By Team ICG® Master Trainer Jim Karanas

Video is taking over the world. Over 4 billion hours of video are viewed each month, and YouTube is the most-used search engine, after Google. Video is also changing indoor cycling classes everywhere. Like music, video engages our emotions. To reach a cycling audience with imagery and music creates a synergy that lifts indoor cycling to new levels.

Club owners seek something innovative. Cycling with video is enjoyable, entertaining, and a dramatic differentiation from the current indoor-cycling market. The number of emerging businesses that produce video attests to the impact it will have on indoor cycling.

As entertaining as video can be, however, the key reason people join clubs is to achieve their fitness goals and be educated in how to do that, not for entertainment.

Before writing the check, anyone investing in video programming must investigate the quality of education or coaching that accompanies the video product. This applies equally to live-instructor group classes and virtual group classes.

At ICG®, we believe it”™s important to remember that video is JUST video. It”™s an asset that can add to the indoor-cycling experience but will never dominate it. Even with the world”™s best video, without proper coaching for the live instructor or excellent voiceover coaching in the virtual product, you”™ll have:

  • Instructors continuing to teach to music only, or turning on the projector but never integrating video into their classes.
  • Virtually instructed classes projected to empty classrooms, and/or DVDs sitting unused in a box or drawer in the studio.

Quality instruction has always been the key to any successful indoor-cycling program. That won”™t change with the addition of video. As long as facilities offer live-instructor classes, the instructors must first appreciate, and be energized by, what video brings to their classes. Once they support video”™s benefits, they will sincerely recommend virtual programming — so long as that virtual class stands up to the quality of live coaching.

Bringing video to your cycling program is not a stand-alone purchase. Whether it”™s to enhance live instruction, provide virtual classes, or both, it must be supported by online learning, as well as live education and training offered by your video provider.

Empowering instructors to use video in their classes demands technology that allows them to control the video as easily as they control their music. (DVDs just don”™t make the grade in that regard.) It also requires an education platform that teaches them to integrate video readily into what they”™re already doing — while producing a significantly enhanced experience for the members.

If a club offers both live classes with video and virtual classes, then the instructors must stand behind the virtual-class program and see it as complimentary to, not competitive with, their positions. Participants will typically follow the instructor”™s lead. However, that alone will not motivate the members to participate in virtual classes.

For a workout video to compel people to train in a cycling studio with no instructor, the content can”™t be good. It must be great. There”™s no motivating instructor who knows your name, maybe no social interaction with other members. What works for a solo participant on a bike in front of a small screen may fail miserably in the group-cycling studio. This is even truer if the facility doesn”™t employ instructors.

So the question is: What makes a virtual class compelling?

There are four dimensions to a successful virtual cycling class — Sensation, Flow, Challenge and Convenience.

Does the visual sensation grab attention? A compelling member experience must elicit strong, positive emotions. Is forward-motion video of beautiful destinations around the world more visually engaging than the world”™s top master presenters sitting on bikes?

Does the workout flow? To be effective, a virtual class must be better designed than a live class. Members will come in and take an average class from a live instructor, but they won”™t come in to take an average virtual class. Sound levels, content, matching voice and tone to the content, pacing — the sense of flow delivered through the interaction of voiceover cues and video must be better than with live instruction to be as effective.

Was the workout successful? The members will want to be physically challenged by the workout and mentally engaged by the information delivered. With no instructor and possibly no other members, what encourages the member to work hard? It comes down to quality recorded instruction, selection and use of music, music/video synergy, and editing.

Were the virtual classes offered at convenient times? Does the technology offer “auto” scheduling, where the virtual class and projector turn on and off at scheduled times? Dynamic club schedules that allow virtual classes to be easily added to, or taken off, the schedule based on participation will have a big impact on virtual programming success.

At ICG, we consider ourselves the leading authority in cycling with video. We believe indoor cycling is driven by instructor communication and motivation, plus social interaction. We believe instructors need education and training to integrate video skillfully and professionally into their classes.

We believe that virtual classes can rock and that instructors must support the classes.

Virtual classes must be visually stimulating. They must flow, provide a challenge, be offered at convenient times, and be better produced than a live class. We”™re committed to developing better techniques and technologies to make future indoor cycling experiences more “real” as classes with video and virtual classes go mainstream.

Originally posted 2013-01-28 10:29:20.

Jim Karanas
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