Federal work-study programs are offered at thousands of colleges and universities around the country, and lately, fitness studios have been riffing on the idea with similar programs that have future employees learning the business from the ground up. We talked to Revolve Fitness’s chief operating officer Nick Oram about the instructor-training program he recently established at the studio. With pit stops at Flywheel, Revolution and SoulCycle (he was the sixth employee hired and a senior master instructor there), Oram is a spin expert and, having opened eight studios in his career, he knows a thing or two about training a team.
TELL US ABOUT THIS PROGRAM YOU’VE INSTITUTED.
Revolve’s instructor-training program was created to groom young fitness enthusiasts. It’s a longer program because oftentimes the candidates don’t have any experience or they have very little. It takes time to coach and mentor someone into the caliber we hold our instructors to.
HOW DOES THE PROGRAM WORK?
Typically we host an open call for trainers and applicants prepare two songs—one for a climb, one for a sprint or jog. Their audition is literally them showing us how they’d train a class. If accepted, the students enter a six-week training program, which is comprised of three sessions a week and teaching two community rides. The weekly sessions are roughly three hours each—so about nine hours a week—and we train small groups of two to three students. There we work on specific things like music curation, stringing songs together, progressions, and teaching elements that are true to our method. The first few training sessions are just about getting them to feel their best and imparting on them the whole ethos of what Revolve is.
The community ride, it’s a couple of things—it’s the first time the trainees showcase a full ride in it’s entirety to a bigger audience. It’s also an opportunity for them to rally an audience together for a free ride, simultaneously showing us how committed they are to the studio—we like to see how much effort they put into bringing in potential riders. Lastly, the community ride introduces the trainees to our rider community, which is really important if they pass the course, because our regulars will be more likely to try out a new trainer if we have seen their face before, or if they participated in that particular trainer’s community ride and enjoyed it.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END OF THE PROGRAM?
If the student passes that, they get onto the schedule as a substitute, then we work them into the ridership and find them regular spots. After that we continue the training for new trainers, once a month for six months, then after that it’s once a quarter. The training is always on-going here.
I’m not going to lie, this program is challenging mentally, physically and emotionally—there’s a lot at stake for these people and it take different times for people to get there. My feeling is you choose your destiny. The trainees know if they’re successful. They know if they put in the time and effort—they’ll know the minute a community ride ends whether it went well or not—so passing or not passing doesn’t come as a surprise to them.
WHAT TEACHING ELEMENTS DO YOU RELY ON?
It’s all about feedback—positive reinforcement but honest feedback. We’re transparent and that works both ways, in the positive sense and in the sense that we’ll tell them what’s not working. We’ll say, “It’s not working and here’s why.” That’s the difference—allowing them to figure it out by us guiding them to the answer. Our trainees never feel lost or like they can’t accomplish something, we’d never allow that to happen.
ARE TRAINEES PAID?
No payment. And look it’s a commitment both ways: we’re investing in them by having our talented trainers take the time to groom them. We value them by investing in them, and they should view it the same way. They are growing and learning from the best of the best.
AS A BUSINESS OWNER, WHY IS THIS PROGRAM WORKING FOR YOU?
The ROI for us is a really educated, committed and invested staff. The students that come out of this program have truly put their blood, sweat and tears into it by the end. I think that it’s apparent that our trainers have a much greater depth of knowledge than someone who read a manual and went through a one-week training session. The experience our trainers give is our product, so they are key to our studio’s success.