If you teach indoor cycling or run a Group Fitness Department that offers indoor cycling, take a look around the room over the course of a few days. Chances are, you’ll see some familiar faces. If ever there were a room full of regulars, it’s in the indoor cycling space. This begs the question—Are we simply getting the same fit people…more fit? How can we, as the indoor cycling industry at large, attract and retain the larger market of people who can benefit from the low-impact cardiovascular exercise that indoor cycling is?
It starts with evaluating the way indoor cycling classes are currently perceived, marketed and taught with the goal to invite more deconditioned, out-of-shape and first-time riders to the cardio-party. Here are five areas to consider if you want to make an impact upon those who are reluctant to jump into an indoor cycling class:
1. Diversify your indoor cycling instructor staff
Let’s face it. Indoor Cycling tends to attract people who love to get their butts kicked! As a result, there tends to be a “groupy” or cult-like sensation around indoor cycling instructors and their legion of loyal (fit!) followers in many clubs. Classes tend to be taught by high-energy, fit, young athletic instructors who feed into that “give me more” mentality, which tends to encourage the vicious cycle of intimidation in the eyes of less fit potential participants.
If this sounds like your club or studio, it’s time to diversify. Mix up the schedule with seasoned instructors, both female and male; instructors who can relate to various stages of life that members are going through. Make sure instructors can teach a variety of formats (versus indoor cycling only) and leverage this as an opportunity to have them cross-promote indoor cycling classes during their dance, strength, yoga, Pilates, etc. classes to recruit new riders who would normally balk at the idea of taking a cycling class. Teachers with a variety of teaching skills can also be leveraged to incorporate fusion classes onto the weekly schedule. Sometimes a new time slot with a new, friendly instructor in his/her 40s-50s can attract a whole new crowd to your program.
2. Understand your target demographic—aka: most of your membership base!
Take a look around your club and see the real faces of the people who want to look and feel better. Not the already-chiseled bodies, consumer-athletes nor the competitive outdoor cyclists. But rather, take a moment to learn about the lives of stay-at-home-mothers, retirees, work-from-homers, busy career/family jugglers, pregnant women, menopausal women and first-time-ever exercisers. These are the members we want to recruit into the indoor cycling room, and whom we should focus our attention on. Get to know the target demographic in order to serve their needs—and when you do so, watch their fitness and confidence go through the roof. Soon they’ll recruit their friends, spouses, co-workers and nannies to class and your participation numbers will begin to soar.
3. What’s your indoor cycling program’s reputation?
Roll up your sleeves as a program director and look at exactly who is currently dominating your indoor cycling classes. What’s the buzz in the club when it comes to your program? Does this sound familiar: “I’d like to try a cycling class but it just looks way too hard.” Or some variation of this? “I’ve taken a class before, but I was trashed after.”
Remember, it takes some serious guts for a new person to make the leap into a cycling class. Think about it–the bikes with those skinny seats, the sound of shoes clipping into pedals, some serious cyclist-dude with a wrench changing out a bike seat…huh? And, here comes that new participant wearing flip-flops (come on, I know you’ve seen it all)! It’s important to think about the image you’re portraying with your room, your program, your instructors’ appearance and your program’s dominant teaching and dominant music style. Take a poll, ask the members, hear the truth about your current program. Then, establish some concrete goals, which may include appointing a “Lead Cycling Instructor,” particularly in a large full-service health club setting. This person will help handle logistics, better market your program and rally the energy and support needed to recruit more first-time riders.
4. Develop a targeted marketing strategy
Look at your indoor cycling class schedule and ask yourself, “If I were nervous about trying a cycling class, what might draw me in?” Change up the schedule every quarter to keep things fresh, while ensuring that critical fun-factor is always present in the class title and description. Stating the obvious here, but when something looksfun, an un-fit participant is more likely to give it a shot. When riders leave your indoor cycling classes smiling ear-to-ear, that’s a sales opportunity for those who are on the fence. Classes with titles like, “Indoor Cycling for Beginners” are not sexy, nor appealing. Instead try something like, “Joy Ride: All levels welcome!” or “Community Ride For Every Body.”
If you’re not already garnering the creativity of your indoor cycling instructor staff, start now. Consider having them contribute new ideas to the keep your program exciting on a regular basis. This is part of their job! Ask your instructors to come up with theme-based rides that they’re excited to lead, and market them around holidays, special club events, local charities, etc. They should help you market these special events! Don’t wait until the last minute to develop these ideas. Plan at least six months out to prepare and market appropriately.
On that note, strategize far in advance for those inevitable seasonal slumps with perhaps a special “6-week Cycling Camp” (asking members to attend at least 2-3 classes per week) with a specific start and end-date. De-conditioned riders will be relieved to find a short-term, small group, supportive program on the schedule. Incorporate nutrition support, track members’ progress week-by-week and give them some tangible results they can walk away with. After seeing results and forging new friendships with a consistent group of participants, they’ll be hooked and will want to sign up for another 6 weeks (trust me!).
RealRyder® International, makers of the multi-planar riding platform–the RealRyder Indoor Cycle, also teaches the value of shorter, 30-minute classes for the mere fact that overweight or out-of-shape members have a challenging time simply sitting on an upright bike for a full hour. In fact, many people in today’s busy world prefer class options that involve a bit less time in the saddle. “Express” or “time-saver” and fusion classes are the perfect solution to attracting more new participants to indoor cycling. Fortunately, due to the greater muscle recruitment and zero-boredom factor the RealRyder Bike offers riders, one can get a more effective workout inless time– a big bonus for those who feel bike saddles are torture chambers no matter how much padding you put on there.
5) The basics: Don’t forget what you already know
As instructors or people in the position of hiring instructors, we need to remember that indoor cycling is a low-impact, joint-friendly cardiovascular workout that can (and should) welcome members of all ages and fitness levels. We also need to remember that athletes in any sport follow periodization protocols to avoid over-training and injury. There are hard days, moderate days and easy days, and rest days. In the indoor cycling room, whatwe teach, how we cue and the music we play can all add up to a very intimidating environment that motivates fit and athletic (veteran) riders. Go back to the basics of hospitality by establishing and maintaining a welcoming, judgment-free zone from the get-go that is FUN, FUN, FUN and accommodating to all levels. Get off the darn bike, walk the room at the start and during class (it’s their workout, not yours, remember?). Shake up your music to better suit a wide variety of ages. Learn what members’ goals are. Look people in the eyes. Connect with a pat on the back, a high-five or a good ol’ fashioned handshake. Go out of your way to make a personal connection, lead with a smile, and show less fit riders you’re there to help them get better!
By Jackie Mendes, NASM-CPT, ACE-Group Fitness Instructor & Director, RealRyder® International LLC, makers of the RealRyder Indoor Cycle–the first and only multi-planar indoor cycling platform on the market.