Spinning the Wheel, Part Two

I posted yesterday about how to get started taking group cycling classes. Today I want to cover some class etiquette. I have to put the disclaimer out there that I can’t speak for all instructors; this is what *I* prefer in my classes*. Most of these things are based on the principle that a group fitness instructor (or any type of teacher, really) has a large number of people to take care of for that hour, and using common sense can help improve the experience for everyone involved.

1. Please come to class wearing proper attire. I discussed what proper spinning attire is in yesterday’s post. What I will add today is that I have seen some unbelievable things. I have seen a woman wear shorts that were so short, they almost got lost all “up in there”, if you know what I mean. I have seen people try to spin in jeans (dumb). A former manager of my first club came to a spin class taught by a friend of mine, wearing his dress shoes. He had left his gym shoes at home and wanted to take class anyway. My friend advised against it but he did it anyway. Of course he lived to tell about it; it wasn’t inherently dangerous, but basically you should really just come prepared.

2. Please bring water to class. Hydration is important and really, not only are you doing yourself a favor but also the instructor: though we will take care of you (of course!) if you pass out from dehydration, we’d appreciate NOT having to deal with that.

3. If you need assistance setting up your bike, if you have questions about your new bike shoes, or if you need anything else from the instructor, please arrive EARLY when I can take my time with you. I don’t mind people coming into the studio late at all, as long as they know what they’re doing and can get set up and start riding without my help. If I have to help someone while I’m trying to do the warmup, I will do it–but won’t be happy about it if they are just breezing into class as we’re getting started.

4. Please do NOT chew gum during class. It is unsafe. If the instructor notices that you’re chewing gum and asks you to spit it out, please do it without issue. Choking hazards shouldn’t come to workout with you. Wednesday night I noticed (at the cool down, unfortunately) that one of my people was chewing gum. I noticed because she started blowing bubbles. Ugh.

5. If you know that you have to leave early before class starts, please tell the instructor ahead of time. If something happens during class and you need to leave (or want to leave), please smile and wave at the instructor on your way out if everything is fine. Part of the instructor’s job is to keep an eye out for medical issues that can happen as a result of an intense workout, and if you leave abruptly, the instructor is torn between following you to make sure you’re okay and staying with the other 25 people in the room.

6. If at all possible, please unplug during class. I have had a HUGE increase in people bringing cell phones and Blackberries not only into the studio, but actually with them ON THE BIKE. If you’re staying connected just for the heck of it, please don’t. You can actually have a better workout if you have 100% focus on what you’re doing. If you’re expecting an important call or need your phone in case your child needs you, please notify your instructor before class. And yes, I have had people answer their phone in class.

7. If you are coming into the studio to use the spin bike during class time but plan on wearing an iPod and doing your own workout, please choose a bike in the back and not up front. People are looking for role models (especially newbies!) and they need to see people who are doing what the instructor is telling them to. If you’re in the back and doing your own thing, I’m fine with it.

8. Please DO bring positive energy to class. The difference between a “go get-em” kind of class and a ho-hum, “we’re only here because we have to be” kind of class is phenomenal. I LOVELOVELOVE when everyone has a great attitude about class: it makes for a workout that is much more fun for everyone involved. Also, if you dread the class, I guarantee it will go by slower. Mind over matter! (seriously: try to have FUN!)

9. Please remember that instructors are all different. If you don’t like one class for some reason, try some others until you find a couple that will work for you. I play mostly techno/electronica/house/dance music, and you’d better believe that not everyone loves it as much as I do (really?). I have a couple of regulars who–I’m counting my lucky stars–love my class because they keep coming back but they would be over the moon if I would play some 70’s classic rock. And I won’t. As the instructor, it’s my prerogative. (or, as I always tell my classes as I’m laughing my head off, “I’m the one with the microphone!”) I am always open to music suggestions but explain to people that *I* have to be motivated by my music in order to motivate others. Snotty? I don’t think so. If your instructor plays music you just can’t tolerate, or if she plays it too loudly, or if she turns the lights off during class (I do) for better focusing abilities yet you prefer them on, or if she talks too much or too little, it’s best for you if you go to a different class.

10. Please DO introduce yourself before class. I know that not all instructors do this, but I LOVE getting to know the people taking my class and I like to use their names to praise them during class. I never use anyone’s name to scold or embarrass; it’s all positive motivation. If I ask you for your name three more times, it’s not because I’m an idiot, it’s because I have a lot to remember and I am really interested in knowing you. Also, it helps me to create a little community in the class. If the instructor and others know who you are, you will be missed when you’re gone…which might motivate you to keep attending class!

11. Number eleven is the big one. This is, by far, my biggest pet peeve in the world when it comes to teaching. STOP TALKING. Yes, health clubs are social, but keep it outside of the classes. I totally don’t mind if you turn to your neighbor and have a quick exchange like this:

Sally, under her breath: “Ouch!”
Debbie: “Are you okay?”
Sally: “Yeah, I’m fine. Just bumped my elbow.”

But please, save your social hour for another time. People talking to each other in class, even if they are not loud, distract just about everyone in the room. In addition, it’s just plain disrespectful to the instructor who is getting paid to work everybody out. What it sounds like from the front of the room is a bunch of white noise with a word here or there (unless people are talking at regular volume, and then everyone in class can hear about where they went for spring break or what they’re making for dinner), and then the laughter…OH, THE LAUGHTER!! ARGH! Seriously. Save it. Although I personally can focus well enough to block out the talking sometimes, other times I cannot. Also, I have been given the death stare by many people on various occasions when I take too long to say something that will make the chatty ones shut their cake-eaters, and that’s not a fun position to be in. My good friend (an instructor) will, if it gets bad enough, get off of her bike, walk up to the talkers, pull her microphone away from her face and whisper to them to please stop talking. Though I think that’s fine, I don’t do that. I say things in the microphone that are obvious hints to the talkers. And occasionally, I’m ignored. I have had people talk for the ENTIRE HOUR**. THAT, my friends, is the worst. You all know that it’s not a good idea to make me angry. Here’s a clue: if your instructor says things like:

Come on guys, let’s WORK!

How are you doing, SALLY? (assuming Sally is the talker)

Focus, people! Come ON, FOCUS!

or, my favorite:


…stop for a moment and ask yourself, “Am *I* the one that she/he is trying to get the message to?” If you’re not talking, then don’t worry about it. If you ARE talking, then YES, YOU ARE THE ONE THAT I AM TRYING TO GET THE MESSAGE TO. Zip it!

Whew! I feel better now. I probably forgot a couple of things, but these were the main ones. Anyone have anything to add? Do it in the comments!

*I noticed, as I finished this post up, that I changed tenses constantly and made countless other annoying errors; I absolutely hate that, but don’t have time to correct it. So, please forgive me, especially you, Michelle, because you’re my grammar twin and was probably gnashing your teeth while reading.

**This problem was especially bad at the smaller club where I no longer teach. Not only were my spin classes very, very small, but they were chatty. Especially a certain blogger’s mother, who I adore personally, but she made me insane during class with all of the talking. Once, because I only had five ladies in class–including her–and I know them all very well, I totally let myself get out-of-control, Linda Blair angry and yelled, “K! WOULD YOU STOP THE TALKING!!!! PLEASE!!!!” And God, that felt good, because I can’t do that at my big club, nor would I. I would never embarrass someone like that unless I knew they wouldn’t be embarrassed. And K wasn’t. And yes, after about 90 seconds, she resumed her conversation. Grrr. (But I still love her)



  • Mags

    Some people…the ones who wear shorts so short they get lost…hate them!

    I actually can't talk when I'm working out. I think it's b/c of my asthma but I get winded when I'm talking too much. Plus, I like working out alone anyway.

  • The Devoted Dad

    I haven't done a spin class in almost 6 years, but I really enjoyed reading this post. Maybe someday I will join back in a gym. For now, it's me, my treadmill, and my bow flex- all of which I use sporadically. Also, you did encourage me to use them earlier this evening when I read part 1! -Jason

  • Heather

    these are great tips & ones i will keep in mind should my body ever decide a spin class would be a good idea 😉

    you have so much ENERGY, Melisa!

  • Karen MEG

    OMG Melisa, you're a spinner? You TEACH it? You ROCK!!!

    I am scared of you too, I swear :).

    My husband loves it, but he's always been a cyclist. I still don't own a bike.

    I think it's an AMAZING workout, but I lack endurance (you have no idea, I can hip hop dance aerobics jam for 4 hours straight but on a bike I think I'd pass out in 5 minutes). I know it's psychological, but I'm psycho that way :).

  • Michelle

    The good news is that I'm tired enough reading right now that I didn't notice all the tense changes… until you pointed them out to me 🙂

    And seriously, phones? In class? Wow. As someone taking class, it irritates me when people walk into the class in the middle (especially at yoga) or leave ten minutes early or come into the space where my class is but have no intention of doing the class and are there to do their own thing. Drives me nuts. Not that this should surprise you 😉

  • WeaselMomma

    Wow. You make class sound so fun! No talking, God forbid their be laughter and be sure to let the instructor know if you are having a coronary! That's better than a weekend in college ever was! =)

  • surprised mom

    I can understand why you said what you said and your frustrations, but, frankly, as a teacher I think you would scare me into spinning into better health!
    I wish you were a teacher full time and taught some of the kids my girls went to school with. I have a feel a lot less backtalking would have gone on.
    I admire you and your energy!

  • jojo roxx

    gah! the chatty spinners have me freaking out! why can't all the instructors have a SPINE!! like u>!>!> great post~!

  • stephanie

    You do sound like spin class would be a blast, plus I KNOW I would love your music!!! I want to bash those talkers in the head for you though!!! ARGH!!!!

    miss ya! xo