What Makes a Great Instructor

Note: Karen Maxwell (Kmax), Founder of Kinisi Performance, serves as Manager of CycleStar Talent at CycleBar where she oversees the education of over 2000 instructors and 200 CycleBar franchises. 

First, there are the physical considerations. And I don’t mean how one looks; I mean form, function, and rhythm. Every fitness modality has its own structure, based on the body’s physical response to resistance, repetition, and time. For indoor cycling, we modify pedal resistance, speed (repetitions per minute), and position to engage the body in a specific set of ways. The function of the workout is mathematic and total; we engage every part of the body in a pre-determined, quantifiable fashion, to yield certain results. 

Coupled with the physical, there are the technical aspects: structure and purpose. Without structure and purpose, a fitness class is unfocused, vague. A great instructor understands the reasoning behind his/her modality – all of the technical jargon, from resistance, cueing, speed, rhythm, etc. – but effectively hides it within his/her energy. I don’t want you thinking about any of this while you’re working out. I don’t want you thinking about anything. The idea is to personalize the math and allow it to function as an emotional journey. Which brings us to the other aspect of a great instructor: artistry.

Artistry comes down to two things: music choice, and an instructor’s willingness to be strong and vulnerable simultaneously. I’ll talk about music some other time. Unlike the aforementioned technical aspects of a fitness class, vulnerability and strength is not quantifiable. It is abstract, not seen through the eyes, but absorbed by the heart, a strange brew of biology and emotion that renders into spiritual experience. 

There is a dramatic exercise called personalization wherein the actor harnesses emotion from a memory in her past, then applies that emotion to a scene, infusing it with reality. A great instructor does the same thing. She remembers, and she gives. She listens, and she pushes through. She does not motivate; she becomes motivation.