By Team ICG® Master Trainer Jim Karanas
Daylight Savings Time and warm weather are fast approaching. Students will begin to alter their training schedules to include more outdoor riding. I”™ve always encouraged that. In teaching an authentic method of indoor cycling (my style of teaching is patterned after riding a real bicycle), I”™ve always urged my students to try the real thing. As enjoyable as a class can be, there”™s nothing like the open road or trail.
What if my compensation as an instructor were based on how many people came to class? This might pose a problem if I needed the revenue, or if my class were temporarily removed from the schedule due to lack of attendance. How can I stay true to my feelings of promoting outdoor rides when I need my students to keep coming to class?
I”™ve found several ways to encourage my students to do both. There are a few ways in which indoor cycling trumps outdoor cycling.
1. Efficiency In Metabolic Training. If you base your class on sound training principles and implement heart rate and/or power, there”™s no doubt that the student will obtain greater metabolic benefits from taking your class than from riding outdoors. Unless the student works with a coach, the metabolic impact of an outdoor ride depends on the course and how hard the rider intends to ride. In 45 minutes, I can impact a student”™s metabolism beyond what many of them will be able to achieve in three hours of riding alone or with friends at a “social” pace.
2. Coaching. If you teach indoor cycling in an authentic way, the coaching that you provide is invaluable and will be missed by students when they ride outdoors. This means you must bring something more to class than just the music and a workout. If you teach principles of motivation, engagement, awareness and mindfulness, your students will miss hearing your words and the lessons you teach as they ride without you.
3. Technique. It may seem strange to say that riding a stationary bike can improve technique on a real bike. Yet, if you”™re a technician at heart, it”™s obvious that students need constant reminders to maintain good posture, pedal smoothly, and hold a consistent cadence. Without those reminders, many students will return to class after the outdoor season with new movement and postural habits that don”™t benefit their overall development.
4. Fixed Gear. Unless students spend some time riding a “fixie”, their ability to pedal continuously and minimize coasting will weaken.
5. Socializing. There”™s nothing like the feeling of a peloton — except maybe the feeling of a packed class, and the class is both friendly and safe. When you”™re racing, the peloton is intense and not friendly, with racers vying for other riders”™ wheels, potential crashes, and a lot of yelling. Group rides usually start friendly, but I”™ve been in many that turned just as bad as a race. If you bring elements of the peloton experience to your class and support socialization, however, the experience is wonderful. At times I”™ll say, “I want to start today”™s ride as a group ride and encourage you to chat during the first song.” Then I”™ll explain that a group ride begins loosely, but we”™ll fall into a double paceline as we build the tempo.
6. Family Time. It”™s difficult for people of different abilities to ride together outdoors, especially couples. Indoors, couples and families can enjoy more time together while they each get the workout that”™s best for them.
I am thoroughly convinced that using the above methods and extolling the benefits of coming to class when it”™s nice outside help me maintain good class participation when the weather is beautiful. I share my perspective on the above information during classes and, even while advocating the road or trail experience, remind them of the advantages of continuing to take my classes.
I feel the best regimen for most of my students is to split their time between indoor and outdoor training. I often encourage them to find ways to increase their total training time by not giving up classes for outdoor rides but, instead, doing both.
Hit class with me in the morning, and take a leisurely ride in the afternoon.
Get your conditioning done early when you”™re fresh, and then just enjoy a refreshing ride later in the day.
Be in my class at 9 AM on Saturday. Don”™t miss the joy the camaraderie in that class has been bringing you. Ride your bike to class and bring an extra kit. When class is done, get back out on the road and enjoy the beautiful weather.
There”™s balance in combining indoor cycling with outdoor riding. I think it serves us well to nurture that and not forget it during good-weather days.
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As a tri coach as well as indoor cycling instructor, #1 is a big one for me. The truth is that almost all of the top professional triathletes do the majority of their bike training indoors (but more likely on a trainer than on a spin bike) specifically because it’s just easier to do focused, hard work indoors than outdoors, where you inevitably have to contend with traffic, stop signs, pedestrians, squirrels, etc…. Another bonus of riding indoors is that you can ride “with” friends who may be slower or faster than you are outdoors, and nobody has to stop and wait! Of course, outdoor riding is great too, and probably one of my favorite things in life! But from a pure “training” perspective it’s hard to beat the benefits of focused indoor training.