Before you panic and think I”™m going to throw the holiday chaos at you before Thanksgiving - ‘Tis the Season for PLANNING! How are you going to approach your classes next year? Do you have a strategy? Are you going to try something different? Do your riders know your plans?
Maybe you don”™t think this way and that is understandable. I”™ve been a coach for the last 10+ years and a competitive athlete for 20. I think in seasons and training plans and my approach to indoor cycling classes is no different. If you don”™t currently approach your indoor cycling classes with a plan, I”™d like a chance to encourage you to do so.
Forget Cycling (What???). It Just Makes Sense
The holiday season (Nov-Dec) is a natural time of transition regardless of your spiritual or traditional background. People take time off of work. There are a plethora of parties. Generally, less “physical” activity and more eating. So in many ways, people take some (needed) time off of their usual training structure and enter the new year (Jan 1) less conditioned. Then there are those who are looking for that clean starting point to make that resolution to get fit. Again, for historical and traditional reasons, January 1 is the most popular kick-off point. Regardless, of which side of the fence one falls, a plan or approach should be taken to either bring one back to top fitness or starting building a foundation of fitness for the first time. Without a plan or taking the time to consider one, we just plow right into the new year doing the same thing with little regard to where our people may be starting from. So how will you bring your riders into fitness next year?
And Yes, Even Cyclists
Smart cyclists know they need to take a break from training and allow their bodies to fully recover (and gain all that adaptation). Due to the weather and the general cycling season, riders will take their “break” in the November-December timeframe. A break is defined as chill-time on the bike. Less mileage. Less intensity. More fun and social. In addition to giving the body a break, the mind needs time away from training structure to rejuvenate. The result of all this fun and rejuvenation is de-conditioning — and this is good! The bottom-line again is that even the cyclists in your class will need to ramp their fitness back up in the new year and will be starting with less fitness as they wander into your studio on January 1.
Create a Plan
I recommend structuring the first 3 months of the year (Jan-Mar) as a progressive increase in volume and intensity (hello Periodization). Cyclists refer to this as base-building. It is a time to intelligently condition both the cardiovascular and muscular systems to lay the ground-work for more challenging efforts later on. In the upcoming weeks I will be writing an article to specifically address using periodization for indoor cycling. The “real” challenge is that BASE is one of the 4-letter words of training (specifically indoors). I conjures up thoughts of mind-numbing endless seated efforts with barely any intensity. This is mostly misconception. Although this type of low-intensity endurance work is a good part of a cyclists training, there are other aspects that require attention that may be better suited for the indoor cycling studio. These would include aerobic development, leg-speed (cadence) work and muscular endurance. Translation: moderate aerobic intervals, leg-speed drills and moderate to long climbs. Then there is always the threshold field tests (a la Foster Talk Test) to help your riders figure out where their fitness is. Not an easy class in the least, but a helpful guide for your riders to create training zones and target proper intensities. So lots to do if done appropriately. Honestly, the only time I”™ve seen instructors struggle with this approach is due to a lack of understanding of overall (and cycling) training principles and insecurity. Both can be overcome.
Announce Your Plan
Create a plan and DON”™T keep it a secret. I”™ve already announced to my riders what we will be doing through the holiday season and how we will be approaching our rides starting the first week in January. I”™ve made them aware of how strong they will become and the goals they will hit. This is also a time to plant some goals in their heads. Maybe it is just a fitness goal or their first century ride. Let them know the different things they can focus on next year to keep themselves on track. Oftentimes, we”™ve been in the fitness game so long we forget how our riders think (or don”™t). Make some suggestions and ask them to talk to you about it, but reinforce how your approach to training is both intelligent and will lead them to success regardless of their goals.
In addition to getting your riders to think, announcing your plan shows that your indoor cycling class provides value. It is well thought out and establishes YOU as the expert. Otherwise, we become just a timeslot. A place to sweat, hear some music and possibly lose a few pounds. Our classes are so much more.