I want to share a personal experience with you that has completely transformed the way I see myself and the way I see my students.
I became a Spinning instructor in 2004. I had the incredible fortune of working side-by-side with a Master Instructor at my club in South Carolina. At the time I just thought, “Oh that’s cool, you teach the teachers, you are a really smart Spinning instructor, tell me what you know.” She generously did, and I have no doubt that I would be nowhere as a coach if I hadn’t been so lucky as to meet this woman and be mentored by her.
That summer, she offered something at our gym. She called it a “Journey Ride” and said that in addition to being a long class (90 minutes) this would be a very special experience. She presented a ride that she had just taught at WSSC called “The Message Ride.” Those 90 minutes mesmerized me. The music was quiet, uplifting and TOTALLY INSTRUMENTAL. And it was fabulous. Her voice was soothing and brought me into a place like meditation. Her words led me on a spiritual journey within myself that jolted something inside of me. Suddenly, I was wide awake. And I wanted to be able to give that gift to others too.
Last night, I taught my own journey ride for the very first time. It was the culmination of six years of personal growth, of searching for my voice, of discerning God’s will in my life, of getting to know the real me. Six years of praying, practicing, striving to be present in every moment, taking risks. Lots of humbling myself to ask other people for advice and accepting feedback. I didn’t Spin consistantly for all of those six years. I took a nearly 2-year hiatus to have a baby. I switched to another gym that did not offer Spinning at one point. But my driving purpose since that first journey ride has been to find my voice. To see myself as God sees me and to humbly accept the truth about who I am and what I have to offer the world. In short, I’ve been on the same path that every human alive has walked or is walking…. the path to know the answer to “Why am I here?”
To claim that I am done would be such a laugh. I am only just beginning. My journey ride last night was a milestone. The first of many, I hope! It was not entirely perfect, and my analytical brain is already parsing through the “what I will do better next time”s. But that’s not the point. The point is that I tried. I accepted the challenge of teaching a class that would tranport my students to a place where they could see themselves a little more clearly and ride with a vision of themselves that inspires them to become better riders and better people. And from the response I received as they left the room in almost complete silence… I feel really good about what happened.
I issue a challenge to you, and to every instructor, to do whatever it takes to grow yourself. The quickest way to cure burnout is to take other instructor’s classes and ALLOW THEM TO TEACH YOU SOMETHING. In my mind, there is nothing better than riding with a Master Instructor. So find one. Call Mad Dogg and ask them what clubs the MIs in your area teach at. Make an effort to get to their classes. Attend WSSC. Go to a conference where these events are had. And then “Let your heart stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” (paraphrasing Emily Dickinson there). It doesn’t have to necessarily be a spiritual experience, I just happen to be a spiritual person, it turns out! Seek out other instructors and learn from them. Make it a habit to not just teach a class, but to interact with your students in a way that propels them from beyond “just another Spinning class” to a place where they believe they can conquer all things. If you can do that, you’ll never have to worry about your numbers again, my friend.
My journey started with a jolt, and I hope sharing my experience with you opens your heart a little wider to welcome it when it comes to you. In the meantime, if this concept is appealing to you, you have a variety of ways to get started. You can clear a space in your mind and your world, and just pour your heart on paper. Then sift through it and start to remove the parts of you that aren’t really you. See what you can use to craft a ride. Melissa Marotta is a wonderful example of how you can use your experiences to develop compelling rides for your students. Read a few of her posts at spintastic.blogspot.com. Another choice is to sit down with a good book, “one that challenges you to become the best version of yourself.” (Matthew Kelly said that — he is an awesome motivational speaker who will change the way you think about your purpose!) In one book, if you keep your eyes open and it really is a good book, you can find limitless themes and ideas for making your class something bigger than just a workout. It will challenge you, it will challenge your students.
You might even be tempted to avoid this type of work because it is hugely hard. You grow up a lot during a phase like
what I went through what I’m going through. Specifically, preparing my journey ride was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But it was so worth the effort. Just as a tremendous climb up a relentless mountain is exhilirating beyond compare, so is the work you do to find your true self. And once you do, share it with others. I’m now convinced this is how we can make the world a better place. One at a time, let’s let go of the world, search our hearts and become the best versions of ourselves.