My Journey – Part 2: Music and Mad Dogg

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. The following series chronicles her experience from novice to fitness professional. 

The first thing Monica taught me – and what I continue to concentrate on to this day – is the importance of the playlist. “There’s gotta be an arc to your playlist,” she said. “It has to have a beginning, middle, and end.” There were probably some curse words in there, too, because that’s just how Monica spoke.
Monica’s big revelation to me was the need for a “special song” in each playlist. A song towards the end of the workout that will make the riders laugh, cry or reminisce. A song with feeling and heart. I’ve always fancied myself a singer – which is why is downright tragic that I can’t sing and have no voice talent whatsoever – but my love for music has always been powerful, which is why I was drawn to such a musically driven workout. I love music. It allows me to feel without attaching words to describe what I’m feeling. It’s visceral. I couldn’t wait to play songs like Live’s Lightning Crashes and Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide, songs that make me cry.
As I was receiving this high level play listing training, the owner of the gym told me that I needed to get certified before I could start teaching alongside Monica. Insert Mad Dogg Spin Certification. I suppose I should have had a healthier distrust for a spin certification that was named after a rabid canine, but whatever. It was $300 and 8 hours of my life that I can never get back. But I was committed to following all the rules to start this journey.
In a small room in Venice Beach, CA I sat with 12 other hopeful spin instructors and a Mad Dogg Master trainer. I think his name was Biff. Anyway, I was ready to learn all the things I needed to know. Turns out, a Mad Dogg class does not include rhythm nor choreography. Biff didn’t talk about the importance of music or feeling at all. It was pretty much the most joyless indoor cycling experience ever. After 8 hours, I was ready to take up CrossFit. But I gutted through it, held on, and was awarded my certification from Mad Dogg. The name on the card? Daren Maxwell. Those mother f$%* spelled my name wrong.
Anyway, when I got on the bike I was determined to unlearn everything I had just learned. With Monica riding along in my classes and critiquing my every move, I began teaching classes, focusing solely on the playlist and musical aspect.
I taught 10 classes a week. Then 12 classes a week. Sometimes, I taught 3 classes a day. Sometimes, nobody would show – save for my boyfriend, who would become my husband – and I’d teach solely to him. This is when I put in the work and evolved from someone playing an instructor, to an actual instructor.
Then, something happened that made me think I could make this a career: FlyWheel auditions.