With a view of a possibility of teaching at a new place on the new Stages bike I went to take a class there this morning.
And I had to write this post. Just had to. It is extremely relevant regardless of what bike or level or type of class you teach. And if you are quite new to teaching indoor cycling I would recommend making it your mission to get this point in capital letters on top of your computer as you are creating EVERY class:
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS WORKOUT?
Seriously, I spent 45 extremely frustrating minutes of my Sunday morning wondering what the heck we were doing, how hard I should be working etc.
We were riding Stages bikes. They – just like some of the Schwinn bikes – have STAGE button. As you start riding you can see WARM UP across the top of the console. It also displays RPM, Watts, speed etc both at the given moment and average for the stage, which is great.
We started the warm up: “Warm up! Work!” was the direction?! We had no idea how long for or what intensity. Without knowing what was coming later in the class I had no idea how far I should go with that warm up. Imagine people who are new to indoor cycling thinking: “How the hell do I warm up?”.
Then we heard: “2 more minutes! Work!” And let me tell you one more thing here especially to all instructors who say: “I have a loud voice, I don’t need a mike”. You do! This guy had such a booming but high pitched voice then when he was yelling I was wincing and sinking in my seat as I thought my ear drums would explode. But then, especially when trying to give SOME direction, he would use his normal tone which came across as: “(Mumble mumble) resistance … . RPM now drops. You are (mumble mumble) RPM. (Blah blah). Work!”.
The gym charges instructors for using licenced music so he opted for licence free. That is fine. But all songs were 64RPM. No variation. Looking at his legs there was some for the trained eye. He went 80RPM, 90RPM but if he was giving instructions, we couldn’t hear him and the music stayed at the mind numbing 64RPM.
Now onto the stages. He explained that we will be pressing the STAGE button at the end of each stage. Great! How many stages will there be? No idea. How long each stage? No clue. What will the next stage be about? Not a Scooby. Jeez! How am I to pace myself?
We started one stage with instruction: “We go 20 sec fast, 20 recovery. Every one we increase! Go nice and fast!” Come again? What is nice and fast? We increase what: length or intensity? How many are we going to do: 3 or 10?
Another stage: “Put the resistance up to the right! Stand up!” Put it up how much? What should it feel like? He kept us standing for 2 stages. That was 15 minutes! Without warning or options or anything.
Instructors’ Takeaway: You may start preparing your class whichever way – music first or profile first. You don’t have to be fixated on numbers and have your intervals exactly the same increments of time. You may go with the music or keep it as a background. This is all individual style but for crying out loud: KNOW WHAT THE PURPOSE OF YOUR CLASS IS AND COMMUNICATE IT WITH YOUR PARTICIPANTS AT THE START!
Your class’ goal may be: FUN WITH MUSIC, a mixed workout, but then tell us that and say what is coming in the next song. For example: “Next: 8min song. Flat road 80-100RPM. 3 challenges in between where we will put the resistance up. I will tell you more when we get there”, “Intervals 15-45sec each. 6 songs. 3 intervals in each.”, “Today is about speed endurance. Mostly working in the saddle. It will be fast and you will sweat buckets. Your legs will be fine – we are not climbing. The focus is technique.”
Please do not say: “Go all out 100% effort! Now!” without telling people how long you want them to go for.
If you have a great bike with stages and a display of your max and average efforts at the end, give me a goal to achieve at the start of the class so when I look at the results I can see how far off I was. What is the point of looking at those numbers otherwise? Also use the RPE scale, it’s a fantastic tool.
And yes, some people do not mind not knowing. Their goal may be coming to spend 45min away from the kids but they won’t mind if you explain the goals anyway. They won’t care. But those of us who like knowing what the point of those 45 or 60 minutes on the bike is will.