One of the hallmarks of engaging indoor cycling instructors is their unique ability to remember the names of those in class. Although it is easier to remember the names of frequent riders or when the class numbers are small, it is far more difficult to remember names of riders in a larger class or when you are teaching a brand new class. Why remember names you ask? Accurately remembering names is one of the most important components of interacting with people. For fitness and indoor cycling classes, remembering names creates a bond of awareness and engagement. A person’s name is the single most important word to him/her; their name defines their identity as an individual, and when you greet them as they come into class, they will instantly be engaged. Think about the times you’ve felt special when someone you admired, like your school teacher or mentor, addressed you by your name in a sincere tone. Alternatively, think of how you felt when someone called you by the wrong name, or worse, made fun of your name.
As indoor cycling instructors, we are considered the SMEs – subject matter experts. When you lead a class, you can make a deeper impact by remembering your riders’ first names and by using their names to encourage and inspire them. After all, you may only see them once a week. So remembering their names will have a lasting impression. There are numerous techniques that have been extensively researched on how to remember names. As an indoor cycling instructor, here are 6 tips that I use that will make it easier to remember first names:
1. Make the first name, and only the first name, the focus of the first interaction
When you introduce yourself to a new rider, ask only for the first name. This will make it 50% easier to remember that name. There is no need to ask for the last name. Then, as soon as they say their first name, you must immediately use it by saying something like “Nice to meet you Kara”. Instantly thereafter, reinforce the name by asking a question such as, “Is that Kara with a K or with a C?”. Or if the name is somewhat uncommon, ask them to spell it under the humorous pretense that you do not want to mess it up. Finally, display a humble approach by saying, “Kara, I will probably ask you 5 more times to remind me of your first name as I am very bad with remembering names – so sorry”.
2. Make an extra effort to learn foreign-sounding names
I teach at several studios with a very diverse clientele. Some of my students’ names are difficult to pronounce. These students will especially appreciate it if you correctly remember their names when so many others botch the pronunciation. Start off, apologetically and with a big smile, with something like this (when faced with someone whose name is very unusual): “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Can you go a little slow?” As soon as they repeat the name, focus on the phonetic spelling, which is far easier to remember. Then immediately try to associate the name with something you can easily relate to. For example, for a name like “Anzhelika”, think of Angelica, or for a name like “Hemantharaju”, think of it rhyming with Mount Kilimanjaro. As soon as you make the association, repeat the name to them and ask if you got it right. They will certainly appreciate the sincerity of your effort.
3. Write it down
If the above two methods fail, this old trick still works! Whenever I see a new rider, I grab a small notepad that I keep in my gym bag, walk up to them and introduce myself. Upon learning of their name, I immediately write it down. Don’t worry too much about the spelling. This way, if there are several new riders, you can easily note their names.
4. Find an association trigger
Try to associate names with things people are wearing or by things they tell you about themselves. For example, Bob is an avid golfer and he always wears golf-inspired apparel to indoor cycling class (yes, true story). Janet loves to cook, always talks about hosting parties and brings her famous chili to the studio for a monthly charitable event. With triggers like these, it is easier to recall the names due to the corresponding association.
5. Speak it up
One of the ways I encourage my riders during a difficult drill, is by using visual cues as well as their names. For example, “Jill, I know you love to climb. Just stay seated as the resistance builds, then when you feel you can no longer stay in the saddle, I want you to summon that last bit of energy and attack that hill as you climb.” This is an effective way to add a unique association factor that also results in a positive or encouraging call to action for that rider. Another example: towards the end of the ride, I start calling first names (as many as possible) and say to them: “Marc, Amy, Sandra, Melissa,….this is the last hill, let’s empty the tanks and then go for our victory lap”. The more you do this, the easier it will become to remember more names.
It is not that easy to remember the names of all the riders in every class, especially if you teach several classes a week at different studios. Regardless of how many classes you teach, avoid these pitfalls:
– Don’t call people by the wrong name
– Don’t call people by alternate names or nicknames if they haven’t first permitted it
– Don’t make fun of someone’s name or mock its pronunciation/spelling
– Don’t use the open mic to call out a rider if you notice unsafe behavior. Instead dismount and approach them individually.
How do you remember your riders’ names? Share your tricks with me using the comments section below.