I have recently taken on another challenge as the next stage in my on-going triathlon-slash-athletic evolution. A challenge so daunting and arduous that it baffles the melon just to imagine it; a challenge so fierce and grandiose in execution that it makes all my other successes and endurance tests to date seem like a mere walk in the park. What is this challenge you ask? Well, get this: I have now agreed to lead a weekly 30 minute Family Cycle class for parents and kids, ages 8-13 years of age.
Is that some scary shit or what?
You’re probably thinking, “So what’s so scary about a spinning class for kids”, right? That was exactly my thought process when I suggested and then agreed to take this on as a weekly commitment. The idea occurred to me as the result of HRH becoming a bit more reluctant recently to tag along with me to the gym to participate in the kids’ activities as I do my own thing; be it teaching or participating in a spin class, lifting weights, swimming or whatever. Before, she enjoyed sitting in the corner of the spin studio after her “Kids Club” had let out and watch me have my ass handed to me on a silver platter. She was content to sit quietly and observe for 30 minutes until my class had finished. A year later, however, well, not so much. I guess seeing me tsunami out in a huge tidal wave of sweat and agony grows old eventually – go figure.
Furthermore, the other kids in her “Kids Club” are now significantly younger so she doesn’t quite have the same connection she once did to be completely engaged yet, unfortunately, she’s also not old enough to participate in any of the adult classes like spinning, water aerobics, etc., so she’s bored. Who could blame her? So providing opportunities for kids and families to try this whole spinning thing seemed to be a good idea; something for her to get excited about as well as other kids for whom their parents also have the same challenges. It something the family can do together to provide a fun and safe introduction into a new possibility as an interest in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Sounds great, huh? And seeing as coaching and supporting kids programs has become a bit of a passion for me after becoming a step-dad (click HERE) this opportunity seemed to be tailor made for me. How could I go wrong?
But as the date grew nearer, I became more and more stressed about it. Making matters worse, I was worried that the kids might sense my nervousness too; like the way a king cobra senses the panicked heartbeat in a nervous kangaroo rat.
I mean, seriously, what do you do with kids exactly? For all intensive purposes, what do I even know about kids? At best, I’m just fudging my way through this whole step-dad thing and hoping, at best, to not seriously scar HRH in her later adult life. On any given day I’m the kind of boob you might otherwise see spinning (no pun intended) a sign outside a Verizon store. I know as much about spinning and children as Lucrezia Borgia knows about gourmet cooking. I knew I wanted it to be fun while still providing them with an opportunity to get familiarized with spinning and, hey, if they get a decent workout as well, awesome! In short, I wanted it to be the kind of thing that Ron Howard would eventually make a movie about. But what I have learned, however, is that coaching a kid’s orientated spin class is very, very different than coaching adults…like, apples and oranges different.
For example, you can’t too be too tough. Unlike the adult participants in my Monday night Masters Spin Class, I can’t exactly stomp them into the ground like a late season gewürztraminer. No, it’s not that easy; it has to be a real hoopty-doo if you know what I mean. It has to be “fun” and kids’ do not immediately associate “suffering” with “fun” the way my adult spin masochists do. Nor, is there any pleasure in it for me. I mean, I admit to being totally into my ‘schadenfreude’, but watching kids pummel the pedals until they’re ready to puke is not really what I would call a good time. Nor should it be. I want them to enjoy themselves and come back, not ultimately give them another reason to hate going to the gym. So I had to invent ways to keep their fragile eggshell-like minds off the “activity” itself, and more on something that was deemed as “entertaining”. And believe me, given that typical kids has the attention span of a grapefruit, this is harder to do than one might think.
So, to accomplish this, I had the brainwave to – after giving them a brief instruction on how to use the spin bike features properly, of course – lead them through a game of “tag” just as they might play on the schoolyard at lunchtime. What kid doesn’t like “tag”, I ask you. The difference here being that when the person was tagged as “it”, they had to then either stand up into a light climb, or spin faster with a higher (yet controlled) cadence, or “sprint”, until the next person was deemed as “it” until we had worked our way around the room. They seemed to enjoy this. In future classes, I aim to incorporate other such schoolyard games such as “Eye Spy” and “Simon Says”, but geared towards spinning of course.
The second major difference is that in keeping things “fun”, that also means using and playing music that they like; and as it happens, the kind of stuff that might also get me laughed at and ridiculed if any of my training peers should happen to find them on my iPod. Now, let’s get one thing straight, I prefer to keep my iPod “pure” (click HERE), in that all the music contained within is the kind of manly stuff that I might also listen to while hammering out swords shirtless in my medieval iron forge and, you know, Taylor Swift is not part of that formula. Now I know that “haters gonna hate, hate, hate” and that inevitably I just “gotta shake, shake, shake, shake it off” but, still, it’s not cool and I feel slightly less of a man for it being there.
The good news is though, that HRH, seeing as she’s into records and developing her own taste in music these days (click HERE), helped me put together a decent playlist, which along with the popular kids music on the radio, also included tracks by the Cars, Michael Jackson and the Bee Gee’s (click HERE) so that at least the parents brains didn’t 100% melt out their ears as I’m sure they tend to get enough of the radio pop pabulum shoveled at them throughout the day as well. God knows I do. So I tried to find the happy middle ground.
All in all things seemed to go well, even if it was the longest yet probably the most rewarding 30 minutes I think I’ve ever spent coaching on a spin bike. Afterwards, we even had some favorable comments from the participants (kids and parents alike) and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and left with a smile on their face. Maybe this won’t be such a bad thing after all. The best part is that HRH dropped almost immediately into bed upon getting home without so much as a fuss. Who knew that having so much fun would be so exhausting? That alone made the whole stress worth it and I’m looking forward to future classes and working with these amazing kids as they discover the – hopefully – exciting world of spinning.