The last chapter of a novel ties all the previous pages together in one simple, dramatic or thought-provoking conclusion. An indoor cycling class is not unlike a good read. You have an attention-grabbing warm-up, various engaging “chapters” that explore cardio ranges, and a cool-down that seamlessly brings it all together. Without all three elements, a book—or an exercise class—may never make it onto the “best-seller list.”
You may gravitate toward mapping only the cardio drills when you plan your classes; however, don’t neglect the cool-down. It leaves a lasting impression and powerfully transitions students to their next activities. Make your cycling cool-downs more purposeful with the following tips:
A common assumption is that cool-down music needs to be subdued—tolling bells, chimes or sad love songs. Not so. Although a cool-down is typically cued by a change in music tempo, a major shift isn’t necessary. Choose a song with a funky, upbeat “chill-out” vibe. Who wants to go back to sleep after a 6:30 am workout? Lower the volume slightly and keep the energy going—even in the stretching portion. Choose motivational songs, and participants will walk away feeling energized instead of comatose.
To simplify the planning process, organize a playlist of your favorite chillout grooves and mix it up from workout to workout. If you turned the lights off during the ride, gradually bring them back up to a dim glow. Conversely, if it’s an evening class, turn the lights down to encourage reflection and relaxation.
The Ride Home
As you near the end of the ride, ask participants to imagine that they’re approximately 5 minutes away from home and are close to the finish. Tell people to visualize “their ride” home. For example, if the ride includes a number of hilly sections for some participants, they’ll have to climb and descend. If it’s a straight stretch, people will focus on a steady spin. Everyone should be doing something different.
Next, encourage participants to picture other details. Is the road smooth or rough? Are they on a busy street or a quiet country road? What do the street signs say? Which landmarks will riders pass? Ask questions that sustain vivid imagery and keep the intensity low but steady. Play related songs, such as “I’m Coming Home” by Skylar Grey or “Home” by Phillip Phillips. Congratulate the class for arriving home to “a clean house and a delicious meal.” A little humor accents the wrap-up.
A fitness gift doesn’t have to cost money or be something physical. You can make the cool-down a “teaching moment.” Revisit good posture or key techniques from the ride. Review anything new that you shared, such as riding with power or correct zone training. Do some research prior to class, and share a link to a great website. Reveal a class mileage goal that everyone can work toward, or read an interesting or inspirational paragraph from a book or article. This is a lovely way to give back, and it adds value beyond burning calories.
Factor in the shift from riding to standing when planning the cool-down. As participants get off their bikes, ask everyone to start doing continuous squats, focusing on the standing extension. The squatting action is a natural transition from forward flexion to being upright.
Complete all stretches off the bike for safety and to decrease the risk of damaging the equipment. Typically, very little time is allotted for stretching because of the boredom factor, so make this segment interesting! Avoid stretching one muscle group at a time. For example, combine a standing heel-down hamstring stretch with an extended arm lat stretch with the head turned in the opposite direction.
Physiologically, the cool-down is really the warm-up in reverse. Although cooling down won’t delay muscle soreness the next day (a common misconception), it does feel good after an intense ride. It also helps you reconnect with riders, end on a high note and leave a lasting impression.