By ICG® Master Trainer Jim Karanas
Many things contribute to a great Indoor Cycling class, but none as much as cueing. Cueing a class is a skill, even an art, that develops over decades. Like public speaking, it”™s about more than the words and involves multiple factors.
Cues add depth and color to a class and focus the students on aspects other than getting some exercise. In the class of a Master Instructor, the words flow, go beyond workout instructions, and command attention.
We”™re professional instructors, and cueing is our craft.
Every class needs an opening. No matter how many times you”™ve taught the group, the opening is critical to the success of each class. While it”™s OK to greet students personally with just your voice, always open on the microphone. The tone and content of a good opening should be amplified.
When you open, you must do two things: get in sync with the students and grab their attention. If they”™re quiet and serious, don't open energetically. Use a subdued tone. Once your energy matches theirs, move them to where you want to take them. Even in a subdued voice, though, you have to get them to listen right away.
Instructors may miss an effective opening by socializing with the students or ignoring them while fiddling with their bike or music. As with any presentation, the opening sets the tone for the class.
"Good morning, everyone. As we start, I want you to focus on what you”™re doing and what”™s happening. The rollout is a special time in the ride. Let me tell you why."
Whether you open from the bike or from the floor, your opening depends on that optimal moment that experience helps you feel. It”™s the moment when students first direct their attention toward you and are most receptive. Use it as soon as you feel it.
Cueing the Class
The cues for the day should encompass more than ride instructions or motivation. Cues can relate to the Concept, the Workout, Exercise Science, Philosophy, Music, Video, Personal Experience, or Motivation.
The Concept is what you want your students to learn from the day”™s class and is more important than the Workout. Your concept can be standard, such as Endurance, or more esoteric, such as Finishing Every Climb. If it”™s an endurance class, teach the concept of endurance. There”™s the science of endurance (aerobic metabolism, building a foundation, oxygen transfer), and there”™s the philosophy (contemplation, discipline, resilience). The more your knowledge and experience grow, the more compelling your cues become.
The Workout consists of the mechanics of the class, which we learn in any Indoor Cycling curriculum: ride positions, hand positions, terrain, cadence, technique, proper breathing and modifications. Many instructors never progress their cueing beyond this.
Exercise Science cues should support the day's concept. If you don't know much about exercise science, read some articles or tap into the wealth of fitness information here for PRO members. Students look to us to explain what”™s happening in their bodies through exercise. It”™s disappointing when an Indoor Cycling instructor can't explain the physiology of cardio.
Cues around Philosophy take some experience. Yet students may need to hear them to realize what they”™re doing transcends exercise (which may become boring). It takes courage to introduce these cues because they can sound preachy. The key is to say them as a student of philosophy who”™s still seeking answers — and stick to cycling. When you talk about a philosophical point you”™ve contemplated for a long time, it won't sound preachy.
Music and Video are sensory assets that can and should be included in your cues. Why did you select the song you”™re playing — the nuance? The structure? Why did you want the class to ride to the video segment you put up that day? These make relevant and interesting cues.
Personal Experience lets your class know that you feel what you”™re asking them to feel. Even if you don't ride a bike, years of dedication to your cycling-based workouts are a quality experience. For instance, how did your thousandth class differ from your first?
Last are Motivation cues. These are straightforward encouragement but too heavily relied upon by many instructors. When said time and again, motivational cues lose their impact. "You can do it" is much more effective when used infrequently. Said at the right time with the right tone, though, it can change the direction of a student's effort.
A close for each class is important and a good time to make a final, perhaps philosophical, point. Students are open and receptive after a hard effort.
Timing cues properly is one sign of a quality instructor. Timing is your sense of flow, your sensitivity to what”™s happening in class, and how you change in the moment to balance and maximize performance.
Time your cues around the vocals in your music; speak in the pauses. Match the video playing. Couple that with tone: Should you be supportive and quiet? Firm and commanding? Never yell.
When you”™ve timed your cues well, the class energy will build, and the students will be with you.
No matter how good you are, inexperienced students with less awareness will exercise "unconsciously" and not listen. You”™ll need to repeat cues, finding different ways to say the same thing.
If this type of cueing is different from what you do, ease into it. One day, try an attention-grabbing opening that explains the workout, and close by summarizing it. Another day, open with how important cardio fitness is. During the class, explain one physiological point that you know really well. Close by reminding the students of that benefit they just got.
The goal is optimal communication that lets the students walk away with something besides exercise.