When most of us are hitting the snooze button on our alarm clocks, Tabitha Lavoie is hitting the highest intensity on her spinning bike, and encouraging her riders to do the same.
Name: Tabitha Lavoie
Suitless Pursuit: RPM Spin instructor for GoodLife Fitness
I'm totally biased because I met you in your spinning class, but what exactly is spinning?
Spinning is a type of indoor cardio training done on a stationary bike. The type of spinning I teach - RPM - is specifically high-intensity interval training where we ride to the beat of the music to achieve a calorie burning endorphin high. This differs from standard spin class as we focus on short bursts of energy to achieve a maximum heart rate before resting. And just once you've caught your breath, we pedal hard to get that heart rate back up again (hence high-intensity intervals). RPM is a program developed by Les Mills, a company in New Zealand, and they send the instructors the specific playlists and the choreography, so we learn it and then teach it in class.
And how did you become a spin instructor?
Originally, I wanted to become an instructor for Body Pump, which is also a Les Mills program. It's a body conditioning class with barbells. I talked to my instructor about it, and she told me that I should try spin first. I'd done spinning before, but back then I thought 'I'd rather lift weights because I don't like cardio.' If I wanted cardio, I'd just lift really fast! One day, I met a spin instructor in the change room and she convinced me to go to her class. I didn't think it was my thing, but I went anyway, and I loved her approach to spinning. She made it accessible to people who didn't always enjoy cardio by breaking the class down and making it mentally and physically approachable. She told me to go to just five of her classes, and afterwards, I was hooked. I realized why my body pump instructor told me to try spin first - it's because your music counts are so different when it comes to lifting weights. I don't have any music or dance background, so she said it would be easier to start with spin first, and then get certified in body pump after. I got certified in May 2013 and have been teaching regularly in downtown Toronto ever since.
What was your first class as an instructor like?
Very nerve-wracking! It's so strange when you're used to riding in the class and then all of a sudden you're facing everyone! The beauty of getting RPM certified is that Goodlife has you "team-teach" with other certified instructors, and you only teach approximately half of the class. What this means is that you go to another instructor's class and teach the first few songs while the certified instructor teaches the rest. It's really quite nice so you aren't completely overwhelmed in taking on a class all alone right away. Once you pass training and you secure your own class time is when the real challenge begins. I struggled a lot with my first class; I was worried about the class liking me, if they thought I was giving them a good workout, if I was working hard enough myself. So many thoughts were running through my mind. The trick was to focus on the choreography that I knew, deliver the cues effectively and everything else just fell into place.
When you're not spinning, then, what do you do for your day job?
I'm a traffic coordinator at Shaw Media, so I deal with commercial content broadcasted through TV stations. I've been here for just under two years. My background is in broadcast television on the production side.
How do you balance your two jobs?
My current day job enables me to do my second job. Had I been at my previous position, it would’ve been hard to balance. I was working 8:30-6:00, but a lot more work was expected because of the nature of the job. It wasn't a flexible work environment or position, but my current boss is very keen on everyone having a work-life balance. She believes in getting your work done but being flexible with your life. If you have sick children or if you need to take time off for your family members' commitments, for example. I occasionally teach 45-minute spin classes during my lunch break, and she knows that with the time it takes to change and shower, it ends up being a 1.5 hour lunch. But she says that as long as your work is done and your co-workers know, it's fine. I work with a great team of people and they're also supportive. I do worry about this level of flexibility if I ever change jobs.
How often do you teach?
I have four regular class times each week, and in addition, other spin instructors sometimes need help covering their own class times, so I pick up a few classes a week at different Goodlife locations. Sometimes this means I have five classes a week, other times it can mean I have upwards of nine classes!
What's your favourite thing about spinning?
That anyone, from any walk of life, any fitness level, any age, can participate. The biggest misconception with RPM/Spin Classes is that you need to be in incredible shape to participate in one, and that's not the case. The instructor is up there, giving cues and indicating to the class how they should be working and what they should be feeling. But from those cues and indicators, the riders have the ability to adjust and make it their own workout. If you're not certain how to do something on the bike (like move into a standing climb), you can stay seated, watch the instructor do it, and then join in when ready. Or if you're in classes all the time, you know where and how to push yourself. It's easy to make the class your own and I think that's the best thing about it.
And as a spinning instructor?
All of us getting a good sweat on and seeing members return with a smile, sweating just as hard and hitting their fitness goals. And when they offer feedback on why they come back. I wouldn’t have a class if it weren’t for the people. You can create a class but if people don’t come, it’s not a class. I’ve done one-on-one classes and the atmosphere is completely different.
One standout comment that made you think, "wow, I'm so glad I do this"?
There's this one member who continually tells me that my energy is contagious. It's one of the best things you can hear. Sometimes I feel like a slavedriver barking out instructions! So to hear that my energy is perceived as something positive is a great thing.
Any advice for someone who wants to do what you do?
100% go for it.
It’s better to try something and find out, "this isn’t for me", than always wonder, "could I have done it?" Ask any of the instructors. They’re helpful. It costs money to get certified, but you get rebated back. And then you have the certification. Even if you don’t have Les Mils certification and just a freestyle group exercise one, you can open up opportunities to teach at boutique studios and other places. It’s better to have and not use. If you’re too busy with your full-time job now, at least you have it. You won’t be questioning yourself 20 years later.
It’s a great way to stay active and inspire others to do the same.
Find Tabitha online at https://www.facebook.com/TabithaRPM.