Finish the Hill

by Suzette O'Byrne on Oct 01, 2011


Find cycling closure with this focused, efficient cool-down.

My former race coach used to encourage our cycling team to “finish the hill,” to ensure we didn’t power down prematurely. As you start your indoor cycling cool-down, that can be a great reminder for both you and participants. Allowing your instruction to relax completely as class winds down can be detrimental; participants may respond by losing interest, leaving, or turning it into a social networking opportunity and ignoring you.

The cool-down is the optimal time to focus on cycling technique, recover from high-intensity drills, re-establish posture and lengthen and release muscles. As you bring students over the crest of the hill, vow to give them the benefits of this special time of class.

Cycling Technique

One of the best times to develop pedaling technique is when primary muscles are fatigued, because participants learn how to tap into smaller, synergistic muscles. Consequently, this “forces” them to improve pedal stroke efficiency. Use this time to work on a smooth pedal circle, eliminating “dead” parts from the stroke. Focus on the wiping action along the bottom and/or the drive over the top. Ask class to notice how technique improves power output on computer-accessorized cycles or how bouncing on the saddle is eliminated. Once moderate resistance is established, keep speed consistent and decrease resistance, using considerably more muscular control and mental focus.

Ask participants to observe other areas that are activated. Does the body feel relaxed but stable? With each right pedal stroke, can people sense the activation across the body from the right leg and hip through the core to the left shoulder girdle? Try different positions on the bike to feel the stabilization across the body with each stroke.

Focusing the Recovery

Everyone wants to cycle downhill—now is the time! Reward participants, but in a focused way. The cool-down helps remove waste products from the cardio workout and brings the body back to a normal state. Optimize this recovery with a reverse interval. Cycle 90 seconds downhill and then 30 seconds up a moderate hill. Structure the cool-down to reconnect muscles to the pedal stroke and assist in waste product removal.

Re-Establishing Posture

You don’t want students to leave class bent at the hip, knees and back as though they were still on the bike! Take them off the bike to re-establish efficient and neutral standing posture. Do semisquats, focusing on the extension or standing phase. Instruct students to extend the hips fully and draw the kneecaps up. Add an overhead arm swing or a rise up onto the toes for an even fuller body extension.

Lengthen and Release

Make the stretching section effective and short, treating the body as a whole. The following options help balance the body and “unwind” it from the sagittal movements involved in cycling.

Rotating Warrior I

From standing position, take large step back with right (R) foot, keeping heel elevated. Bring both arms overhead and posteriorly tilt pelvis, lengthening tailbone toward floor. Reach left (L) hand down and back toward R foot to rotate throughout body in this extended position. Complete full-body stretch by turning head toward back hand. Switch arms, following with head, rotating toward R and then back. Repeat on other leg.

Crescent Moon

Stand tall and cross R leg over L. Lengthen R arm overhead and turn palm to ceiling, fingers pointed L. Bring L arm down, palm facing down, fingers pointed R. Pressing palms away from each other, lean to L, looking down at L side. Feel stretch down R side of body. Repeat with R leg behind and then repeat everything on opposite side.

© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.



IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 8, Issue 10

© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Suzette O'Byrne

Suzette O'Byrne IDEA Author/Presenter

Suzette O’Byrne started working as an educator, instructor and manager in the health and fitness industry in 1989. In addition to being the owner of a successful yoga therapy and personal training ...


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  • Suzette O'Byrne

    I am so glad you found the article useful. I appreciate your comment. Try and think about Crescent moon as a long lateral line stretch. By crossing the leg over, pressing the hip out and reaching the arm over and across your head, you can get this maximum line. I have found by turning the palm up, it feels even longer. Remember that fascia is a dynamic, alive, flowing tissue and that you may need to move a little to find YOUR line (also your line for the day). Experiment with this side line and you will really notice your students will find decreased back pain and a more fluid movement system from it. Best wishes, Suzette
    Commented Dec 23, 2011
  • Rebecca Hurysz

    I think I can apply alot of this information to my class and improve their experience. Love the rotating warrior stretch. Cresent moon was a little ackward for me. Are the instructions for L and R exact?
    Commented Oct 15, 2011

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