As we approach the colder months (for many of us anyway), instructors and riders alike are searching for new ways to train indoors to maintain their fitness and keep from going insane. Over the last 10 years I”™ve delivered various flavors of winter training programs as an independent indoor cycling instructor, as Stage5 Cycling and now through Cycling Fusion. Just as there are more than one type of rider and numerous demographics in fitness, there is more than one way to present a winter training program.  I”™m going to share some tips that I believe make these programs attractive and valuable.

First, What is a Indoor Cycling Winter Training Program?

A winter training program usually consists of weekly indoor training sessions over the course of a number of weeks or months.  I”™ve seen programs as short as 6 weeks and as long as 16 weeks.  In addition to a fun group environment, they provide both accountability and training structure for riders trying to build and maintain their fitness over the winter (off-season) months of the year.  The number of participants can range from 6 to 30+, with some offering multiple sessions per week, each from 1 to 4 hours in length.  Some winter training programs can start as early as December and others may continue into April.  What drives all these decisions and options? depends.

Why Should You Consider a Winter Training Program at Your Club?

Before I go on a rampage about bringing the outdoor cycling community into your club, they are not the only group of people that may like or benefit from this type of training.  Remember, the overall goal is accountability and training structure.  Winter training programs can also appeal to the non-cyclist / fitness-only crowd who are looking for something different or another way to workout in a group with a purpose.  Furthermore, other sports such as soccer, lacrosse, football and tennis (to name a few) have used indoor cycling as a great cross-training activity to provide their pre-season aerobic conditioning.  But the bottom-line is.... Show Me the $$Money$$!


  • Health Clubs Want More Members ($) 
  • Instructors Want to Make More Money ($$)
  • Cycling Coaches want more Clients ($$$)

These programs are not free, but are offered at an additional cost to members (and non-members).  The instructor gets a cut of the money which is usually a percentage of the revenue or a fixed amount per participant.  The club will often use this as a way to attract non-members (who usually pay a higher price than members).  It is a great opportunity for the club to offer temporary memberships or special promotional deals.  If you are a coach, what better way is there to introduce yourself to a group of potential clients?  Each weekly session provides a captive audience of riders, and if you do your job of leading the winter training well, it is not uncommon to convert a few of the participants to personal coaching clients.

SUGGESTION: Break down the price of the winter training program by week or session.  For example, if you are charging $200.00 per rider for an 8-week session, show that this is only $25 per week.  This will allow them to  immediately see the value as they compare the weekly cost (apples to apples) to other services in the club like personal training, which are often priced much higher per session.

Choose Your Audience

Before you bring your master plan to the club”™s fitness director, do your homework. First decide who your target audience is.  Eh..cyclists, right?  Maybe not.  Consider who takes your indoor classes.  Announce that you are thinking about holding a winter training program at the club and want to know who would be interested.  Don”™t just take note of how many people raise their hands but WHO raised their hand. A more formal way to present the idea is to make up a quick survey which asks a few questions:


  • Would you be interested in an “X”-Week Winter Training Program (circle Yes or No)?
  • Which Days are Best (circle Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday)?
  • What Times are Best (circle Morning, Lunch and/or Evening)?
  • What is Your Goal (circle Weight Loss, General Fitness, Charity Ride, Century Ride, Cycling Vacation and/or Competition)?

Keep it short and sweet and just have them circle or check things.  The less they have to write, the greater your chance of getting a real response.  The results
of the survey will provide a good pulse on what structure may be best and indicate potential interest levels and goals.

SIDENOTE: Be true to yourself.  Don”™t try to be someone you are not.  I”™ve seen some disastrous programs where participants we disgruntled because the instructor targeted those interested in “Performance” but knew little about coaching or competitive cycling.  Many of the participants demanded their money back and the program (and future programs) got a bad rap. Use your strengths and target those you are most able to help, and you are on the road to success.

Create a REAL Training Plan

Regardless of whether you are working with people interested in weight-loss or competitive athletes, design a weekly training plan that is progressive and adheres to a periodized model.  Remember, many riders will begin the program deconditioned with a goal of building fitness over time. The plan needs to consider the goal of the program and provide progressive steps to deliver the necessary skills, training intensity and training volume.  This is not about putting together 6 to 12 random classes, but rather creating a smart approach to training.  This plan is also part of your marketing materials.  When you advertise the program, list the focus of each week on your promotional materials and people will immediately see the value and benefit they will receive. Sign Me Up!

Get Measurable Results and Track Progress

The best way to show that a program works is to prove it.  Both as Stage5 Cycling and Cycling Fusion, we provided metabolic testing and/or power testing before AND after the program.  Not only is this an additional revenue opportunity, but it will show where a rider started and how much progress they have made as a result of your great instruction and coaching.  If you don”™t have access to metabolic testing equipment, try to find someone who does and see if they will give you a deal.  They should, because (1) you are giving them a group of people, (2) they can setup a day (or event) when everyone can be tested together, (3) includes built-in repeat business and (4) provides good exposure to a health club with LOTS of potential clients.

I also recommend providing a way for each rider to record and track their progress.  This could be a simple paper training log where one can write down their daily training time (volume), the specific training intensities they worked at, how many calories they burned, and improvements in leg speed and power.  There are also a number of online training logs and journals that can make keeping track of this information easier.  Some online systems can even pull your rider”™s training information directly from their heart rate monitors, greatly reducing the amount of time needed to manually enter and calculate numbers.

Don”™t shrug this off as a “would be nice to have”. There is tremendous value in being able to see a rider”™s progress or lack there of.  The purpose is not to harass your people each week like a drill instructor, but to help them be successful.  If you are not aware of a struggle one of your riders is having, you can”™t help them.  In the end, they will have failed to receive the benefit from the program — which is not good for the rider and not good for business.  Plus, many people don”™t see a trend unless it is written down or displayed in front of them. Keep them honest and keep them accountable to the goals THEY said they wanted to achieve.

Don”™t Forget the Basics

When you begin your program, don”™t just jump right into training on day one.  Depending on the background and experience of your participants, it may be very important to ensure everyone is setup correctly on their bike.  I would make it “mandatory”.  During the first session, I usually give them a very easy drill to accomplish (which doesn”™t require a lot of cueing) while I move from rider to rider to check and record their setup and notes on their form.  This is a good time to make specific recommendations on proper cycling clothing and shoes.  The more you set your riders up for success in the beginning the more successful the program will be.

More Sales $$

In almost all winter training scenarios, I recommend participants have or purchase a heart rate monitor.  Yet another training tool to ensure they are getting the most (and the right amount) from each session.  This is a great opportunity to collaborate with your health club”™s shop or store (if you have one).  Many of the clubs I teach at have a pro shop or store where members can purchase (branded) merchandise such as water bottles, workout clothing and accessories.  Many club shops may already carry heart rate monitors that you can recommend to your riders.  If not, talk to the shop manager and let them know what you are doing.  They may see the business opportunity and work with you.  The more of the club”™s services you can get involved in your program, the greater the perceived value and visibility.

Bring In A Guest Instructor, Coach or Athlete

Everyone loves a special guest.  Is there a local coach or athlete that is interested in giving a talk or leading a training ride for your class?  Don”™t be shy, because these coaches and athletes often are not and “love” the spotlight.  It is worth paying a celebrity for a day to boost the exposure and “coolness” of your program.  Keep in mind that your guest coach or athlete will also pass the word around their circles of influence, validating your program and attracting more people.

Provide Training Resources

You should expect your riders to train between your weekly sessions as part of their commitment to the program.  In addition to stating the expectation, provide training resources and options.  These could include suggested training videos they can use at home, other recommended classes they could take at the club, and cross-training options such as yoga, pilates and strength training. This can be yet another way to get more of your club, or additional clubs, to participate in the program.  For example, I spoke to a yoga instructor at a local studio that loved the idea of working together and created a “Yoga for Cyclists” partner program.  People paid extra for these yoga sessions (winter training participants received a discount), she attracted cyclists to her studio and it was a great compliment to our program. We even got a couple of members from her studio to register for our program — spreading the love!

There is a lot to consider and a good amount of work involved to pull it off, but the rewards are great if you take the time to build it right.

Also, keep a look out for Gene Nacey's upcoming ICI/Pro podcast Sunday about developing a multi-week training program.

Originally posted 2011-11-03 19:28:14.

Tom Scotto
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