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A Safety Checklist for Group Cycling Classes

Follow these basic guidelines for participants, instructors and facility managers to ensure your group cycling program is successful and safe.

Group cycling is quite popular in many fitness centers. With popularity comes health and safety issues.The following basic safety checklist will help to keep your indoor cycling program growing -- without injuries and lawsuits.

Member guidelines

Make sure your members know the following rules before participating in a group cycling class:

* Be physically prepared to participate at the level of the class. Talk to a doctor before beginning an exercise program.

* Dress in appropriate attire: bike shorts, preferably padded; sweat-absorbing shirt; and appropriate shoes. Gloves are an option.

* Take beginner classes and progress slowly. Remind the instructor you are a beginner. When in doubt about your ability to participate, ask the instructor.

* Check your cycle and seat height. Your knees should be slightly bent at the bottom of the stroke. Arms should be bent at the elbows when grasping the handlebars. Experiment with handlebar height.

* Check your shoelaces and make sure your feet are secured to the pedal.

* Make sure everything on the cycle is securely attached.

* Always have resistance on the bike, except during warm-up and cool-down.

Duties of instructors

All of your group cycling instructors should know the following rules and guidelines:

* Know what you are doing. Take a certification course.

* Be present and available at all times.

* Inspect the site and equipment prior to each class. Report any problems.

* Check the attire of your participants.

* Avoid overcrowding. A problem on one cycle should not create a problem for the person on the next bike. It's safer to have fewer bikes in an area and two classes, than to have one overcrowded class. (A Philadelphia-area fitness center retrofitted a storage room with bikes. The cycles were 1 to 2 feet apart. One member lost her balance, fell into the next bike and started a Domino effect. The result was one broken ankle and one lawsuit.)

* Review the need to gradually reduce speed to stop, because of the fixed gear of a bike. Review the workings of the resistance knob. Practice this until participants are comfortable.

* Emphasize form and control at all times.

* Remind participants to exercise at their own pace and comfort level.

* Remind participants of the need for continual water intake.

* Keep personal items, especially water bottles that can cause a slip hazard, off the floor.

* Limit classes to 40 or 45 minutes.

* Use a PA system for communication and music. Upbeat music is great, but not to the point where participants can't hear instructions. Individual headsets that block out instruction are not safe.

* Darkening the room and raising the music level is an enjoyable experience, but make sure you keep things safe.

* Instruction and caution signage adds to safety.

* Know what to do when there is an accident. Have an emergency plan.

Duties of administration

Fitness center owners and managers should abide by the following rules to keep their group cycling program safe:

* Use only certified instructors.

* Have a schedule for regular cycle and room maintenance. Don't wait for a problem.

* Keep all information and warning labels on the exercise bikes.

* Be sure the floor is flat and clear of debris.

* Have disinfectant material available.

* Maintain proper spacing of equipment. Be sure there are no trip hazards, such as electric cords and wet spots.

* Use the room only for group cycling. (A YMCA, in planning to introduce group cycling, placed several cycles in the cardio area next to the traditional bikes. After several problems and minor injuries by unsuspecting members, the group cycling bikes were removed and stored until a specific site was found, and an instructor was hired.)

If you follow these guidelines, clients will appreciate your concern for their safety.

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