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By Jennifer Lintz, Registered Dietitian and ICI/PRO Contributor

If you strive to bring variety to your classes, consider using your personal workouts for inspiration. Certainly, going to other instructors' classes and perusing the web can be a great way to pick up new ideas, but so can your own workouts. I run quite a bit when I'm not on the bike and have found it to be a gold mine for fresh routines, coaching cues, and new music.

Fresh Routines
Whether you swim, bike, run, row, do the elliptical or something else on your own for cardio, you can likely pull bits and pieces into your classes. Here are some examples.

Speed Workouts: These provide plenty of options for a ride. Whether I am doing 200s, 400s, or mile repeats, I can apply some of the same time frames and techniques to cycle. For instance, if I was doing timed miles, that might look like 3 long (6-10 minutes) efforts spaced throughout a cycle class. For shorter bursts of hard effort, I might take a sandwich approach and squeeze in 8-10 minutes of high intensity intervals at the beginning and end of the ride, or perhaps just the middle. There are many ways to create an interval-based ride.

Hills: After doing a hilly run or ride, I'm instantly armed with great content for my next class. Here are some ideas:
- Pyramid of Hills: Start and finish with short hills and build a longer hill in between.
- Progressive Hills: Make each hill either progressively longer at the same intensity or progressively harder for the same amount of time.
- Hill Sandwich: Do flat roads at the beginning and end of class with a long hill in the middle.
- Flat Sandwich: Do hills at the beginning and end of the ride and a flat road in between.

Other Ideas:
- Tempo Ride: Begin at a very comfortable intensity, progress to more challenging work in the middle and end of the ride, and finish with 5-10 minutes of moderate work before cool down.
- Out and Back: Do the same drills on the way out that you do on the way back.
- Loop: Terrain here should vary. If there is a big hill at the beginning of your ride or run, a couple of short ones in the middle, and a flat finish, create something similar for class.

Coaching Cues
Just as yoga instructors are encouraged to have a solid personal practice, I think we could argue that cycle instructors would also benefit fromba dedicated personal workout once or twice a week. If our goal is to challenge participants and help them sustain an uncomfortable effort for a set period of time, it is important that we know what that feels like. As instructors, we can view the challenging parts of our own exercise sessions as opportunities to become a better coach.

Let me give you an example.

My husband and I essentially live on a plateau in Rochester, MN. The only way out of our neighborhood is down. That means - whether we are on the bike or on our feet - the start of the workout is a cinch, but the end is always another story; that's where my coaching nuggets come from. One route has a gradual 2 mile hill at the finish, and the other is very steep but only 3/4 of a mile. Yesterday, I ran the 3/4 of a mile hill four times as part of a workout. Guess what we are doing in cycle this week? Hill repeats 🙂 They will thank me later!

In all seriousness, I walked away from my run with a handful of coaching strategies that I will sprinkle into the classes I teach in the coming days. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with the incline and the number of times I commited to running up it, I took a step-wise approach. First, I focused on making it to the sign; then, to the tree; next, to the stick lying on the ground; and finally, to the top. It helped me to break each of the hills up into segments, so it's likely I will apply that same strategy to my coaching in class.

New Music
Finally, consider using your workout time to snag some new songs. Regardless of your stance on multitasking, Pandora, Spotify, and iTunes Radio make it possible to find new, motivating tunes while you exercise. If you have a smart phone or access to any of these apps, pay attention to the music that comes on as you move. If something pumps you up, chances are it might have a similar impact on your riders.

As always, I would love to hear your comments.

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