Colleen Conlon distinctly remembers her first indoor cycling class. It was back in 2010, and she wasn’t a big fan. “It was back in high school, when I was living in Delaware, and one of my girl friends asked me to go to one of the local gyms to take a class with her,” recalls Conlon. “It was basically a bike on wheels. No one helped set me up on the bike. The room was bright. Everything was uncomfortable and I didn’t like it.”
But she didn’t give up on cycling. Two years later, she decided to try it again and take a class at a studio in New York City, where she was now living. “The studio was all about the experience,” explains Conlon. “It felt almost magical because for 45 minutes, I felt like I was in a different world and I loved it.”
Conlon was hooked and started taking indoor cycling classes at Equinox frequently—enough so that the instructor whose class she frequented suggested she get certified to teach. Without hesitation, Conlon did just that, auditioned for Equinox, got into their mentorship program and began teaching.
Seven years later, the now 27-year-old is a cycling pro instructor at Equinox, and she believes more than ever in making each of her student’s experiences as special as the cycling class that converted her. Here are five things she keeps in mind to make sure each student in her class enjoys the ride.
1. Build confidence through working out.
Being in a darkly lit room with a bunch of people who love loud music and want to work, that’s what Conlon loves and tries to provide to her students. “Getting to be around similar people who want to be in that environment is everything,” explains Conlon. “That spark that comes out in their eye, and that heavy breathing that happens when they hit something that they set out to do, that confidence is unlike anything else in the world.”
2. Recognize that everyone in the class is at different levels.
While Conlon is used to teaching classes of 25-plus individuals now, she did have to learn how to tailor her workouts for everyone in class. “You get so excited about members who consistently come back, and set goals with them, and expert things to happen during their time away from the studio, but that’s not always the case,” says Conlon. “Plus you’ll always have new clientele, too, and they may not be interested or ready to try to reach the goals you set with the regulars.” Conlon toes the line by giving her students a game plan with challenges throughout class and a goal to hit by the end, but also lets students know that they should go at their own pace and if they don’t want to do a sprint, that’s total fine. It’s their time to workout, so they need to enjoy it and get the most out of it.
3. Comfortable shoes are important.
If it’s your first, second, or even third class, chances are good that you won’t be purchasing your own pair of shoes–and you don’t need to! Most studios have shoes you can rent, or the bikes have cages and you can just slip your sneakers into them and pedal. But if you do end up wanting to make indoor cycling a more regular part of your routine, investing in a comfortable pair of shoes that are both functional and fashionable is key. “I live in the SHIMANO IC5 Women’s shoe that just launched,” says Conlon who is also an ambassador for the brand. “It’s form-fitted and comfortable, especially when I have to get off the bike and walk around during class. It’s hard and durable enough to perform well, but it’s also a softer shoe than some I’ve worn in the past, which makes it extremely easy and enjoyable to wear all day.”
4. Bike setup is key, and the instructor can help!
If it’s your first time, Conlon highly recommends not trying to figure it out on your own. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about—every person was a first timer at some point. “Ask the instructor for help,” encourages Conlon. “New students have a fear of standing out if they ask for help, but letting an instructor know you’re new can help you get set up the right way, so that the bike is fit to your body. This way, you’ll have a much better experience.”
5. Help students set intentions and achieve goals.
Conlon classifies herself as type A and likes to have a plan, and has attracted many students with similar thoughts. “When you make things more specific and have goals set out, it’s much easier to stay in the game mentally, especially when the things get hard,” she explains. “When you walk into class, what’s your goal? Are you trying to ride a certain distance by the end of class? Do you want to hit a max wattage or maintain an average wattage of a certain amount? Or maybe you can’t think about data today and you just need the 45 minutes to loosen up the mind and relieve some stress, and that’s great, too. Even if you’re not setting a goal in terms of data and output during the ride, setting an intention is mentally really helpful, and I like to remind my students to do so.”