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Cycling classes have taken the fitness industry by storm. Many community rec facilities want to capitalize on the opportunity to give members the latest trends, but cycling is more than just having bikes on hand. There is a recipe to successfully offering cycling classes.

The main ingredient of a successful cycling program is the instructors. “Without them we would use the bike in the workout room downstairs, which would be very boring,” said Katelyn Whittenburg, the group fitness director for the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties in Fargo, North Dakota. “We love the instructors, and the leadership and motivation they bring to the class.”

Each cycle instructor at the Cass and Clay Counties Y has a unique teaching style, and according to Whittenburg, it is good to have a variety. “In order to find quality instructors, it’s beneficial to tap into physical education programs at colleges, or intentionally work with other departments to train, certify and educate individuals into cycling,” she explained.

Whittenburg isn’t alone in thinking a great program starts with a great instructor.

Lynn Satow, the fitness director at the Shaw JCC of Akron in Akron, Ohio, said her facility has found really great instructors know how to motivate their class. “Not just through physical demonstration, but more importantly through cues that create good imagery or have a good analogy to something participants might feel,” she explained.

Of course, Satow believes instructors should have a welcoming presence and create a fun environment as well. An instructor can be one of the key reasons someone attends a class at your facility.

Finding an instructor who fits your facility’s needs can happen in many different ways. Satow explained at times they can find an instructor through an enthused class member. The Shaw JCC also seeks talent by posting positions online through job search listings and via the educational organization through which instructors have become certified, like Mad Dogg Athletics.

More importantly than enthusiasm, Satow emphasized, instructors should keep safety in mind. Before each class starts, all instructors need to be sure participants are set up on the bike correctly. There are times an instructor may need to teach off the bike and walk around, so make sure pathways are cleared and instructors are mindful where they are walking.

Another key ingredient in the recipe for success is cycling equipment.

“High quality equipment is essential,” said Whittenburg. “We’ve been through periods of poor-quality bikes breaking down constantly. Right now, the bikes are excellent and holding up well.” To determine which bikes to buy, the Cass and Clay Counties Y had three to four test bikes to try out and analyze what best fit members’ needs. 

Moreover, regular maintenance is also important. According to Whittenburg, bikes should be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis. “We want riders to be safe, but we’d also like to keep the bikes longer,” she said.

The Cass and Clay Counties Y recently purchased new bikes after having three different demo bikes for a month. Riders could try out each and then submit a quick survey.

“Today, everyone wants feedback on the work they do,” explained Whittenburg. “That prompted us to select bikes with meters that could give the riders constant feedback.”

Small details, like giving members instant feedback, are a secret ingredient that will help your facility’s cycling program excel.

For Whittenburg, the small details that matter include making sure electronic devices are user-friendly, screens and mirrors are at an appropriate height and the lighting is creating the right atmosphere.

At the Shaw JCC of Akron, lighting is usually kept low, according to Satow. Sometimes hanging lights or a disco ball have been added to their studio. They recently purchased LED candles to create a bit more ambiance.

Another way to create an appropriate atmosphere is through music. “There’s a lot of power behind having the right playlist and one that syncs with your regimen,” said Satow. “Make sure the music is motivating and the tempo accommodates what the riders are doing, whether it be sprinting or climbing a hill.”

In summary, there are several key ingredients to running a great cycling program: knowledgeable and motivating instructors, a variety of class times and class themes, well-maintained bikes, and the ability to engage your participants and help them progress. And, that’s all while having fun.

In fact, one way to have fun is switching up the classes. “The addition of some fun challenges throughout the year will keep riders engaged and aid in consistency in attendance,” said Satow. “Plus, we all get to know each other a bit better. Creating that ‘community’ within your larger fitness community is key.”

Overall, cycling classes have and will continue to be a top trend in the fitness industry. If your facility follows this recipe, you are sure to create a successful cycling program.

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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