By Jennifer Lintz, Registered Dietitian and ICI/PRO Member Soigneur
As a kid, I remember watching MTV with my older brother quite often after school. For the most part, we were only interested in one show: Total Request Live. We liked it because we felt invested in it. All week long, we voted for our favorite music videos, and then every afternoon, we were glued to the TV to see if any of our picks made it to the live show. I'm sure our mom was very proud ;-).
All kidding aside, I have often toyed with taking a "total request" approach to an indoor cycling class, even if it was once every couple of months or once or twice per year. During the weeks - or even days - prior to the ride, I would leave a decked-out box at the front of the studio where members could drop their requests. If that didn't work, I would hand out little slips of paper to students the class or two before to get a little input. While the concept could certainly flop, there are a few reasons why I think it might work.
1. Builds excitement. This type of ride may not have the same impact as a "Race Day" ride, but chances are, there are some participants who will come because they knew it was "Total Request Tuesday." I remember doing a "Rolling through the Decades" ride a few months back, and I made a point to tell my participants about it two days before. Sure enough, there were a couple women who said "I almost didn't get up this morning, but then I remembered we were doing 'Rolling through the Decades'!" I almost couldn't believe it.
2. Provides variety. Barbara Hoots has said many times that the trick to keeping your classes full is variety. There are two ways that this type of class would mix things up. First, it is a specialty - or themed - ride, which will stand out in students' minds as being different. Additionally, it will likely give a little twist to your playlist. Some of your students may request songs that you don't regularly play, or better yet, they may have suggestions that are completely new to you and fit well in cycle.
3. Gives them buy-in. Coming up with a playlist that pleases a majority of the participants is a tall order. Why not let your students help? I know several women who could listen to the song "Titanium" week after week without getting tired of it, and others who have disliked it from the time it was released. Allowing participants to contribute to song lists can make them feel like they own a piece of the pie.
4. Creates opportunities for conversation. Without having to say "turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself," sharing songs and their requester can be a way to foster connections in the room. For instance, imagine saying "Our next request is from Annie. She wanted to hear Don't Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, so we are going to climb to it." Wouldn't it be neat if, after class, Becky went up to Annie and said "Loved your song suggestion today!" Maybe they know each other already, but what if they don't?
With the intention of making the ride a positive experience, it may not be a bad idea to lay out some ground rules. For instance: "Sorry folks, but if you request something with foul language, it probably won't make it into our ride." or "We received a lot of suggestions, so I am breaking it into two classes. We'll do part 1 today, and part 2 next week."
Have any of you done something similar in your classes before? We would love to hear about it along with tips and tricks you discovered in the process. And, if I do this anytime soon, I'll be sure to let you know the outcome :-).
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