You’re not everyone’s cup of tea–and that’s OK. 6 Strategies, for #indoorcycling instructors, to build a resilient character

It’s a well-known fact that you can’t please everyone. If you try, you will certainly fail. That’s why seeking approval of others is a futile endeavor. This post, perhaps controversial to some, is the result of a personal observation that many indoor cycling instructors can relate to, especially when they are subbing for other instructors.

Last week, I subbed five classes for a fellow instructor who is recovering from shoulder surgery. I have never subbed for this particular instructor, so I asked her about the audience’s demographic and what she liked to do. By attempting to learn more about the riders, I could prepare an appropriate routine with specific drills and companion playlists. In three of the five classes, I witnessed 3 or 4 riders who were in the studio already on the bikes before I arrived, see that I was subbing, get off their bikes and immediately walk out. As they walked out, they turned around and gave me “the look” as if to voice their disapproval and dismay that the regular instructor was not present.question

After several years of teaching indoor cycling classes, this is the one and only rider behavior that I just cannot understand. You’ve already made the trip to the studio, planned your time, paid for the ride, and are ready to work out. Now, you just get up and leave – what gives? You haven’t even seen my routine. I would understand if you leave during the ride because you didn’t like the music or drills, but leaving even before giving me a chance? 

Iteat turns out that this statement – “giving me a chance” – is where I am wrong. It really is not about giving me a chance. It is about me no taking this personally and allowing for the simple possibility that, as an instructor, you are simply not everyone’s cup of tea, even before they take the first sip. So, going back to my original premise that we can’t please everyone, instead, we should focus on pleasing ourselves. Selfish you say? Perhaps, but allow me first to make a good argument by sharing my six strategies of building your character instead of seeking approval from others.

1. Find your unique style and wear it like a badge of honor
Whether its music, choice of drills, your kit, the way you cut your hair or your coaching cues – those are the hallmarks of your character. You have developed this character through years of learning, training, workshops, certifications and a passion to inspire others. If any of this bothers someone to the point of leaving your class, so be it.

2. Embrace the unknown
When subbing, it sometimes feels like you are teaching your first class. This is an opportunity to embrace the ride and riders as you do with regular classes. Show the same passion, energy and spirit. And, for regular classes, do not be afraid to incorporate new drills, inject new routines into your classes, adapt non-indoor cycling workouts to your indoor cycling classes (keeping safety and function in mind) and find new ways to be a better motivator. Leaving the stale and ordinary is the only way to get to the extraordinary.

3. Be inclusive
For those who decide to leave (like what happened when I subbed), let them leave. Focus instead on those who stayed and make them feel that their commitment to fitness will always come first. 

4. Be humble. Be gracious. Be respectful
For those who decide to attend, show your humility, say “thank you”, express gratitude at the chance to sub and be part of their fitness journey, and never miss an opportunity to give a sincere compliment. 

5. Do the right thing
We’ve seen too many instructors using far too many contraindicated moves, from insane cadence with no resistance, to borderline dangerous moves. I am not going to do that, in my regular classes or as a sub. If you don’t like my routine because I do not do the crazy stuff your regular instructor does, then that’s ok. I’d rather that you be safe than sorry.

6. Be confident, not arrogant
Riders who leave the class when you sub may have other reasons than not liking you. It could be that some may feel uncomfortable with the substitute, fearing an instructor who may push them beyond the routine they are used to. To some, that’s reason enough to leave. For you, remain confident in your ability to deliver a powerful class. Show your self-assurance, but avoid any  disparaging comments towards the riders who left. Confidence gives elegance to your delivery.


approveAs indoor cycling coaches and instructors, we all want to know that we’re making a difference. The best way to accomplish this is to focus on staying in favor with yourself and not to seek the approval of others.