Have you have ever faced this dichotomy in your class?
Two riders, call them Bob and Susan (not their real names) are sitting front, center, smiling at you. You know them both and what you know about them causes you to almost freeze with indecision about how you will coach the class.
Here's some background on the two:
Bob is 40 years old and a somewhat competitive cyclist. Bob comes to your class to get stronger/fitter/faster (which is what he wants) so he needs to Train ~ 80% of his time in ZONE 1 to develop aerobically and the remaining 20% in ZONE 3 - above AT/LT. From a Training perspective, Bob should spend as little time in ZONE 2 as possible (junk miles). But the upper part of ZONE 2 is exactly where Bob performs during (long/fast club ride, RR or TT) so Bob's training in ZONEs 1 & 3 is to make him stronger in ZONE 2 when he is competing. Bob also understands that the hard work in ZONE 3 will leave him a bit trashed - which he accepts as the cost of getting stronger.
Susan is a 40 year old Mother of three kids who isn't training for anything, unless you count her continuous battle maintaining her body composition at an acceptable level. She's in your class to burn calories...specifically body fat if at all possible. She wants to leave your class with the energy she needs for the rest of her day while also not having her sugar stores depleted to the point where her low blood sugar level has her stopping at the doughnut shop. I would argue that Susan needs to spend the majority of the class in ZONE 2. There is where she can maintain the highest level of intensity for the longest period of time, without feeling exhausted, needing to recover and eating everything she sees after class.
With few exceptions, the majority of our classes are made of students are more like Susan than Bob... and arguably the #1 reason people come to class is for weight management.
Does it then make sense that we design classes much more for Susan?
Are we boring/alienating Susan when we sit there and proudly explain how our class is scientifically designed to help Bob?
In her post about not teaching to the squeaky wheel, Cameron Chinatti lays out some excellent points on how no one at your facility should be valued higher than anyone else. Easier said then done. I find myself wanting to teach to a class of Bob's, even while smiling back at Susan.
What do you do in this situation [wlm_firstname]?
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The dilemma you describe is universal, it seems to me. But it certainly becomes more pronounced now that there is snow on the ground and the runners and cyclists have arrived in my classes. My solution won’t work for everyone but I have the luxury of teaching in a small facility and my teaching style is very interactive.
I design most of my profiles so that I can coach them on two planes and then I do just that. Sometimes I sort the room – assign bikes – to make it easier to put ‘like’ with ‘like’ but I often present the mental challenge of ‘do your own thing’ while the person next to them is doing something completely different. BTW, the grass always looks greener on the other side of the room so it takes lots of interaction with the riders – checking in on heart rate (I keep a chart of the regulars’ zones on my bike) and perceived exertion. Coaching off the bike is often the very best solution. For a long time my biggest challenge was what I should be doing on the bike. I have finally decided that I should declare which of the two options I have chosen and ride it consistently. It is easy to slide into an intermediate, sloppy place and that’s not good modeling for my students.
To my mind, there’s nothing different about this than what I do to incorporate a newbie in a class. My interactions with and expectations of them are very different than they are with a ‘regular’. If you can keep that ball in the air, then you can teach different profiles to the Bobs and Susans of the world simultaneously.
Beyond the obvious – serving all of my riders the best way I know – I think the two-level profiles offer many opportunities for information transfer about training and exercise physiology as I discuss the whys of what each group is doing.
I agree with the above post in that most or all profile/classes can be done with alot of flexability regarding training zones. I don’t get alot of “racers” in class but get many outdoor riders and the Cat 3 racer I do get in the winter months, knows exactly where she wants to train at in class and very seldom, if at all, even gets out of the saddle. She is a very accomplished rider and probably comes in to class mostly for some base miles and the community of riders. Not for me to coach her.
I would say the opposite, meaning, teaching to the newbie, is almost more of a concern with training zones and intensity.
If your members are educated in the “why” and the “how” of training zones, they can pretty much take any profile and adjust it to their needs based on time of year (periodization), or weight loss, or raising ability level.
Great topic for discussion. The comments already posted are excellent. As you know, I have written an article with my colleague and ICG Master Instructor Joan Kent on this subject. It is entitled Susan and Bob. It talks about a philosophy of how to view this situation that works very well for me. I’m interested in what everyone else thinks.
Since you asked… Susan is my ‘A’ rider. I define ‘A’ as a regular class participant, early or for sure, sitting on the bike and ready to go when I hit the play button. She follows my coaching cues, doesn’t have her own iPod with one ear bud plugged in ready to go if she dislikes my warm up tune and wants a good cardio work out with out being trashed. Her goals are simple, her needs from me and my class straight forward. Most classes where I teach are made up of Susan’s.
Bob is my ‘D’ customer. I don’t play to him because there is no return on investment. When Bob attends my class he is there to do his own thing – which he does regardless of what I’m having the class do. He neither needs nor wants motivation from me. Moreover, because of that, he has no expectation that my class is designed for his very unique needs. Unfortunately there are some Bob’s that expect your class is always just for them.
So my honest (and I expect somewhat controversial) answer is I design my classes for Susan most of the time. (there are exceptions). That does not mean we are doing pushups or four count jumps on the bike. In our business function follows form and I don’t equivocate on good technique.
To be fair, Bob is well educated as it regards his training. He arrives wearing his heart rate monitor, understands there are really only three zones, knows all his thresholds, heart rate, power and speed. His Blink 2D is programmed, he knows how to use it and all he has to do is start the stop watch function.
Frankly John, Bob is my class because he generally likes the music I play which includes enough ‘finish strong’ motivational tunes to satisfy his zone 3 needs. And, that is where the bike is, (convenience)
When class is over, he stops by to tell me all about his training and bounce some ideas off me. I told him I know Tom Scotto. 😉
When Susan leaves class, she smiles, thanks me and say’s those magic words; “See you next class.”
Indoor cycling 1.0 was about diversity, fun and sweat. It was based on solid fundamentals but somehow went astray as instructors tried to change it up. It became a very high intensity workout to be sure and the Spinning® culture was born.
The need to bring sanity back to the cycle studio spawned Indoor cycling 2.0 which is all about education and we instructors must always be learning.
That said, I see Indoor Cycling 3.0 the sum of 1.0 & 2.0. Indoor cycling 3.0 understands that there are mostly Susan’s in our class.
The council and coaching they need from us is not about climbing the Alp de huez or functional threshold power or cardiac creep or seven zones. They certainly don’t need to hear, “It Depends.”
It is about motivating them to stay active, to understand cover models, elite athletes or movie stars are not our role models. Our role models are sitting on the bike next us. We know them because we see them there every class. They have lives and all the baggage that comes with living.
As much as our classes are designed for nurturing a healthy heart they are also a great place to ‘get away for an hour’. It is time we remembered that.
I have to respectfully disagree. I don’t think we can second guess why anyone arrives in our classes and by tailoring them to a certain audience we not only give short shrift to the ‘others’ but also limit the ability of the target group to grow and expand their horizons.
Speaking personally, my group who is going to tackle the Cabot Trail next year would neither have been able to set that goal or meet it if I had just assumed that they were ‘Susans’. They have become much more than that and that alone has enriched their lives. The hours they spend in my class are definitely “get away” times for them – times to escape from their (and their families’) perceptions and reinvent themselves as something more than they were. They are truly ditching baggage.
I am reluctant to say this but I don’t think it’s an accident that John’s original post labeled the less active person as a woman. As a woman ‘of a certain age’ I think it’s important to give that group, especially, a window on a way of life that they didn’t believe they could live. Without beating them up and by teaching to everyone in the room, they see what is possible and can grow into more engaged and informed exercisers.
Thanks for of this!
Jim Karanas thanks for your thoughtful response. I’ve published here.
Christine I’m not sure where you are getting “less active”? The point of the Susan/Bob was to explore how they have may have different objectives and we maybe directing our focus toward the minority if we structure the class for Bob; i.e… lots of science that be of little interest to Susan.
Also, after 17 years of riding indoors (Amy’s club was the second facility to offer Spinning classes in Minneapolis) I see the Susan / Bob profiles as statistically accurate for any club where I teach.
Sorry – I knew you didn’t mean ‘less active’ although that’s often how that group thinks of themselves. Personally I get tired just thinking about how active many of the Susans who come to my class actually are – up early with the kids, off to work, back to dinner and homework with the kids and then out to my 7:45 pm class.
I am not disagreeing at all with your description of the Susan/Bob profile – it’s exactly what I see. I just don’t think it is necessary to tailor classes to one or the other profiles. It is possible to make ‘science’ palatable, interesting and useful to everyone.
Just a comment…”mostly Susan’s”, also as a whole includes “Sam’s”, meaning, most of the men that come to my classes are not Cat 1 or Cat 5 riders. They are also there to gain general fitness, cardio health, escape, sweat, look at cute chicks, get a swipe on their membership card to qualify for the health insurance club membership monthly discount…you get the picture.
Christine…to your point, I think it is possible to make science palatable, interesting and useful. I just know, for myself, over the last 5 years, I have made this TOO big a goal and have lost complete sight of the FUN and LIGHT factor. To my class size detriment. Numbers tell the truth, and the “Susan’s and Sam’s” truly don’t want very much science…possibly a tiny bit, maybe not much at all. The classes still getting the huge numbers at my big box gym are the Cycling 1.0 as Chuck calls them. What does that tell me? That Cycling 3.0 needs to happen in my teaching style.
I started incorporating a “lighter” teaching style in the last month. My numbers are SLOWLY increasing and my stress level is QUICKLY decreasing. Safety is always paramount to me. NO push ups/crazy antics for me in my classes, but fun is back and the information load is minimal. If they have questions, I will always invite them to ask me after class.
I think that most people who walk into our classes just want to ride the bike. 🙂
If we study the hour during the time a ‘popular’ instructor
leads his/her class, and especially if his/her style is
not similar to your style, WHAT are they doing that’s ‘right’? (even those that are known for ‘weed wacker’ legspeeds and hovers; all the stuff we know that is
mechanically no-nos). WHY is it that we find (to our dismay)
the too-high-legspeeds (120, 130, 140+ rpms), the hovers, the dancing on the two-beat up and back – are the classes that get the most numbers???? Can someone attempt to rationalize that?? Go figure…