I love when someone asks me how I get up so early to exercise because the answer is simple: they pay me.
While I am a morning person, being an instructor guarantees that I won’t roll over and hit the snooze button. 9 times.
When the alarm went off at 5am this morning, I had the same thoughts that you would have:
“Really?! I JUST went to sleep!!”
“It’s only one day. Maybe I won’t go just this one time. I deserve a day off.”
“It is still dark out. DARK OUT!! In August!! Are you @*%@*#^%*@ me?!”
And then I promptly get out of bed, get dressed, and within 7 minutes I’m out the door for class. I might be a bit groggy on my way to the studio, but I’m up.
If I weren’t teaching the class, it is much more likely that the snooze circus would have rolled into town.
Being an instructor is much more than a guaranteed way to get yourself up and out of bed. Teaching forces me to think about why I exercise, what motivates me, and how I can translate my energy to my class. If you’ve ever been in a bad group exercise experience – lousy music, a disinterested instructor, and lack of sweat would be a sign that you have – then you know what every GOOD instructor’s worst nightmare is: disappointing you.
It’s our job to keep people from watching the clock and counting down the seconds until the nightmare of spin class ends. It’s our job to make you recognize that endorphin rush that comes after a great sweat as something you want to return for again and again. And most importantly, it’s our job to help push you for an even healthier, happier, and potentially leaner version of yourself, even if you don’t initially believe it’s possible – we believe in you. That’s our job.
Sound good? If you’re interested in becoming a spin instructor, here is how to do it:
- Go take a bunch of spin classes. I’m not kidding. Even if you’re a runner/cyclist/dancer/gymnast/all around floor champion, it’s not the same. We “spinners” get a bad reputation for being nauseatingly upbeat and while I don’t like to picture myself with blond pigtails, smacking gum and holding pom poms (apologies to cheerleaders world-wide!) I do know that the key to being a good instructor is energy. If you go take classes at a variety of places (check local gyms, YMCAs, and private studios), you are guaranteed to see both good and the bad instructors. This will give you a sense of whether you think you can lead a class successfully (and will also provide you with some good notes of what not to do. My favorite? Don’t do bicep curls with your bike during class – it’s awkward for the riders).
- If after your spin tour you’re still on board, the next step is to get certified. There are a number of big name certification programs out there, but the one I was certified with and the one I hear about the most is called Madd Dogg Spinning. Madd Dogg is a great, basic training program for inexperienced to moderately experienced riders. The training prepares you to teach the basic moves (jumps, sprints, climbs) and provides basics on stretching, building playlists, and proper form. Trainings are offered frequently and are run as 1,9-hour day with both a ride at the beginning and end, and a break for lunch. The cost is $295 and an assessment test needs to be completed online following the training day, although most studios will allow you to begin teaching as soon as the training day has been completed. The certification lasts 2 years and can be renewed with continuing education credits that can be completed online. Almost every studio will require at least the basic certification (some will require more, as discussed below) so even if you’ve been riding for years, don’t sidle up to that instructor bike without some credentials.
- Once your training is complete, you want to remember the first rule of being an instructor: safety first. So the next thing to do is get CPR/AED certified. It’s a pain the first time because the certification takes a few hours, but renewing every year is relatively painless. Some certifications will even last 2 years. Check out the Red Cross website for more information, or just google for certifications being offered in your area. It is also worthwhile to inquire at your local gym; they often have people come in to re-up the whole staff, so it’s possible you could tag along. While I’ve luckily never had an emergency in a class, I have had riders get light-headed or feel woozy, most likely due to dehydration. Remember – you’re in charge when you take that instructor seat, so it’s important you’re prepared to take care of your riders. And like the certification, most studios won’t hire you without CPR/AED.
- So, you’re certified. You know how to give mouth to mouth and charge an AED. What now? It’s time to get a job, my friend. Use your local network to scout out gigs. My advice is to avoid your dream job right out of the gate. It takes some time to get used to leading a class, and you want to build up both your confidence and your music selections before you go audition for the top time slot at the sold out studio. Instead, scour Craigslist in your area under the heading “salon/spa/fitness.” Inquire at local gyms, the YMCA, and local universities to see if they have spin programs. And remember, no class is too small. I started off teaching 5 guys in a weight room at the Boston Racquet Club. They had no idea what they were in for.
- Once you’ve gotten a couple months under your belt, worked out the kinks in your teaching style, and built up a strong rotation of playlists, start angling for the dream gig. Keep in mind that that favorite instructor of yours who leaves you sweaty and satisfied every time (minds out of the gutter people!) has probably been teaching for years. While there are people who get bitten by the spin bug and pick it up early, it can take some time to perfect your style, so don’t get frustrated if you aren’t getting the A-list roles within the first couple months. Instead, make a list of where you’d like to work and check out their instructor requirements. Some high end studios, like Recycle here in Boston and Soulcycle require that instructors take their own training programs to ensure the classes are up to snuff. Don’t be offended if you have to do a 2nd certification to land those jobs; the studio’s bread and butter is based around your talent so they just want to ensure you are the very best of the best.
- And it’s all just jumps, hill sprints, and arm pumps from there! Well no, not exactly. The true key to being a serious kick-@ss instructor is constantly improving yourself. If you had told me last year that I’d be teaching 2 lbs arm raises on the bike while climbing a mother of a hill I’d have told you….”I mean, that sounds fun!” Seriously though, what any great instructor will tell you is that you never stop learning how to push your riders harder and make your class better. Constantly take other classes to
stealborrow new moves. Play with different kinds of music – funk, soul, rap, hip-hop, country – to make your playlists exciting. You are literally the star of the show when you hit that instructor bike – remember that those riders got out of bed to see you.
I hope this has encouraged some of you to consider that lead saddle. It truly is a rewarding experience to know that while you may be inspired by a song, another instructor, a professional athlete or even an olympian – your riders are inspired by you.
Any questions about getting certified or teaching a spin class? Let me know!
If you’re interested in my roles as the ARD, check out So, You Want to Be a Registered Dietitian.
- The Aspiring RD