smile, creative sessions and real-life approach to instructing make her a highly sought after presenter and educator!