Cycle Instructor Recertification / Updates

One of my goals for 2016 was to complete my cycle re-certification. I needed a lot of the units so I opted for Maddogg’s full re-certification course. The course from Spinning gives you an Instructor Essentials Manual and covers all the CEC’s needed to be certified for another 2 years. For a second I thought about taking the test and seeing if I could pass without reading the manual but when I saw that the manual included updates, I thought better of it. I am glad I read the entire manual because not only was there new information, there were some great reminders about teaching a cycle class.


The new updates included:

  1. New hand position –  Since I have taken my instructor certification, a new hand position has been added. Hand Position 2.5 offers an additional option for comfort with grip during a class. It is particularly beneficial to students who require a longer reach but I find that a large number of students normally gravitated towards this position before it was officially added.
  2. Update on spinning energy zones – The energy zones were updated to include that the upper limit for Race Day and Interval energy zones is “maximal effort” rather than the previous 92%. The reason for the change was due to the additional update to the age predicted heart rate formula.
  3. Maximum HR calculation – 208 – (0.7 x age) = age predicted HR

In addition, there were other things I noticed about the manual especially the emphasis on the kinesiology of cycling. There was a much larger portion on specific muscles and body parts. However, for myself a lot of it followed my ACE Group Fitness studying so it was a good refresher. There was also a strong focus on heart rate monitoring. Only one of the gyms that I teach cycle at focuses on HR and I find it makes a large improvement for students. Therefore, the focus on how to calculate HR as well as the benefits of monitoring while exercising such as preventing overtraining, provides an indicator of exercise exertion and improves fitness level.

Once I read the manual, I took the test online and passed  on the first try. Just like the first test, you require a minimum of 80% to pass the test. If you were able to pass the first instructor certification exam, the second should be fairly easy. The format is the same with a total of 50 questions on the exam. Overall, the re-certification manual provided the necessary updates as well as usual reminders to teaching cycling. The re-certification was worth two more years of teaching cycle!

Looking for cycle playlists? Check out the fitness page.


What I Have Gained As A Group Fitness Instructor

Last week, I shared a picture on Instagram of my empty, post cycle class. The picture was taken after a particularly rough month-end week which meant long, late hours which makes every day a challenge to leave the office to get to class. On Thursday, I had a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” (it wasn’t that bad, I just loved that book growing up). I left work in a frenzy, raced home to change and grab myself all while yelling at myself for not having brought my bag to work. By the time I drove road-raged my way through traffic and a full parking lot, I made it to class with a few minutes to spare. I settled into “teaching mode” and left everything going on in my life at the door.

Over the past week weeks, with my 8-5 job providing a lot of stress, teaching has provided a few of it’s own headaches. Working at a new gym trying to create those connections, I have been reminded how hard it can to start somewhere new with people who have their opinions of what a class should or shouldn’t be. The stress of trying to expand as an instructor as well as figuring out how to balance teaching with my personal life has really provided good growing pains. All of those growing pains however were accepted and appreciated on Thursday after class with one interaction with a student. After the cool down portion of class I walked to the back of the class to say goodbye and have a good night to students. The last student to walk out of the class, I got exactly what I needed. A terminally sick student who goes to class as much as possible responded back with “I did have a great night thanks to this class.” Just like that, I was reminded of exactly how much I get from being a Group Fitness Instructor. 


Group Fitness Instructors (GFIs) provide students a safe, effective and fun workout routine in all types of formats. Plain and simple – I love being an instructor and teaching. Being an instructor has nothing to do with money (sadly the money is not there to make it about money) and doing it because you enjoy it. Although the job is about giving to students, I actually get so many rewards from being a GFI.

  • Happiness – Getting to have a positive impact on someone’s day makes me genuinely happy. As the example above showed you, my students have a great way of giving me perspective they did not even know they were giving me. A simple thank you can turn my day around while interactions with students constantly remind me how lucky I am that teaching has worked out for me.
  • Friends – I have actually made some amazing friends from teaching. There were people I really connected with during class that when I left the gym I taught them at, we still kept in touch. I have gotten to know more of my family’s friends, student’s friends and family and coworkers from classes. This is probably the one reward I constantly receive from class to class.
  • Confidence – In my sophomore English class, I actually took an F for a speech because I was so terrified that failing was better than having to get up in front of the class. 10 years later, I stand in front of hundreds of people a month teaching classes. I have gained a confidence in myself that I never knew I had in me. Being confident has not only been helpful to me personally, it has really carried into my teaching. I am more willing to take risks, to try new things and be more relaxed in class because I am confident in who I am as in an instructor.
  • A thicker skin – Let me tell you, teaching a class can be brutal. As mentioned in my GFI confessions, I have been yelled at, dealt with really opinionated students and had to smile while teaching a student who told me 3 mins before class they hated the format of my class. Thankfully, this has also helped me in the professional world when dealing with people. I do not let comments get to me and try to take stuff less personally. In addition, I have learned to be strong in my beliefs, knowledge and opinions in class and outside.
  • Appreciation – I have gained an appreciation for an endless amount of things from teaching: an appreciation for what my body can handle, my health, fitness professionals in the industry, friends and family, my supportive husband and most importantly my students. Especially on the weekends, I find myself driving home smiling, appreciative that 2 years later I still get to do what I love week after week.

Tell me: Have you gained friends from fitness? 


“Quickie” HIIT Workout

My weekend was extremely relaxing, productive and active. Unfortunately, the husband and I had to be “adults” by doing our taxes seeing as the deadline was approaching. Now if only we could claim Emma as a dependant, we would be in a much better spot. Anyways, the rest of the weekend was filled with lots of studying, cycling and movie watching. We were in much need of a low-key weekend as we have commitments for pretty much every weekend from now until Greece.

Quickie HIIT Workout

Sometimes it is hard to get my workout clothes on, let alone get to the gym. I used to think a workout only counted if it was an hour long session. However, I have learned that HIIT (high intensity interval training) sessions don’t require an hour at the gym. A 30(ish) minute quickie workout filled with an all over body workout is just the ticket. I completed this workout at the gym last week and was left sore for a couple of days. Enjoy!

bonnie & Carole-2

Wondering how to do these exercises? Here are the exercises in the workout with links:

Round 1: Bent Rows, Squats, Shoulder Press, Hip Dips
Round 2 & 4: Mountain Climbers, Football Shuffle, High Knees, Jumping Jacks
Round 3: Push-ups, Sit-ups, Standing Crunch, Chest Fly



How to.. Wall Squat

Since I am not currently teaching a bootcamp class, I miss some of the exercises I would regularly do with my class. The other day I thought why can’t I throw them into cycle classes? My Tuesday night class is a Pedal Pump format where we cycle for 3 songs, hop off the bike to strength train for one song. We repeat this format for 3 rounds. For the new year I decided to add one new exercise every month that my students can practice each week. By the end of the year, they will have 12 new exercises added to their regime and have improved their ability with each one. This month (yes, we started Jan 2 weeks early) we are working on wall squats!

Wall Squats (also known as wall sits) are one of my favorite workouts. They were commonly added to my bootcamp routine and an exercise I regularly do on my own. Wall squats are all about having proper form before building your time up. I am starting the class at 30 seconds and hoping to build to over a minute by the first of February. Wondering what a wall squat is? Pretty much what the name says, your squat is being held against a wall forming a 90 degree angle on your knees. The exercise strengthens the quadricep muscles (thigh muscles baby) which of course is needed in almost every workout. I have had many students ask what is the proper form so they can practice at home. So here is how to do a proper wall squat/sit:

How to do a proper wall squat / wall sit

First, using a wall as your guide, drop in a squat position with your back against the wall, feet on the ground. Hold your squat as long as you can (trust me, those quads start burning) focusing on keeping your proper form the entire time. There are three mental notes to remember to help perfect your form:

  1. 90 Degree Angles– Your knees and hips should form 90 degree angles against the wall. Therefore, you should have a flat back against the wall and 90 degrees in your
  2. Shoulder Width Apart Feet– Your feet should be shoulder width apart and the distant from the wall will be dictated by how you can achieve 90 degrees on your legs.
  3. Flat Feet– Speaking of feet, from toes to heels, yours should remain flat on the floor, with your focus in your heels. I often see students lifting up on their toes to help distribute weight. Don’t do it! It is way too much pressure on your toes – No ballerinas here!

If you’re a visual learner or have never seen a wall squat before, check this video out on how you should look visually.

Tell me: Do you have a favorite exercise you always add to your workouts?

When It’s Time To Take A Step Back

I started teaching group fitness classes a year ago. My enthusiasm for fitness and teaching landed me 4 permanent classes and 2 subs a week. I loved every minute of it. Luckily my analyst job at the time had slowed down. Therefore, I could come in late when I taught 5:45am classes and leave early when I had a 4pm class. A few months in, I was working a 9 hour desk job and teaching every Monday through Friday. I would take the weekends off to relax and rejuvenate before starting all over again at 5:45am on Monday mornings. After a 2 week subbing job in December, I was offered a permanent position at an all women’s gym for a week night class, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Although I was worried about feeling overwhelmed, I was so excited to be a teacher at a gym I was waiting for. I revised my schedule and kept my teaching at 5 days a week.

Unfortunately, I have realized over the past few months that not only has my schedule changed but so has my drive for teaching. I have been spread too thin after the past few weeks that I feel like I am failing in many parts of my life. Of course my first priorities are always to be the best wife and mom to Emma. My new job has different hours which makes it much harder to take off for early evening classes. I have realized that I must face a problem that not only I have struggled with over the past few years but many people do- Learning to take a step back when needed.

When it is Time to Take a Step Back

Although it can be hard, learning to take a step back at times is valuable. We have become a society where the most common response to “How are you?” is “Good but busy.” We fill our free time with too many commitments and find our days being booked from morning until night. Sure, there are days you will run from 5am to 11pm with work, workouts, family commitments, etc. but we owe it to ourselves to take a step back. At times, we it may be taking an hour for a massage. Other times might require cutting one of the commitments that is becoming too much to handle. Whatever it may be, we owe it to our health to learn to take the step back when necessary.

I am completely guilty of having a hard time saying no which is why I am taking a step back. I will still be teaching 3 days a week because reducing by 2 days is a huge help to focus on my own workouts, training and personal life. They have been severely lacking over the past few months. My goal for reducing my classes is to be able to focus on my triathlon training (one month) and attend more classes regularly (particularly yoga and new classes).

Tell me: Do you find it hard to give yourself a break when you need it? How do you know when it is time for a break? 

Orangetheory Recap

I mentioned on Friday that my husband and I went to our first Orangetheory Fitness workout last week. I had heard so many wonderful things about the Orangetheory workout but had the same question everyone did:

What is Orangtheory Fitness?

The goal of Orangetheory Fitness is to finish a workout that will produce EPOC – Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. Each workout is aimed to focus on Endurance, Strength or Power. A coach will guide you through a one hour workout while monitoring your 5-zone interval training sessions called the “Orange 60.” The end goal of the workout is to maximum HR to 84% or higher of your Max HR pushing you into the top 2 zones. The workout is planned to keep you in these intervals for 12-20 minutes of the workout where you should produce the “afterburn” for 24 to 36 hours after your workout. Our coach advised that you can burn up to 1000 calories in one class.

What does the workout consist of?

Unfortunately during our first workout, the HR monitor was down due to a bad internet connection. Although we were not able to track our HR, I still pushed myself because I was motivated by the coach who really helped to lay out our next move after every step. The first workout was an intense, exciting workout. We started by warming up on the rowing machines. Since I do not row very often, my arms definitely felt it the next day. After a rowing warm-up, we completed strength training workouts including squats, bent rows, mountain climbers and ab exercises.


On Saturday, we returned back to the same Orangetheory, this time to use with the HR monitor. I was excited to try the class again since we knew what to expect. Having the HR monitor made a huge difference when working out. Even though the coach was very motivating, the fact that we could see how many calories we were burning and percent of HR we were using made it even easier to push even harder. We started on the treadmill where we alternated between remaining in our base pace for 2-3 minutes then moved to our “all out” for 60-90 seconds. We would get a minute recovery before we started the round again. After 30 minutes on the treadmill, we moved to the rowing machine where we warmed up before moving onto the strength portion which consisted of 4 sets of two exercises before going back to the rowing machines. We completed three different strength rounds consisting of chest flys, tricep extensions, arnold palmer presses, bicep curls, pull-ups and jump squats on the TRX ropes. Needless to say I was very sore the next day from the arm workouts. I left drenched in sweat and exhausted, proud knowing how much I pushed myself. By the time I got home, I received an email with my information including calorie burn and average HR from the class. I loved getting to see my final results, which would also be a great way to compare your results from workout to workout.

Final Thoughts?

I will definitely go back to another Orangetheory Fitness class however due to the high cost (the local gym offered classes for $30 or a membership for unlimited at $179), the workout will just need to be a supplement class to my current workout plan. Orangetheory is a great workout that keeps your muscles guessing and prevents boredom from kicking in when working out. Above all else, it is worth giving a try. The high intensity class would be great for an athlete as well as someone just getting into working out or looking to lose weight. Since every exercise is able to be catered to your level, it is a great option for everyone to try.

Linking up with Sara at Lake Shore Runner for Tried It Tuesday.

Tell me: Would you try Orangetheory Fitness? Have you tried the workout before?

Cycle Class Continued

Following up on my breakdown of Cycle certifications, let’s talk about group Cycle classes. Every time I teach a Cycle class and set up a new student, I always tell them two things. One, make sure you take the class at your pace and two, take a second class. The first of course is due to the fact that I have seen many students start too fast out of the gate and are struggling half way through the class. Make sure to pace yourself. Secondly, always make sure you return to a class a second time. I have mentioned before that not all teachers will be the same. The first class is getting a feel for the class structure and the second class is always easier as you know what to expected.

As I mentioned last week, students often have many questions before taking their first group cycle class. Here are five of the most common questions students ask before cycle classes.

1) I’ve never taken a cycle class before. What should I expect?  Expect that all classes are different. Most should follow the format of a warm up, 30-40 minutes of drills on the bike and a 10 minute cool down. Drills will include sprinting as fast as you can, jumps out of the saddle and climbing with added resistance simulating a hill. Most teachers will use a mix of the drills, advise what your goal will be for the class and where you should be on your resistance/gear when cycling.

2) Do the bikes need to be adjusted to my exact height, weight and skill level?  YES! This is the most important factor before starting a class. All teachers are trained to set up a new student on a bike so make sure you ask for help. Having a bike set up incorrectly can lead to injury so make sure you get set up.

3) Do I need special shoes? What type of gear do I need to participate in a Spinning class?  While you do need comfortable, preferably moisture wicking clothing, you do not need to buy SPD cleats for your first class. Just wear cross trainer shoes with a stiff midsole that you would wear for any other group fitness class. Remember to bring plenty of water and a towel. If you enjoy cycling, you can purchase padded biking shorts to make the class more comfortable.

4) How many calories will I burn in a Spinning class?  Of course, the number depends on different factors such as a weight, level of intensity, height, etc. However, the average student burn 400-600 calories in a 45 minute class.

5) Is a group cycle class safe for an elderly or pregnant student?  Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Cycling is low impact though, easy on the joints and often recommended for those with injuries.

Taking a new group fitness class is always intimidating. Remember everyone has been there, including the instructor. You have to get your first class out of the way. Who knows? Maybe your favorite class is waiting around the corner.

Tell me: Have you taken a cycle class before? Have any tips you would recommend to first time students? 

Cycle Certifications Comparison

Good Tuesday afternoon! As I mentioned yesterday, I took a cycle certification at one of the gyms where I am currently teaching Cycle and Bootcamp. However, I have been a certified Cycle instructor for over a year. Both of my certification experiences are very different. My first certification through Mad Dogg Athletics was taken when I did not have a single clue about teaching group exercise classes. Yesterday’s certification felt like a refresher course as I have been teaching now for a year which allowed me to further my knowledge as an instructor. My certification yesterday was done through Keiser which thrilled me because I started teaching on Keiser bikes so I was excited to learn more about the specific bike features and how to use them more efficiently in class.

Rather than bore you with two long summaries I figure a little compare and contrast about my personal review of the cycle trainings would be more helpful. I will follow up tomorrow with some more specific information. Of course, both reviews are based on my experience with the instructors who taught the trainings and my comprehension of what was taught.

What is the Length of the Training Class?

Keiser: 4 hours
Mad Dogg Athletics: 8 hours

Is a Test Required to Receive Certification?

Keiser: No
Mad Dogg Athletics: Yes

What Does a Training Class Consist of?

Keiser: The class started with an hour of riding. During the ride, the instructor would breakdown the cues as well as  the drills we were completing. After the ride, we went into the lecture portion of the class. We started with bike set-up, practicing with a partner and the breakdown of all bike components. After we went through the drills, section by section, we learned about creating classes, cueing to inspire your students and how to utilize the computer screen on the bike through a class. We finished the class off with another half hour of cycling which included a test of watts and power.
Mad Dogg Athletics: The class started with an intro into the Spinning brand/company as well as cycling in general. We completed  bike set up which we practiced with ourselves and a partner. After we spent timing learning about intro to a class, structure of a class and the drills we would use. The next half of the day consisted of making our own class formats individually and with a group. We had discussions about how to pick music for your class and specific drills. We finished the class by getting back on the bike for a ride where we were asked to participate with cuing others for drills.

Can I get credits for completing a training?

Keiser: Yes. The training counts towards 0.5 CEC’s with ACE and 6.0 CEUs with AFAA.
Mad Dogg Athletics: Yes. The training counts towards 0.8 CECs with ACE and 8.0 CEUs with AFAA.

How much time was spent riding versus teaching?

Keiser: One and a half hours riding / Two and a half hours teaching
Mad Dogg Athletics: Three hours riding / Five hours teaching

Not one training was better than the other, again just different. My favorite part of both classes was the Master Trainer. Both trainers inspired me and reminded me why I wanted to be a Cycle instructor. I learned very insightful information by two people who have a passion for Cycling. I think it was easier to learn on the Keiser bikes as they have the computer screen which reads your RPMs, heart rate, watts, miles and gear. However, I liked the in depth breakdown of the anatomy of a class that the Mad Dogg Athletics provided. They were both very informative for someone who has never taught a day in their life as well as seasoned instructors.

I have received a few questions from readers about my Cycle certification in general as well as questions about Cycle classes as a student. Tomorrow, I will follow up with Part II discussing basics of a Cycle class, more general questions about Cycle certification as well as group fitness. If you have any questions about cycle you would like to see answered or any questions about specific certifications or requirements, leave me a comment or send me an email.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

I think when I was creating last night’s Bootcamp workout, I was wishing I was in Vegas. The last time I was there when in November for the Rock n Roll Half Marathon which in my book is too long! Anyways, different subject for a different day. Last night’s goal during class was plain and simple – get as many points as possible, however you can within each round. For each round, I put 10 minutes on the clock and let the students go at it. I was a very proud instructor when almost every student started with burpees! Competition definitely creeped in with my students (I can’t blame them as that’s one of my worst traits) but they all commented how much they liked tonight’s game after class. This will definitely make an appearance again soon.

Winner Winner Workout

The other day I used this playlist in cycle class which resulted in many people saying “I love this song” during class. Just as I like compliments on my classes, I love compliments on my playlists. It helps me to know what goes over well in classes and what doesn’t. This one has a good mix of songs on the radio now and some hits from months, even years ago!

Mix It Up Playlist

Here are the songs from the playlist:

Go Big or Go Home – American Authors
Somebody – Natalie La Rose
Magic – B.O.B
Dance, Dance – Fall Out Boy
Sweet Nothing – Calvin Harris / Florence Welsh
Weight of Living, Pt. 11 – Bastille
Evacuate The Dancefloor – Cascada
Somebody Told Me  – The Killers
Fun – Pitbull / Chris Brown
Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon
Sandstorm – Darude
All Night – Icona Pop
Marchin On – One Republic
Bright – Echosmith
Landslide – Dixie Chicks

Tell me: Do you like group or individual workouts?

A Day in the Life of…

What does a day in the life of an analyst and fitness instructor look like? It is always busy and rather boring. Monday’s tend to be my most laid back down in terms of group exercise with one evening class while work is busy catching up from the weekend. There is consistency day to day especially when it comes to coaxing Emma out of bed EVERY. Single. Morning. So here is a Day in the Life of.. for a typical Monday.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF... 6:30am – Alarm goes off, hit snooze, husband wakes up for work

6:34am –  2nd Alarm goes off, hit snooze

6:50am – My husband says his good morning and good bye as I roll over for 10 more minutes (why do I actually think this helps with my tiredness?)

7:00am – Wake up. My husband hates that I even set my alarms when I rarely wake up at that time.  I call it wishful thinking..

6:50-7:10 – Get dressed, brush my teeth, and gather items for work

7:10-7:15 – Feed and take out Emma after 5 mins of prying her out of bed with treats

A Day in the life of Emma

7:15am – Tell Emma bye and head to work

7:30am – Arrive at work and catch up on work emails

8:30am – Sales meeting

9:30am – Catch up on work from the weekend, unfortunately work still goes on during the weekend and holidays (my desk is usually much cleaner but when I get workin, the papers start piling up)

Day in the life of

12:00-1:00pm  – Break for lunch which today is one of my go-to lunch spots: Subway. I stop at the bank after grabbing my lunch before heading back to the office

1:00pm – Back to the office where I work, work, work

4:30pm – Head home, change for the gym, take care of Emma, have a snack and catch up on computer work

6:00pm – Head to the gym for my Monday evening class

6:30pm – Bike set up and teach cycle class

Day in the life of cycle

8:00pm – Head home for dinner

8:30pm – Shower, dinner and of course forcing Emma to love me

9:30-10:30pm – Watch an episode of True Detective (seriously this show is crayyyyyyy)

Day in the life of true detective

10:45pm – Finally call it a night after scrolling through Instagram and Twitter

Tell me: Do you set one alarm or multiple alarms? Do you hit snooze or wake up right away?