Robin Degtjarewsky, VP of Content and Program Operations for MDA, recently became a certified meditation teacher. She was surprised by all the ways in which her journey inspired an idea for Spinning®.
I recently completed a 100 Hour Meditation Teacher Training course, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I enrolled because I have a vision to volunteer to guide meditations at a care facility for the elderly. It had nothing to do with my career or Spinning®, but boy, did it give me plenty to think about! Although the topics are completely different, I began to see all these parallels and reasons why the Spinning® community might also embrace a longer, more immersive course.
Now, if you had asked me a year ago, or at any point throughout my fitness industry career if I thought that a 100 HR teacher training course — or even a 50 HR course was a good idea for indoor cycling instructors – I would have said no. But throughout my MTT journey the inspirations just kept coming to me…all the reasons why this could be a great idea.
What is a 100 Hour Teacher Training Course?
With yoga, meditation and Pilates, it’s common for teacher training courses to involve 100 hours, 200 hours, and more. There are also some shorter 50 Hour foundational courses. The hours are made up of instructor-led lessons, homework assignments, personal practice, teaching practice, and taking classes from other instructors.
With fitness instructors, the norm is a 1- or 2-day course and a certification that can be completed in a weekend. That format has served our fitness industry well since the 1980s, and most instructors extend their training well beyond the first weekend with continuing education, mentoring, and years of growth as professionals.
When it comes specifically to the Spinning® program, there is a rich library of continuing education courses (online as well as IRL), specialty certifications, achievement levels, conferences and an ever-growing library of articles. So, the education is there. We’re not lacking for education opportunities. But is it time to imagine another option? What would it be like to offer a 100 Hour, or even a 50 Hour Spinning® Instructor Training course, particularly at a time when people are craving more connection?
What would students gain from an extended course?
Throughout the Meditation Teacher Training course I attended, I couldn’t help but see how applicable the whole experience was to Spinning®. Of course, the subject matter was completely different, but I can really see how someone who loves Spinning® could have a deeply rewarding experience in an extended curriculum course.
The joy of learning: For one thing, it’s a treat just to be immersed in the activity of learning. In an age where we can ask Siri and Google the answer to just about any question, and pull up a video to learn how to make, fix, cook or build anything – spending quality time with teachers, fellow students, and assignments feels like feeding the soul.
Off the bike and into the world: On the first day of my training, the teacher said that the point of having a meditation practice is not about just blissing out. That took me aback for a moment. Because actually, yeah I love blissing out in my practice. But then I understood what she meant. Meditation has the power to change lives. Those of us in that course knew that firsthand; that’s why we were there. The point is to take it off the cushion and into the world—to bring the benefits of your practice to others. And the same is true of fitness and Spinning®. People become Spinning® instructors because they want to help other people transform their lives when they are struggling with health issues, stress, weight gain, etc..
Deepening one’s practice: I had heard this term before. It’s common in yoga. People who practice yoga often take yoga teacher training courses even if they don’t want to become a teacher; they just want to deepen their practice. This became more than just a cliché for me. I didn’t expect it, and didn’t set out to deepen my meditation practice, but that’s exactly what resulted from sitting on a cushion every day. It was partly because the course required us to practice daily, gradually working up to an hour of sitting. We came to understand that we couldn’t effectively teach meditation to others if we didn’t have a daily, consistent practice to reach a deeper level. And…you know where this is going…I see how applicable this is to Spinning® also. I’m imagining students who fulfill required hours on the bike, following a plan to improve their own riding skills and deepen their appreciation of the journey that the Spinning® program provides—a journey on a bike that doesn’t move.
It’s not rocket science, BUT… On the surface, one might think there’s just not a lot to learn about meditation. Sit still, be quiet, breathe. Right? Some people might think the same thing about Spinning®. Get on the bike and pedal. But in truth, there is so much to learn, and so many different types of experts to learn from. Because I love meditation, I eagerly soaked up the history, various meditation styles and philosophies, the benefits, and the neuroscience behind why it works. And because I also love Spinning®, and I have had the unique opportunity to be surrounded by the program’s top experts, I see the possibility to weave together a broad range of topics into an extended Spinning® instructor training course. Within our existing education offerings, there is a rich depth of learning to tap into--we have Master Instructors who can speak to the athletic roots that gave birth to the program; competitive cyclists whose lessons on pedal stroke and riding technique make even the veteran rider (ahem, me) realize there’s always room for improvement; professional cycling coaches who bring performance measurement and tracking to the class environment; positive psychology experts for motivational cueing; and even music mixing expertise for creating extraordinary playlists.
Baby steps: Part of the meditation training involved pairing up with a partner to practice teach, first with a 2-minute script that was given to us, so that we could focus just on saying the initial posture cues. That progressed to longer scripts, then larger practice groups, then developing our own scripts, teaching to friends and family…you get the idea. Baby steps. And required hours. We logged our practice sessions until we had completed the required 5 hours of practice teaching. Spinning® certification courses also involve practice teaching, but since the course is much shorter, there isn’t the same amount of time to build up to teaching a full class and get lots of feedback along the way.
The Other Side of the Coin
I’m not coming at this idea with blinders on. I realize there are at least two big objections to consider.
It’s a lot of time – people are too busy. Yes, true. This type of course would require a lot of time, and somehow in 2022 we all seem to be busier than ever, even though we do so many things virtually without needing to commute. And yes, when I was deciding whether to sign up for the meditation course, my concern was that I’d be giving up my weekends for 6 weeks! But I ended up loving the course so much, that not once did I feel like I was too busy to go. I made it work because it was inspiring and energizing. Halfway through the course, I felt sad about the realization that it would end soon. Getting my weekends back no longer seemed like the goal.
If it’s not broke… True, we’ve been certifying Spinning® instructors with weekend courses for decades, and it’s working fine. But I’m not suggesting that we completely upend the way we’ve been training and certifying instructors, but rather that both options could exist. And in the meantime, Spinning® already offers three certification courses that cumulatively cover a depth of topics and skills: Spinning® Instructor Certification, SPINPower® Certification and Rockstar Spinning® Instructor Certification—those three courses add up to 24 hours. Add in required hours for personal practice, taking classes, teaching practice, and homework assignments, and there we have a 50-Hour Instructor Training Course that is immersive, deep, and rewarding.
I set out to get certified to teach meditation classes, thinking it had nothing to do with Spinning® and my career. But what became clear to me is that for all the reasons why these longer training courses are meaningful in the meditation, yoga and Pilates worlds, so too could it be meaningful for the Spinning® program. I’d love to know your thoughts on this. Comment below or email me to share your experience and ideas.