Cycle: Lessons in Andragogy

One of my greatest joys every week is a Cycle class I take at 24-Hour Fitness with Marty. Marty is an amazing instructor who works you hard and makes you feel like a million bucks in the process. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking through what exactly Marty does to make him such an effective (and well-liked) instructor.

This pondering has led me back to Malcom Knowles’s Principles of Andragogy. Whether he knows it or not, Marty uses these principles to lead us through our cycling workout.


Adults need to be involved in their own learning process, from the planning to the evaluation.

At the end of every 24-Hour Fitness class, instructors end by asking for comments or concerns about this class. This helps participants feel they have a voice and are involved in the learning process. At the end of each class, Marty also invites us to recommend songs for future classes. This gives us the opportunity to help plan the session itself. Throughout the class, we are continually given ownership over our learning by being given the power to change the resistance on the bike.


The experiences learners have (including past mistakes) impact their learning process.

Each Friday brings us to the class with a different set of experiences that impact how we even get on the bike. Our diet, our exercise routine, our sleep, our work: each have an impact on the energy we bring to the bike. Marty acknowledge this as we begin the ride, and we set a baseline for the class. From there, we’re pushed to ride harder and faster than each previous interval. A song may have three sprints and on each one, we work to go faster or with more resistance than the previous. Our successes (and our failures) in this process, impact the mindset with which we approach the next interval.


Adults want to immediately see how their work is relevant to their job and/or personal life.

Walking into Marty’s cycle class is like walking into Cheers: everyone knows your name. Marty makes an intentional effort to not just know each person’s name, but he also works to know a specific interest each person has. This allows him to connect the ride to each participant as he coaches. For example, for those he knows love climbing hills, he calls them out by name on the hill tracks. For road riders, he’ll call out specific names of hills in our area to compare to the resistance we should be feeling on the bike. For mountain riders, he helps imagine the dirt sliding under tires. Marty makes each ride relevant.


Adults want to learn by working to solve a problem rather than memorize content.

Each song during the class is a problem to be solved. Some tracks are about climbing a hill, and the goal is simple: get to the top. Others are an all-out sprint, racing to the finish line. Sometimes we imagine riding with a group, riding study and drafting in the back before sprinting ahead to break the wind for the rear of the group. Marty matches each song track to a scenario that we can imagine and work to solve together.

I’m really thankful for Marty and his commitment to consistently running quality classes that make riders feel known, encouraged, and challenged. His modeling of these principles of Andragogy serve as a great reminder as we plan trainings for adult learners.