By Team ICG® Master Trainer Chuck Cali

“Is there a way to find out what your class profile will be before the class?”

I”™m never quite sure how to take this question, which I get periodically.  Still, I screw up the courage to ask, “Why?”

The answer usually begins with, “If I knew...” and involves anything from “my knees can”™t take the climbing,” to “the video makes me dizzy,” to “I would have come in earlier to get a bike.”

I”™ve come to believe that riders benefit from knowing the objective for any scheduled class.  I”™ve wondered why facilities don”™t improve programming, and hypothesized that those that did would flourish.

If facilities could flourish with a strong, well-marketed program, it seems they”™d all be doing it.  But it”™s a weird world and sometimes doesn”™t follow logic.  So these thoughts became a personal research project.

This wasn”™t a local issue.  During years when business travel found me in far-off places, I sampled indoor cycling from a range of instructors and facilities.  Different place, different instructor, same one-size-fits-all format.

It occurred almost exclusively at big-box facilities during prime time.  But why?

Prime time classes are obviously scheduled early (before work), late (after work), after kid drop-off at school, and weekend mornings.  Facilities exploit prime time with a popular instructor who handles the large crowd well, connects with the regulars, and delivers a good workout, perpetuating full classes.

Prime time is when members can participate in large numbers for reasons of convenience.  But these times are convenient for all fitness levels.  So trying to target specific goals during a prime time class is like herding cats:  You never get everyone going in the same direction.

Imagine how a 30-minute beginner class would go over at 5:00 or 6:00 pm when over-stressed members pour into the studio for stress relief.  Instead of the good cardio workout they expect, they don”™t even break a sweat and have to wait for the instructor to bike-fit half the class.

What about the beginner who takes a prime time class described as “suitable for all fitness levels”, while the well-liked instructor plays to the regulars and kicks butt with cues only they understand?

Programming is difficult when it must accommodate all fitness levels in crowded classes.  The big boxes leave it to the instructors and simply state, “Beginners welcome”.

Jim Karanas and I have discussed this at length.  His experience, especially at big boxes, is far more extensive than mine.  His position was, “It”™s too costly to run the kind of program you suggest and is likely to meet with mixed success at best.”

Jim”™s advice was sound, but I”™m a program guy.  There had to be a way to introduce and develop long-term training concepts during prime time.

What about boutique studios?  Did they have regular programming by fitness level?  I examined their schedules and interviewed the owners.

Boutique studios arose from the desire of an entrepreneurial instructor to do it better, to provide what”™s missing at the big boxes — a coherent indoor cycling program — and, perhaps, combine it with yoga, pilates or personal training.  Boutique programs were progressive and geared to smaller groups and personal service.

On the surface, the progressive nature of boutiques seemed to make real programming possible.  But closer examination revealed that boutiques suffer the same malady as big boxes:  Prime Time classes!  At boutiques, even more than at big boxes, a paying member is not turned away, regardless of the class description.

Clearly, the most popular instructors, regardless of facility, were running their own programs. The best-liked instructors knew the regulars and were able to make both beginners and advanced riders happy.

Indoor cycling instruction is survival of the fittest.  To keep the saddles full, we have to raise our game.  Every instructor does his/her own thing.  So long as the instructor is likeable and trusted, this doesn”™t bother riders.

I never determined if facilities would flourish with real programming, but I realized there”™s nothing stopping you from creating your own program.  I plan a month or two ahead and publish it for my regular classes — everything from “Climbing to Classic Rock” to stages of the Tours.

I had fun this year doing stages three and five of the Tour of California.  ICI/PRO is a great resource for class ideas.  I”™ll work Jim”™s ‘Crit”™ profile in soon.  When I want to make a ride special, it”™s communicated to the Group X director and we get the word out early enough to draw others.

Doing my own programming de-stresses preparing.  My classes are usually full, and it wasn”™t always that way.  Also, by mixing up the rides I can find out what my riders like and do more of that.

At ICG® Academy, Jim Karanas runs a monthly instructor workshop to keep us on the same training page, right down to hand position.   He pounds us on leading/coaching/instructing through the use of structured profiles that include training concepts consistent with ICG”™s mission — all set to forward-motion video.

Jim”™s cueing at the last workshop was spot-on as he delivered a kick-butt class.  You just know this is one of his favorite rides and on his schedule often.

If you”™re reading this, I”™d bet you”™re already working hard to prepare great rides.  Hopefully you keep them around to categorize, save and re-use. They don”™t all have to be cycling-specific.  Change the music; call it something different.  Last Thursday I introduced my “Shazam Ride”.  Tuesday was my “five-minute ride” — all the songs were five minutes long.

Before you know it, you”™ll have a full calendar.

Programming is another great way to connect with your riders.  Don”™t wait for someone else to do it.

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Originally posted 2012-07-09 12:02:11.

Chuck Cali
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