Become An RPM Fitness Instructor – Personal Account

I decided to become a group cycling instructor. I selected Les Mills International’s RPM program. The training consists of 2 8 hour days of practice and lessons. There were about 17 people in the group and we had 2 trainers. There were about 10 people who were already teaching another LMI discipline and there were a couple of cyclists in the class. It was an eclectic bunch of people, not quit random, but very nearly. The only thing we all shared in common was an enjoyment of cycling (indoor or outdoor). The weekend was amazing and I’ll write more about the specifics in another post.

After the training weekend, the real work began. I wasn’t a fitness instructor and before I would be able to teach I needed to find out why I was doing it, how I would know when I was successful, what I expect to get out of it, what I expected out of the participants, what I was trying to bring to the experience that was uniquely me and what was the biggest thing that I needed to work on.

Initially – before I taught a class

  • Why I was doing it? Since I think my purpose is to try and help others actualize some of their potential I thought that was a good reason because many of the participants aren’t as hooked on exercise as I am. When I’m in front of the group, I’m trying to lead them to a place were they find the strength within to work harder than they believed possible, were they move more efficiently than they did before and when they find enjoyment in the physical sensations of working hard were none existed before.
  • What I expected out of it? A free membership and permission to ride the bikes to practice.
  • What I expect out of the participants? To listen to what I say and try to work hard.
  • How do I know when I’ve been successful? I am successful if I deliver the participants to a place where they make the decision to work instead of stopping. I am successful EVEN if they decide to stop because they make the decision. My success is determined by my ability to get them to see that there is a decision.
  • What I bring to instructing that is uniquely me? By teaching with passion I will be giving permission for participants to be better. I have a belief that if people copy what I do in the gym, on the bike and if they eat like I do, they will enjoy the same level of energy and passion that I have. I try to model passion to let them know that there is nothing wrong being good at giving something your all.
  • What do I need to work on? The choreography and knowing the music.

But something happens when you actually do something, you realize what the experience is really like and your reasons for doing it will change. You may still hold on to some of the initially reasons and add to the list, but one thing is certain it will be different once you have lead a class.

Evolving reasons – 1-3 classes

  • Why I was doing it? Once I started doing it, I realized that it’s fun and it feels good because it’s exercise. There is a part of the experience that is immediately gratifying and that is something that I’m going after now. I maintain my initial reason to help people find success, it’s just fun as well.
  • What I expected out of it? To get a bit of a rush from performing and leading the class.
  • What I expect out of the participants? To give me feedback of things I was doing wrong and to fix their form when I coached them.
  • How do I know when I’ve been successful? If any of the participants took my coaching advice or if they were able to follow the flow of the class.
  • What I bring to instructing that is uniquely me? Hopefully someone will see me NOT feeling shame for trying to be better and will join in.
  • What do I need to work on? Voice qualities should match expected perceived exertion. I need to lower my effort because I am working way too hard.

As you gain more experience, you get better at it and can start to focus on improving certain parts of the process. As certain parts of it become automatic (the choreography or form on the bike) the liberated energy is directed to other areas.

Evolving reasons – 4-10 classes

  • Why I was doing it? I do it because it is fun and because it helps people, but now I want to get better at it for the sake of improving. I’m starting to get a feeling that if I pour myself into it with all of my passion I could become very good at it which will increase my chances to do it. The more I can do it, the more fun I’ll have and the greater the impact on other people. I want to be the best at it not to say that I am the best at it but to enjoy the rewards of being the best.
  • What I expected out of it? I’m focusing on delivery now – precuing and cuing and the performance aspects of instructing. I expect these things to improve with each class.
  • What I expect out of the participants? To learn what they view as success and work to achieve it. I’m delivering an experience template, they are filling in the work and determining their effort. I expect them to actually consider the workout in terms of what they can get out of it, how they need to behave to attain it and finding what they need to follow through on these predictions.
  • How do I know when I’ve been successful? I’m feeling comfortable with the template that I’m delivering to the participants so I feel successful when I see the results of their hard work (sweat, breathless states, eye contact and facial expressions that indicate a high level of engagement and effort) and when they give me feedback that indicates that they got something out of it. I will know that my performance is improving when the participants are doing the choreography the same way I am – the precuing and cuing are sufficient to help the participants find the flow of the class.
  • What I bring to instructing that is uniquely me? The understanding that I need to be seen as vulnerable by some of the participant. I had the realization that I am a lot fitter and better at RPM than 95% of the people who take the class, so a little dorkiness in the presentation is going to endure me as an instructor.
  • What do I need to work on? Lowering my effort level. I’m still working too hard. I’m very nervous before each class and have learned to direct that energy into working hard. It’s hurting my ability to connect and communicate with the participants.

What now? Well, I record and submit my video to get my certification. I start teaching my own class on Saturday mornings starting in April. I’ll try to create interest in group cycling at club so they offer more classes and I get to teach more. I’ll start to bring more of myself into the classes and try to create a community of cyclist at the club so I’ll have people to ride and train with this summer.

One thing that is certain, RPM is becoming part of my goals and it’s going to be interesting to see how they evolve as I actualize some my potential.

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