Have you ever eaten a cupcake from the Magnolia Bakery in New York? The cake itself is delicious—rich and flavorful. The icing is smooth and not too sweet. If you ate the cake alone, it would be a little dry; but if you ate only the icing, it would make you sick!
Indoor cycling has something of a “cupcake” personality. Some instructors are technical, athletic-based coaches. Their classes are safe, sound and strong. Members love connecting with these purists (the cake). Other instructors are creative and use visualization, cuing and choreographed patterns in conjunction with music. These classes are entertaining and keep members engaged (the icing). Can you imagine how delectable the workout is when the icing meets the cake?
You have the delicate job of creating a workout that appeals to a wide population. Because there is no real “choreography” on the bike, it is your responsibility to be creative without forgetting the true basis of the workout: cycling. This is where good cuing comes in. Associative cues relate directly to the physical tasks at hand: controlled breathing, abdominal engagement and cadence. These cues keep students on task with solid technique and are necessary for safe and effective exercise. Associative cues are the “cake,” the foundation. Dissociative cues take students’ minds off the task at hand and send them on a journey. These cues are the “icing” (delightful, but too much of it can make you sick).
According to The Nautilus Institute™, the primary goal in an indoor cycling class is to recognize the session as a cardiovascular workout. Therefore, develop a heart rate profile first. From this starting point, layer on technical, associative goals to help students achieve solid technique. The icing on the cake is your mindful cuing, creative music choices and philosophical offering.
The following workout is one of my most recent ones. Of my students, 70% are in training for competitive events. These participants appreciate the technical cuing and the mental coaching they receive to prepare them for race day.
Total Time: 60 minutes
Intensity: high-end endurance, option to go anaerobic at the end
Section 1: Clarity
Clear your mind, prepare for your ride, and leave the day’s troubles behind you.
Total Time: 6 minutes
Intensity: 60% max; warm-up
Terrain/Technique: flat road, 70–90 revolutions per minute (rpm), seated
Cues: Welcome! Walk around; meet and greet participants.
Music: Play something fun and recognizable (e.g., “Let’s Get It Started,” The Black Eyed Peas).
Section 2: Technique
Skill is the basis of all good performances.
Total Time: 7 minutes
Intensity: 65% max
Terrain/Technique: flat road, approximately 72 rpm, seated
Cues: Touch on form and technique: pedal strike, posture, breathing, etc.
Music: Play a song that has no lyrics, so you can easily talk over it (e.g., “Star Guitar,” The Chemical Brothers).
Section 3: Strength
Focus on muscular, cardiovascular and mental aspects.
Total Time: 16 minutes
Intensity: Gradually increase to 80% or more, “flirting” with the anaerobic threshold (AT) without crossing over.
Terrain/Technique: hill, 60–80 rpm, seated and standing
Strength Subsection A
Time: 5 minutes
Intensity: Take the full section to achieve 75% (it may take some longer to get there than others).
Terrain/Technique: hill, 72 rpm, seated
Cues: Once you’ve established cadence and solid resistance (to simulate a hill), share some ideas of what strength is. “What is waiting for you at the top of this hill? Why are you working so hard for it? Strength comes from inside; how will you build it?”
Music: Play something you can talk over (e.g., “Caravan,” Groove Junkies).
Strength Subsection B
Time: 4 minutes
Intensity: Get as close as you can to the AT without crossing over.
Terrain/Technique: steepest part of hill; 60 rpm, standing
Cues: Use technique cues for a safe, intense standing climb (core engaged, shoulders and upper back relaxed, weight over pedals).
Music: Use a song with strong lyrics and a driving beat (e.g., “Yeah,” Usher); let the music push you.
Strength Subsection C
Time: 7 minutes
Intensity: approximately 80%
Terrain/Technique: “off-road” hill, combination seated/standing, 66–72 rpm
Cues: Give technique for standing and seated climb. Clearly instruct the transition between the two positions (engage abdominals, do not pull on handlebars, do not “plop” into saddle). Practice the drill to the top of the hill with strong technique and conviction.
Music: Choose something you can talk over (e.g., “River Song,” Grant Nelson remix, Bebel Gilberto).
Section 4: Speed
Getting there first is often an indication of pure performance.
Total time: 7 minutes
Intensity: intervals; 70%–85%; do not go anaerobic
Terrain/Technique: flat road, begin at approximately 72 rpm seated, race pace
Cues: “You find yourself on a flat road with three people in front of you. You must pass these people. The first person is someone you grew up with; the second is someone you work with; the third is your greatest competition. Begin at race pace. You will have 1 minute to pass the person in front of you, and then 1 minute to ‘recover’ at race pace until you meet the next person. Repeat this cycle for all three people. Remember that high cadence without resistance will not produce true speed! Don’t ‘spin your wheels.’”
Music: Play an energizing, powerful song that “sounds” like speed (e.g., “Spybreak!” Propellerheads).
Section 5: Focus
A solid performance always requires absolute concentration.
Total Time: 8 minutes
Intensity: freestyle; whatever is needed
Terrain/Technique: flat road, approximately 72 rpm, seated
Cues: Take students through a brief guided meditation. “Why are you at the gym today? What is your goal? Where is your support system? What do you need to make happen so that you can leave feeling successful?”
Music: Try this without music. Be brave!
Section 6: Power
All the power is in your hands; this is the performance of your life!
Total Time: 4 minutes
Intensity: 80% or more, option to go anaerobic in the last 20 seconds (individual decision)
Terrain/Technique: hill, 60–80 rpm, seated or standing
Cues: Before the music starts, prep the group with motivation from the “Focus” section (e.g., “If this is the performance of your life, what do you want to tell the world?”). Don’t forget to cue the group at 30 seconds remaining so that those who want to can go anaerobic!
Music: Choose a motivating song with great lyrics (e.g., “I Don’t Wanna Be,” Gavin DeGraw ) and let the class go crazy!
Section 7: Recovery, Relaxation
Rest is necessary for enhanced performance.
Total Time: 12 minutes
Intensity: Slowly go down to 50% and below (do not let it drop too quickly).
Terrain/Technique: seated, flat road, approximately 72 rpm, progressing to off-the-bike stretches
Cues: Give encouragement and positive reminders of accomplishment; focus on good form, posture, breathing and stretching.
Music: Use something with few lyrics so you can easily talk over it. (Any Sarah McLachlan song will work great here.)
Until a couple of years ago I was still attacking my workouts with the same intensity I did when I was a young competitor with...
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