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The Hidden Cool-Down

The biggest challenge with cool-downs is the notion that they are a waste of time. If you typically don’t convey how important it is to recover before exiting a cycling class, take time in the warm-up to make this clear. It helps, but even if you drill the point into participants’ heads in class after class, chances are there will still be riders who don’t take the time to wind down. This is why you may have to “hide” the cool-down as if you were feeding a child his least favorite vegetable pureéd into a more palatable sauce!

(Good options for the playlist: “Summer Breeze,” by Tobu
Jordan Kelvin James; “Summer Breeze,” by Seals

The Easy, Breezy Strategy

This cool-down begins with the first few pedal strokes of class. If your bikes have measurement monitors, tell participants to notice what the revolutions-per-minute and wattage readings are when their bodies begin working—that’s when their breath accelerates and they wonder if they’ve taken on a bit too much to start things off. If your “fleet” doesn’t have monitors, just ask attendees to check the position of the resistance lever/knob. Tell everyone to mark that place—a mental bookmark.

As you come off your last big effort, let people know that all the hard work is done, but say you have one last set. Ask them to close their eyes and find a resistance that feels easy for them to sustain and allows their breath to come back to them. Explain that they will probably need to increase the resistance as they recover. The pedals should never feel “empty,” but breathing should not remain labored. Here’s a sample script to pull from for cuing purposes:

“When you feel your breath has come back to you and you can sustain this pace and resistance, hold on to it. This should feel like the best ride of your life. See yourself passing others in your mind’s eye; this isn’t easy for everyone, just for you. Settle into it. Relax. Feel the breeze as you travel past the labored breathing of others in the pack. Imagine the air brushing your cheek, whispering past your ear. Listen to your breath. Do you hear it? I hope not—this is easy for you. Your breathing is controlled. You are comfortable. Try and take a deep breath. Can you? If not, you may be pushing too much. The pedals are pushing back with every stroke, but not hard. The pedals are not heavy. It feels almost effortless. Mentally scan your body; how does it feel? You don’t feel any burning in your muscles. You feel fluid. You feel like the professional cyclists on television look!

“Now open your eyes and check your metrics. How many of you are riding at a harder effort than the one you started with? Remember how hard that felt? Remember how you questioned your ability to sustain that effort? It’s a beautiful thing when you can see and feel the result of training hard at the end of class!”

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