How (and Why) to Host a Family-Themed Indoor Cycling Class
Gear up for the perfect mix of fun, fitness and family friendliness.
Every Thursday morning, my cycle studio fills with an array of participants, ranging from accomplished Ironman® finishers to preschool moms trying to maximize their minutes—and Nora, a 92-year-old great-grandmother. Together we pedal like maniacs, laugh, sing a few refrains and walk out soaked through with sweat. In the cycle studio, participants of all ages and abilities can be motivated by being in a group, but riders can still slow down when they need to without sticking out. In fact, my own cycling journey began when I was pregnant and in search of a low-impact workout.
Indoor cycling is an ideal class for people at different fitness levels to work toward their personal goals. Even those with sensitive knees or bad backs can get a great sweat without aggravating their injuries. And there’s a reason why participants still use the saying “It’s just like riding a bike.” Indoor cycling is the perfect choice for a family-friendly workout.
Like any event, a Family Cycle class takes a little planning, but the payoff is huge. Here, we’ll look at a few reasons to give it a whirl, as well as how to get the idea rolling, encourage enrollment, and develop a program that will make your visiting riders feel comfortable, confident and welcome.
Invite Their Family, Grow Your Community
Offering a specific class for visiting family can help build your cycle community in the following ways:
It’s Less Intimidating For Beginners
Whatever the workout is, it’s not easy to show up for the first time and set up next to a hard-bodied athlete in a dark room that looks like a dance club. That’s especially true of indoor cycling, which involves an unfamiliar piece of equipment with a readout, toe clips and adjustable parts. Even just getting set up to ride can be a challenge. However, you can ease beginners’ jitters by advertising that there will be a host of other untrained guests and that your workout will be designed with the uninitiated in mind. A new love for indoor cycling could be born!
It Builds Family Support
Even if family members don’t end up falling head over heels for the bike, it’s special for them to see what their beloved cycle-fanatics do when they disappear for a few hours every week. Also, sharing the experience of overcoming a challenge can deepen relationships. And once newcomers see how much fun your class is, they may be more supportive instead of pouting when they see their loved ones packing their gym bags.
It Builds Community Among Members
Some of your regulars may have been biking next to one another for years, exchanging nothing but chitchat. Once they get a chance to meet one another’s families, those regulars might discover they have interests in common, creating a stronger community within your class. Semiregulars may start to feel less “on the outside” and more bonded to the group. Being drawn into a strong community is one of the biggest factors in adhering to an exercise program; don’t underestimate the importance of scheduling programs that build these bonds.
Your Family Cycle Class Planner
Even if you’ve been a cycling instructor for years, creating a special event presents challenges that are different from hosting a weekly class. Here are some insights I’ve gained from planning these for my own membership.
Get The Word Out
Give yourself a lead time of 2 weeks or more to advertise. After you choose a date, announce it verbally to your classes (preferably at every class—people forget!), pass out plenty of guest passes, post fliers in your studio and put the details in your studio newsletter. Also, use your social media channels to connect with your regulars, and tag them with your invitation. Adding their actual names to your post means that their communities can see your event, which may encourage their loved ones to ask about it or sign up.
The invitations should include information that regulars will consider old hat, such as what to bring (e.g., whether they need their own towel and water bottle) and what to wear (sturdy-soled workout shoes so they won’t “feel” the pedals when they push). Encourage family visitors to arrive a few minutes early so you can help them set up the bike.
Offer Extra Incentives
See if you can get your hands on a giveaway or two for the participants. Check with health food stores or local restaurants for snacks, coupons or other branded swag. Remember to tout it as a family event, which may appeal to vendors—particularly those who want to supply beginning exercisers with equipment. Also ask your facility’s owner or manager if your studio would offer a 1-month membership or another prize (such as branded T-shirts and water bottles) to raffle off.
Also create a “party favor” for each participant, including your regulars. Think of it being like a goodie bag for a birthday bash. Include your class schedule and contact info.
Check The Equipment
This may seem obvious, but be sure you have enough bikes! If you detect there’s so much interest that this could be an issue, offer signups for your class, then plan a second session if the first one is filling up. Also give your bikes a once-over to ensure that everything is in good repair and works well. If you know of one bike that has a lot of tension at base gear, for instance, ask a regular to take that one during the family session.
Event-Day Tips: Roll Out the Red Carpet!
On the day of the family class, arrive early to set up the room. “Decorate” each bike with items like a fresh towel, a small bottle of water and your goodie bag, including a guest pass so everyone can come back for another ride. Some other tips:
Pad Your Playlist
Even if you ask everyone to show up early (so there is plenty of time to get newbies adjusted on the bikes), you’ll have some last-minute-Lucys (and Lukes). So, the class is guaranteed to run into overtime. Put an extra warmup song or two in the mix to allow for the extra TLC your class will need.
Another tip: To make sure your music appeals to all ages, select sprint-worthy remixed versions of classic songs everyone will recognize. Choose well-known bands and artists like The Doors, the Eagles and Michael Jackson. Even Elvis has some killer remixes out there.
Warm Up With A Tutorial
Overexplain, then explain again. Even though there will be lots of familiar faces, remember that this is your 101 class. In the warmup, spend extra time going over what you plan to do, how you plan to do it and how participants can back off when they need to. Then give them some practice by running a few easy drills to demo how the cycle works and what the key terms mean. As you progress through the workout, explain each phase again, being encouraging and supportive.
Have A Great Time!
The primary goal of this class is for participants to have fun. A good instructor will remind newcomers to work at their own pace, listen to their bodies and back off when needed—while delivering the challenging workout that regulars have come to expect. Don’t forget to make it fun!
Try partner sprints, high-five breaks or taking a few seconds between songs to introduce one new participant; these diversions can help lighten the mood and keep the seconds flying by.
Make A Family (Cycle) Album
Take lots of photos to post on social media or to email to your regulars. You could even create “photo booth–style” speak-bubble signs on sticks with tongue-in-cheek sayings like “Watt’s up?!” and “I had the ride of my life!” Have prints made of the best pics, and set up a small display at your studio—to advertise the fun you had in class and to build enthusiasm for the next family “ride.”
Go the Extra Mile for Members
Any special event makes your members feel just that: special. It helps them see that you care about them as individuals, not just as people filling the saddle each week. With family being the center of many people’s lives, inviting their loved ones into your domain is the perfect way to drive that point home. As a bonus, you will likely end up with a few new regulars, and word will spread that you are the instructor who goes the extra mile to turn a simple workout into a dynamic experience.
One day, Nora brought her daughter and granddaughter to my Family Cycle class. Although neither one became a cycle devotee, they both had a lot of laughs and were very impressed with what Granny could do!
On Family Cycle day, you are guaranteed a mix of hardcore cyclists and timid beginners. You’ll please everyone with this Jekyll and Hyde├Éstyle workout, which features tough intervals for “old pros” and softer options for first-time riders.
Setup and Warmup (1–2 songs)
Explain what base gear is and how riders can find one that’s right for them. Instruct the class to ride at moderate tension, keeping a “quick but comfortable” pace.
Notes: Circulate around the room, help with setup and check in with all visitors. Once you get on the bike, give everyone an overview of what to expect.
Get visitors comfortable working in different paces. Rehearse a short hill, practicing good form standing or seated against tension. Run through a couple of short flat sprints. Add tension and ride in an upper-moderate or hard level for brief bursts.
Note: Explain how these sprints will be used for longer durations during the class.
This section alternates between tough climbs and sprint intervals for a challenging four-song set.
Guests start climbing from flat. Increase tension with small additions every 45├É60 seconds.
Notes: Remind participants that it is their option to add. It is fine to add every other time, or to back down if they end up with too much tension.
HEAVY SPRINT INTERVALS #1
Do 3 or 4 sprints lasting 30 seconds each, with 30 seconds of recovery between.
Notes: Encourage newcomers to reduce tension if they need to during recovery and use the sprint interval to pedal a little faster, but not go all-out. Experienced riders can go all-out against the tension they built in Climb #1.
CLIMB #2 AND HEAVY SPRINT INTERVALS #2
Guests start climbing from flat. Experienced riders continue to add from the last climb. For the second “heavy sprint,” follow the instructions above, urging veteran members to keep the tension they’ve built and encouraging new participants to adjust tension and speed as needed. Remind everyone that there is still a lot of class to come!
Offer a reprieve, allowing riders to come back down to flat and prepare to finish strong in the next tough section. This is a great time for photos, introductions and class bonding.
This section alternates between fast flat work and sprint intervals.
FAST FLAT #1
On flat ground, bring revolutions per minute up to 100 or above.
Notes: Ask members to adjust tension to a level that challenges them, working in a sustainable upper-moderate pace that they can maintain for the entire song. Newbies can ride at a comfortable pace.
SPRINT INTERVALS #1
Do 3 or 4 sprints lasting 40 seconds each, with 20 seconds of recovery between.
Notes: Encourage experienced riders to recover in an upper-moderate zone and push to all-out in the interval. Guide new riders to push in the interval and let their speed drop as low as they want during recovery.
Variation: This is a great place for a sprint game. Have the loved ones cheer on the sprinting regulars, or divide the room into teams.
FAST FLAT #2 AND SPRINT INTERVALS #2
Ask your pros to add a very small amount of tension and repeat the two drills as directed above. Allow new riders to keep flat ground tension.
Add enough tension to support knees while standing. Ride a victory lap, letting heart rates slow.
FLAT COOLDOWN AND STRETCH
Finish with a light ride on flat ground followed by a thorough stretch. Give all of your participants a solid round of applause for completing a great ride together.
Some of your regulars may have been biking next to one another for years, exchanging nothing but chitchat. Once they get a chance to meet one another’s families, those regulars might discover they have interests in common, creating a stronger community within your class.