Yeah, sort of a play on words, but hopefully this article will help you use your recovery times more effectively.  I”™m going to write a separate article on proper recovery and what is appropriate considering the constraints of indoor cycling.  But for now, let”™s just assume we all agree that we need recovery and let”™s look at how to make it work for you and your class.

Get Them Ready

Recovery times are a great way to explain what is ahead in your class.  Take this time to describe how they will approach the next drill, what they should expect for intensity, cadence, etc. and any options they can explore. And take your time saying it.  I”™ve seen it all to often, where instructors try to explain what the class is going to be doing within the first 15-30 seconds of the song.  They sound like auctioneers and often end up fumbling through their words because they know they are rushed and under pressure.  Using recovery time to prepare your riders allows one the time to give more complex instructions, be dramatic when necessary and even build a theme or story.  Here is an example.

“Ok, while we have a few minutes to recovery, let me tell you what is up ahead.  We”™ve already prepared the cardio with the surges we just did, now we are going to prepare our legs.  Remember, we are working our way to that 21-minute climb at the end of class. You can see it off in the distance.  However, before we get there, we are going to wake up our leg muscles with some strength intervals.  Each interval will take 30 seconds and give you 30 seconds to recover.  Our leg speed will be slower — between 60 and 70 RPM and our resistance high.  Our heart rate may not be as high as during the surges, but you will definitely feel a greater emphasis on the legs. If your legs get tired after only a few, skip 1 or 2 before attempting another. We”™ll do 6 intervals in all and then get some more recovery before we take on the climb.”

Give it a shot, read the above paragraph slow, with pause and even some voice inflection.  It only took about 45-60 seconds.  Now once the intervals start, all you have to do as the instructor is encourage and coach them.

Recovery Litmus Test

Recovery is a good time to “test” to see if people are working hard enough, particularly after a more intense effort (RPE of 8+ out of 10).  If riders are recovering too quickly after a drill, they may not be pushing themselves enough. It is often not their fault, they just don”™t have a way of gauging their intensity.  It is often a fight between the mind and the body.  The mind says “whoa, this is too hard” and the body says “hey, I”™ve got more to give”.  The mind usually wins.  Here is an example of how I will help my riders reconcile between the two:

“That was a killer attack! Don”™t worry, you”™ve got 3 minutes to recover before we hit it again.  I want to make sure you are getting the most out of each effort which is why we are taking time to recover. However, if you are recovering too quickly, for example in less than a minute, you many not be getting the most out of our workout today.  It should take you at least 2 minutes to recovery your breathing to a conversational level.  If you are thinking “OK Tom, come on, I”™m ready to go” after only 45 seconds to a minute, I need you to turn it up a notch on this next attack. Keep experimenting with your intensity level until it takes you close to 2 minutes to recover.  Then you”™ll be milking the max benefit from each one.”

Again, you can say the above in 45-60 seconds and even give them some indication as to how long they have been recovering (like a time check).  Don”™t just leave them hanging.  For example “OK, 1 minute has gone by since our attack. How much have you recovered?  If you are wearing a heart rate monitor, how much has your heart rate decreased?  We”™ve got 2 minutes before the next effort.”

The Battle Between Breathing and Instructing

Now many of you know that I”™ve been accused of NOT working hard enough when I teach. I”™ve had no problem fixing that 🙂  Working too hard as an instructor can also be just as distracting and ineffective.  On numerous occasions, I”™ve witness instructors working so hard that they couldn”™t breath or talk after an effort.  They”™re trying to give instructions (or whatever they were trying to say) one word every 5-7 seconds amongst heavy breathing.  I”™ve understood more during poor cell phone connections than I understood from these instructors.  Not only are they out of breath between efforts, they continue to push so hard that you still can”™t understand them when the next drill starts.

I took this class where the instructor just appeared to grunt the entire time....”Uhh........Duaaa.........Uhh.......Duaa”.  I couldn”™t understand what they were saying but everyone else seamed to stand and sit with precision.  It took me the first minute of each drill to figure out what was going on before I was able to follow somewhat confidently. After class I asked one of the riders how they knew what to do and they said the instructor teaches the same class every week.  She assured me that I would get used to it.  I don”™t think so.

Of course, to use recovery effective, we need to have time to prepare before class to think through what we are going to say.  But, it is time well-spent, both from a physiological and emotional perspective. Riders will be more confident and successful in targeting each part of your class and you will be a much more effective instructor, teacher, coach and motivator.

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