I went to the NETA Group Cycling Instructor Certification Class a couple weekends ago and have a few thoughts on my experience with the class. I’m planning on putting together some indoor group cycling classes later this year and thought this would be a good place to start picking up some of the basics or best practices for running a class.
The first thing I should mention is that up to this point, I have not had any experience with group indoor cycling or spin type classes. I obviously spend a lot of time on bikes and quite a few hours on indoor bike trainers, but that is a bit of a different animal than indoor group cycling for general aerobics at the local gym using spin style bikes.
My main expectation of the class was to give me a better glimpse into some general practices, procedures, class setup, etc… for putting together a class for my gym. I have no concerns about putting together an appropriate workout session and guiding class participants into appropriate training zones, but wanted to see what was taught as far as putting together a class session.
I also understood going into it that there would likely be some differences between what I do on an indoor trainer and use an indoor trainer for vs. how a spin bike might be used in a class setting with folks that may not ride traditional bikes.
Basic Bike Fit
This was fairly basic, but good at the same time. We took actual angle measurements of the knee joint with the pedal at bottom dead center (6 o’clock) position to set initial seat height using an angle of 25 to 35 degrees from straight leg position. I had never done this measurement myself, but found my comfort level to be best near the 25 degree angle with the 35 degree angle feeling like the seat was definitely on the low side. We also used a plum bob off the front of the knee to line up the fore/aft position of the seat.
Handlebar height and fore/aft positon was set much more simple and instruction was given that your bars needed to be above your seat to avoid back injury and this makes sense for the group cycling classes. The fore/aft position was to be set by making sure you could touch the bars with your fingers while holding your elbow on the nose of the seat.
Lots of safety was covered to avoid injury of beginners.
Basic bike position and movements were covered that included 3 different hand positions, out of the saddle climbing position and lots of focus on not isolating the lower body that again, was very focused on safety and running a class with beginners. This was helpful though to understand as these are all things that I will need to guide the class through and things that I might generally take for granted. It’s also the little things, like changing body riding position or hand placement that will help keep the class engaged and the workout more entertaining.
A few cadence windows were reveiewed to cover hill simulation intervals, seated flats, etc… I understand cadence windows, but this was another good aspect of the class for beginners and another reminder that this is another variable that the class instructor will need to guide the class participants on.
Actual Spin Session
The instructor put us through about an hour of a spin session that felt fairly mild. I actually brought a bluetooth chest strap heart rate monitor and bluetooth cadence sensor, so I could monitor heart rate and cadence. The machines were all manual with no electronics. Anyways, it was good to go through an actual session and get an idea of how to tie music to the workout. The other good part was just seeing a class in action and seeing an example of how an instructor keeps the entire class engaged.
Animosity Toward Actual Cyclists
I have to mention this… the instructor for the NETA Group Cycling Certification was very much into the indoor group cycling/spin class thing for general aerobics, but seemed to have very little knowledge of traditional cycling. She even seemed to carry a bit of animosity toward actual cyclists and sounded like she almost just writes them off in her classes. She also did not really seem to want to even connect the two or care to see how an actual cyclist might use a spin bike to train for real cycling, that might be different than a general aerobics enthusiast use.
To be fair with the instructor though… I can imagine that she has probably had some cyclists with very elitist attitudes join her classes on occasion and may have felt that same animosity coming from the other direction, which would certainly turn her away from taking interest. I promise you that I did not bring this animosity to the class myself. I was highly interested in the potential to learn some new things and paid for the class out of my own pocket and went to it on my accord. I went there to learn as much as possible, so that I can put together the best class possible. I went in with an open mind, knowing that I had some things to learn about spin classes.
I bring all this up because I see no need to alienate one group from the other as there is obviously a population from each group that has an interest in both indoor cycling and actual outdoor cycling. I mention in my takeaways at the end, that I think it is quite feasible to engage both groups in the same class and I fully intend to do that. In fact, my focus or passion is actually more at the beginner level folks and getting more people fit and active, but I want to engage both levels together. It has nothing to do with what level you are at, but everything to do with your passion for activity, staying fit and making yourself better from day to day.
Not Worth $169?
The class was $169 and we got out a little early. I think $169 is on the high side for what the class covered. I think there were 12 people in the class, so it is not like they made a ton of money after paying the instructor, facility fee, insurance and then still have to process the exams and certificates. However, for the money… it would have been nice for the class to have went the full length and in a bit more detail. There was a good pdf booklet that we received in class, that went deeper than the class instruction itself, but it would have been nice for the instruction to go a alittle deeper than it did.
Instructor Highlighted Specific Material That Would Be On Exam
This is obviously a positive to passing the exam, but I think it takes away from the credibility of the certificate and class at the end of the day. The exam itself was online within 30 days of the class, open book and easy anyways.
Training Zones & Interval Structure
I think this is really important to the class and can be a very educational thing that people can get out of a class in addition to a great workout. I personally feel relatively knowledgable about these topics, but if you went into this NETA class with very little knowledge about how to use training zones and the purpose behind specific interval structure, then you’ll come out of this class with very little knowledge. This was kept pretty basic and I can understand why, given the time frame. However, a good 30 minutes of focus on it would have been valuable in relation to setting up a indoor group cycling session. There was some basic stuff in the pdf handout booklet, but again… it was all pretty basic.
Couple Other Takeaways From The Class
One Class For All Levels
I don’t think it will be very difficult to run one cycling class that includes all levels and be able to engage everyone. The key to this will be driving home the perceived exertion levels and heart rate training zones for interval and recovery sets. The other part is having optional interval sets where very fit folks may do a set of short burst intervals or single threhold interval while the less fit folks hit a short endurance interval during the same period.
Music is probably the part that I may struggle with the most… getting some good music together to match up with an appropriate workout. I do listen to music, but I’m not a big music person in the sense that I understand rythm very well or know all the artists and songs. I’ll have to do some digging here to put together some good tracks for the classes.
Would I Recommed The Class?
I would recommend this class only as a starting point for a basic introduction. You’ll learn enough to pass their exam, get a certificate, fit people on bikes and start putting together a class. If you’re really wanting to come away with some deep knowledge, then I’d suggest looking elsewhere. I was interested in doing the Spinning branded class, which is at least twice the cost for the class alone, but it would have required additional cost for overnight travel and a flight. Based on what I read, the Spinning branded class is probably worth the additionl class fee if you live in a city where they have a studio.
If you have any questions about any of this, feel free to hit me up on the contact form.