Saturday, January 31, 2009

"LSD CLUB" documents for Base Building Program

It occurred to me that I'm giving these tips and documents on Base Building a little late to start your own program (unless you start right away). But take this idea and apply it to other member retention and motivation programs you create at your club, or save them for next year. Of course, if you stick with me (because I plan to be posting for a long time) you'll get a lot more information on Base Building next year - and I promise to be more expedient about getting it to you on time!

I explained in the last two posts about our "LSD Club" at the Aria Spa and Club, our base building program that I began 8 years ago and that is still going strong to this day.

Here are some documents for you so you have a better idea of what I'm talking about. Feel free to use these at will. That's why I left them as Word and Excel files instead of pdf so you can cut, copy, delete, etc.

The Rules of the Build Your Base Program (last year we changed the name to Build Your Base from LSD). This explains to members the rules - we hand it out in all classes in the 2 weeks leading up to it, and have it available for any newcomers during the program.

2009 Mileage Log: This is the sheet we put in the binder where everyone keeps track of their miles. After one sheet is filled up, they simply start another.

Instructor Memo: this is the letter I sent to all the instructors so they know the protocol and rules.

Still to come: the extensive handout I give to the members to explain. It has evolved over the years. I used to have a 4-page "newsletter" style handout with self-assessments, but it's in Publisher which I can't open on my Mac. Then I created an FAQ handout to explain to members the what and the why about Base Building.

Now I have a document I've created called "AEO" - Aerobic Engine Optimization, a play on the term SEO, or search engine optimization - anyone with a website will know what I'm talking about! ;-)

That's coming soon for you guys!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

LSD Club Base Building Program at Aria Spa & Club

Yesterday I talked about our "LSD Club" at the Aria Spa and Club in Vail, Colorado and mentioned that we use it as a "frequent flyer" program to encourage students to come more often, to sign up in advance for classes, and to generally promote Spinning at the club. Here I will tell you how we manage the "mileage" and the prizes we have awarded in the past. 

Truly, this is going to sound more time consuming than it is. It's only a little busy the first week as people sign up, then it's very easy. But then again, we only have 15 bikes; it might be more challenging with full classes over 20 bikes, and a gazillion instructors - you might have to develop a more streamlined approach and get the front desk involved to record miles. (Every club is so different, aren't they?!)

We have a binder in the Spin room separated by alphabetized tabs. Students sign up by filling in the form with name, phone, email. The page is a table with these tabs across the top: Date, Time, Type of Class, # miles, Bonus Miles, Bonus reason, Instructor initials.

Endurance classes award 75 miles, all other classes are 50 miles. Bonus miles (double miles) are given for the slower time slots (for us it was our evening classes, but it should be whatever time slot has the fewest students or a new one you want to promote). We also give 100 Bonus Miles if you bring a new person to Spin class (someone who's never been to Spin at our club), and another 100 mile Bonus if that person comes 5 times (that bonus is given both to the newbie and the one who brought him/her). This is a great incentive to bring new people - and keep them coming back! I have a separate sheet for tracking new students and the instructor must initial it to make it valid.

[NB. As the director, I was the only one who could record the bonus miles for a person coming 5 times.]

By the way - the miles awarded is completely arbitrary and not based on an estimate of what they rode in class. The goal is to encourage more people to come to Endurance classes, implying that if you were to ride at this intensity (65-75%MHR) you could ride further than if you went harder. 

For every class, students simply fill in the info and the instructor initials it. They keep track of their own miles, the instructor validates it. Pretty easy.

At 4-weeks as the director I used to do a tally halfway through the program (don't know if the current director will take this time). I used an excel spreadsheet that my husband created that showed a graph of where everyone was, but if truth be told it was very time-consuming! Best to keep it simple - simply list the names and their total miles to date and post it. Do the same at the end of the program.

Here's what we gave for prizes:
Dinner for 2 at Chaps restaurant (our club is attached to a very nice hotel/restaurant - years ago they even gave me a free night at the hotel as a prize - but not anymore); massage in our spa; mani/pedi in the spa (men love this prize - big bonus points for their wives/girlfriends!); 3 months dues; 1 month dues; metabolic assessment (VO2 max test); personal training session (usually donated by me, or another trainer looking for clients); 2 bike tunes (donated by our local bike shop).

You don't have to go this fancy with prizes. Dues, a water bottle, 10-class pass, t-shirt, or other donations from members who own local businesses that they can promote (restaurants, car wash, chiropractor, etc). [Tip: For all your events, you should get to know all your members who have local businesses that you can trade-out things for! Barter is GOOD, especially in this economy!]

Here's how people won the prizes. Of course I wanted to acknowledge those who really made an effort to come often, but sometimes there are those who do try but don't have as much free time. So I devised a way to award both:
The top 5 mileage winners got their choice of prizes (first place got first choice, etc)
Then everyone who had a minimum of 750 miles (that's 2 classes per week on average, less if they did more EEZ or got bonus miles) got their name in a drawing for the remaining prizes. 

(I always wrote a rule about ties would go to the person with the most REAL miles versus bonus miles - or you could do a drawing. But we never had a tie in 7 years).

Of course, I tell people that the biggest prize, worth more than all these prizes, is increased fitness and a great aerobic base that we can now build upon in the weeks/months to come!

In the next couple of days I'll even give you some of our handouts.

EDIT: BTW, you can use this method of a "frequent flyer" program or encouragement to come more often to classes any time - it doesn't have to be just for base building (it just really works well to get people to come when they might normally resist it). For example, summer time when numbers drop or events like the Tour de France are other great ways to implement a promotion like this.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Base Building starts at my club tonight

Our base building program started yesterday, tonight is my first class during the program. Personally, I think it's starting a month late (from the point of view of an athlete's needs to develop this part of fitness and graduate to higher levels of intensity to be ready for the real bike by June). But I guess I should be glad they're doing it at all (although in my other club, I am ending my BB program in 2 weeks - this is going to get interesting.)

I have been working at this club for 15 years (OMG! That's the longest I've been anywhere in my life!), where I started with Step, now teaching Spin for 12, ran the Spin program for 8 (until 2 years ago), and started a Base Building program called the LSD Club about 8 years ago.

At first students weren't very excited. They (like everyone) like to "get a workout", like to sweat, like to be pushed. Although our market is a bit different than the average club, because almost everyone who lives in Vail, Colorado is "athletic" if not an athlete of some sort. Most came here to ski, many ride bikes, and we have fairly good HR monitor usage. They are NOT, and never were, into "psycho-spin" as I call it, that over-the-top super high intensity type of class. 

[Although I have to admit, my current 5:30 pm class is not the same regulars I had for so many years. There's been a big shift of people moving down valley, and most of my students are new since this past year - I'm even excited to say I have a few total newbies that I am enjoying nurturing along. Some of the longtime regulars - who started Spinning with me 12 years ago - are still there in the 6 am and noon classes.]

Normally I would have preferred to start in November until mid-January. But because of the holidays, and the nature of our club being attached to a fancy destination hotel and ski resort, beginning an organized program was out of the question until after the holiday craziness.

So my "LSD CLUB" ran from early January to early March, for 8 weeks.

"LSD" means long, slow distance and used to be a training tenet for building endurance. It used to imply "easy" riding, but for this program I always preached 65-80%MHR. It doesn't have to be "easy", but going to 'hard' or above on the RPE chart was discouraged. Where I live, they get their anaerobic efforts on the mountain during the ski season.

After a year or two of doing this program with people seeing great results (and winning prizes), they started asking for it every year. We do need to train the newer members as to why we do this, but longtime Spinning students are hooked.

First a little about how I scheduled classes (and how it's still being done).

Our class schedule for the month is made out in its entirety before that month begins. I did it in Publisher, and printed it out like a calendar. On the back was a description of the different types of classes, HR recommendations, protocol for classes, suggested apparel, etc. Note that this schedule is only for Spinning. On the regular Fitness Schedule, the time slot simply said "Spinning".

The classes we teach are based on the Spinning Energy Zones, plus one additional type of class:
  • Strength - hill climbing, 75-85%MHR 
  • Endurance - aerobic intensity, mostly seated, but we've added more variety over the years - not such a stickler to 'seated flat' only. 65-75%MHR  
  • Interval - 60-92%MHR, although I have taught my instructors how to use LT and RPE and not be a slave to that 92% 'ceiling'. More on that in another post.
  • Race Day - a time trial race, 80-92% MHR, or right around LT.
  • "Spin Training" - this is a class that used to be "all terrain", but in Spinning lingo, it's really just a 'Phase II" ride, where the instructor can create any profile with any objective. It could be an out and back ride, a pyramid or loop, a criterium, anything that doesn't fall into the parameters of the other Energy Zones.

Notice there's no recovery energy zone? Sure I believe in recovery, but I don't schedule them. I'll tell you why in another post. (Hint: you only need schedule them if you are with the same riders frequently and on successive days. Otherwise, just preach, preach, preach it!)

Each time slot is scheduled for the whole month. For example, MWF (all classes) the first week might be END, INT, SPTrn. The next week it might be STR, Race, END. The third week it might be SPTrn, END, STR. The T/TH/Sat time slot would be different. Most students generally attend the same time slot, because it fits into their schedule. I try to give variety for the week for each time slot, as well as for each instructor, so they are always teaching something different. 

As an instructor, you always know what you are teaching and when, so you can prepare well in advance. As an instructor, I LOVE this style of scheduling. You always know that if you have three different instructors teaching MWF at 6 am, they aren't all teaching intervals! (Which is what happens sometimes at my other club).

During the two months of LSD, there is no Race Day, and all other types of classes only go up to 80% MHR (or 3-5 beats below LT if you know it). Even interval classes consist of aerobic intervals; short, long, however the instructor wants to do them.

We had a meeting a few weeks prior to make sure all instructors were on board.

Tomorrow, I'll describe how we made the LSD Club into a "frequent Spinner program" with prizes and incentives. It also served to FILL the classes!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blogs, Facebook, Podcasts, Twitter...what next??!!

For me, this year has been an amazing transformation into the world of Web 2.0, the new generation of cyber communication.  The rules of communication, marketing, and promotion have drastically changed in the last two years. If you're not doing these things, and you own a business, then you'll get caught behind your competitors who do start to use it.

Take blogs for example.  They are such a fantastic way to get news and information, aren't they? But how many of us were following blogs a year or two ago? Now they are ubiquitous, and growing every day!

About a year ago, after joining an entrepreneurial coaching community and learning about all this stuff there,  I started my first two blogs, (I've since stopped updating this one - but there's still some good info on there to read. I love the subject...but I gotta draw the line somewhere!!)

And then last April, I created this Funhogspins blog, which I sometimes have a hard time staying away from, I enjoy it so much! If there's a longer period without posts, it's because I'm overwhelmed with the other stuff I am doing and forcing myself to stay away. I am still hoping to transfer it soon to another domain name where I can self-host it. It's taking longer than expected (because I'm still in the learning stages...)

Then came Facebook. 

Everything I was hearing about the new social media and entrepreneur necessities pointed towards Facebook. At first it was just a pain to maintain...but now it's a great place to promote my bike tours as well as my ebook, and potentially other things in the future. But more than anything it's been an amazing way to reconnect with old friends, and to connect with like-minded people. It's mind-boggling how you can find people, and how you come across people who knows someone who you know. It truly is six-degrees of separation. And just today I started adding my nieces and nephews as friends! Now I'll know more about what they're doing than their own parents...

Will you be my "friend"?! Join me on Facebook!  Leave a little message that you saw me here...

I also joined LinkedIn, a more professional social networking site. (Join me there too - search for Jennifer Sage)

Then I got connected with the Indoor Cycle Instructor Podcast, and John has had me on numerous times as a guest host. If you haven't had a chance to listen to my podcast, check it out here. (The subject is the Cadence workshop that I created for the Spinning program and how to use resistance and cadence properly in your indoor cycling classes).  John says it has been the most popular one of all his podcasts! I'm flattered and simply stunned at how this new technology is just taking over my life! Heck, a little over a year ago, I didn't know what a podcast was!

Then I was interviewed on a cycling podcast which was great fun and great promotion. (Note: it's a long podcast - my interview doesn't appear until about 43 minutes into it).  I am hoping to get the Fredcast to interview me in the next week or two for my ebook, Keep it Real!

But it hasn't stopped there! This week it's been Twitter - I'm now learning how to "tweet". In fact, my "tweets" are now on my blog, down there on the left side! The potential for attracting customers on Twitter is mind-boggling, just mind-boggling. I have been building a collection of followers, most of whom are cyclists and indoor cyclists, each of whom have anywhere from 50 - 6,000 followers (or more, like Lance Armstrong), all of whom can potentially see my tweets. If it's something they're interested in, they'll click to get more info, then find my website or blog.  Can you just envision the potential impact that can have?

I did a "tweet" yesterday saying that if you found training on a trainer indoors boring, then check out  And within a few hours I had a bunch of new sales. Wow! This stuff works! 

Please join me at Either search for Jennifer Sage or Vivavelo. If you "follow" me I'll "follow" you!

Just one word of warning: Twitter can get addicting, so watch out.  

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Scientific studies - are they the end-all?

My last post got me thinking about a seminar I went to a few years back. Before I tell you the story, let me preface it by saying that I do believe in science, and in scientific testing and evidence-based proof. I have a degree in exercise science. As a student, we had to either perform or participate in as many studies as possible. [One of the reasons I decided not to get my Masters in Exercise Physiology was due to a distaste (or was it fear?) of performing studies and being stuck in a lab, and all the statistics required. I hate statistics, and it must be told that I had a yearning to travel at the time...]

I am also much more into the practical aspects of fitness.

So, scientific studies are very important, but I also believe that there's a LOT to be said for anecdotal evidence. 

My story:

I went to a fitness conference in Aspen, Colorado about 5 or 6 years ago. The conference was geared towards conditioning for skiing. Dr. Michael Stone and his wife Meg Stone, MS, were presenters, along with some excellent US Ski Team coaches. At the time, Dr. Stone was head of sport physiology for the US Olympic committee, and Meg Stone was a coach at the USOC, in Colorado Springs (and a former Olympian in Discus). Big name, and lots of studies in their backgrounds.

They led a session on weight lifting where they demonstrated proper lifting techniques, using very standard methods, weight benches for bench press, typical squats on the squat rack, etc. All good. All stuff I learned as a CSCS and CPT. All effective (if you are into that type of lifting).

Then someone asked a question about using resistance balls as instability platforms when lifting weights, or discs to stand on for squats or other lifts.

I was floored at their answer. I had been using balls and dyna-discs with my personal training clients for ever. I'd been to so many sessions at conferences, by big name presenters in the fitness industry such as Juan Carlos Santana, Paul Chek, Vern Gambetta, Douglass Brooks and many more. (Most of whom have an MS in Ex Phys, except Paul Chek who has a PhD in self-love. But hey, he really is a smart guy. And well read.)

I believe 100% in the use of stability balls for balance, functional training and core engagement. 

In a word, they said they were bunk. They said there was no studies that proved that they improved stability or core engagement. Much better to use a weight bench, get the body stable, and lift more weight.

AUGH! My friend, another personal trainer who focuses on functional training, and I looked at each other incredulously! In fact, it made me shut out everything they said after that. Now these are people who are BIG names in weight training, and Olympic athlete development, so people listen to what they say. Currently they both work at the University of Tennessee.

There were a few muscle heads in the room, one guy in particular (the kind of guy who could not put his arms by his sides due to over-developed lats, pecs and know the type) who I remember said, "See! I knew it! All those trainers at my gym on those stupid balls. Yeah!"

Scientists like these do not believe in anecdotal evidence. It must be proved in a scientific lab in order for it to be "true". That's probably the line of thinking of Dr. Carl Foster who I quoted in my last post who said "There are no studies that prove periodization is effective."

In my mind, there just hasn't been a study YET that proves that it's effective, or that stability balls are effective core conditioners. 

Think about the process of developing studies. They are almost always done at the university level; they require funding, and willing students to develop a hypothesis, develop the study, get approval, recruit the guinea pigs, carry out the study, analyze the data, interpret the results, do the statistics (ugh, the hardest part), get peer reviews, get published, and then perhaps retest. Wikipedia gives an exhausting and migraine-producing description of valid scientific methods. 

For most graduate students, the study must fall into line with what they are interested in pursuing in their careers (otherwise, why do it). Can you imagine the level of complexity to develop certain studies? The time involved? The financial commitment?

Maybe no one has yet come up with a method that will accurately compare stability ball effectiveness with a control group. But from the empirical evidence experienced by hundreds (thousands?) of trainers at very high levels (Olympic coaches, professional coaches for baseball, football, or other sports teams) who have used stability balls, I think there's overwhelming evidence that it works.

Regarding indoor cycling, there are no studies that I know of specific to this industry. But can we say that "XYZ isn't true", simply because there hasn't been a study? Maybe it's not interesting enough to a graduate student? Or worth funding? I would love to see more studies on the effectiveness of "Spinning", especially on how the weighted flywheel affects pedaling mechanics. Sans the scientific method, I think it's still safe to analyze what we know to be true about momentum and inertia, and extrapolate how a weighted flywheel can affect pedal stroke.  

Therefore, in my opinion, there are moments when we as instructors and trainers must rely on anecdotal and empirical evidence. It means being educated, and not just spouting off what we read, but having first-hand experience. 

So to follow up my last post, I believe the anecdotal evidence clearly shows that periodization works. And that training on a stability ball is an excellent means to develop functional strength. Maybe not maximal strength, but how many of us are working with Olympic weight lifters?

[By the way, at that same conference in Aspen, one of the US Ski Team coaches gave a fantastic session outside in a park using functional training methods developing stability, power and core conditioning. They were awesome, hard to do, much more fun that the standard weight lifting procedures...and I BET there were no scientific studies as to their effectiveness! Only stronger bodies winning medals in downhill skiing...]

Here's to your training!

EDIT: Maybe I should get former Spinning MI, the brainy Jennifer Klau, to get her opinion and $.02 on this matter. She's getting her PhD in Ex Phys right now and is immersed in lab studies. She may disagree with me (or not) and/or provide reasons for why some things are not "scientifically proven" but generally accepted and why others aren't. And she might have more input on what Dr. Carl Foster said about periodization.

Hmmm, I might have to send her a message on Facebook, or a "tweet" - she's always on Twitter - how can she be doing any research these days?! 

Just kidding, Jen! I know you're working hard! ;-)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Periodization has no scientific validation??

I get the Heart Zones newsletter and the November issue had a short blurb that really caught my eye. Carl Foster, PhD was quoted as saying:

Periodization of training has no scientific validation. There is no research that shows that periodizing your training is of any benefit. According to Carl Foster, Ph. D,. and past president of the American College of Sports Medicin (ACSM), "Periodization is how to mix various types of training to get optimal competitive result at the desired time. There are virtually no controlled data addressing the value of periodization." Additionally, Foster suggests that some of the originators of the periodization training system developed the program to match the cycle of steroid and other performance enhancing drugs to both conceal their use and to give their athletes the stress-strain cycle they needed to maximize their illegal use.

I don't know about you, but with so many educated and experienced coaches out there who have used periodization for so many years with great results, this blew my mind.

Another Spinning MI, Lisa Mona, was also confused by this and emailed me, wondering what we were missing. We went back and forth on it and she had the great idea to email Joe Friel and see what his response would be. This is what he responded to her:
Hi Lisa,
Thanks for your note. There is some truth to the fact that there is very little in the way of research to support periodization. But the few studies that have been done generally support it. This is kind of like saying there is no research proving that breathing helps performance. That would also be true but doesn’t mean you shouldn’t breathe while exercising.
Periodization has its roots in the early 1900s before steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs were known of.

Best wishes,

I for one am very pleased with his answer (and grateful to Lisa for seeking him out). He says it all in just a few short sentences, doesn't he?! To be honest, aside from a few other "controversies" about periodization and base building, I cannot find anything else that backs up what Carl Foster is saying (if any of you find anything, please let me know).

It's not that I'm not open to new ideas about established methods or techniques of training. I mean, look at how long the fitness and training world said that lactic acid was the cause of acidosis and fatigue? Or that 220-Age is your Maximum heart rate? (ugh, we'll be dealing with that one for awhile I'm afraid). There is new science all the time that refutes conventional wisdom and beliefs. 

But there are so many successful trainers and athletes who use periodization with great results, I don't think it will go away any time soon. However, it is safe to say that there is still a large amount that we do not know about how the body responds to training, or why. Scientists still do not know the mechanism for increased capillarization, one of the great benefits of training aerobically that helps increase endurance.

It used to be believed that during the base building period, athletes should do no high intensity training whatsoever. One of the culprits fueling this belief was the "exploding capillary theory", which assumed that high intensity efforts will push too much blood too quickly through the newly forming capillaries, hindering their production. This fueled the idea that you should only work the low end during this base training. 

I knew an athlete here in Vail a few years ago (a professional mountain bike racer) who trained with Rick Crawford, a well-known cycling coach (he trained Lance Armstrong years ago. His current professional cyclist client is Tom Danielson, once on the Discovery team, he now races for Garmin Chipotle). Crawford told this athlete that he should not even run upstairs during his two months of base training (and of course, forbade him from skiing) for fear he might hamper his capillarization! I went to a presentation by Rick at my club about 6 or 7 years ago (Tom Danielson was there too) where he explained this "exploding capillary" theory. 

[Note: As far as I know, Crawford didn't title it that - the coaching and scientific community labeled it "exploding capillary theory" after the fact.]

Now, it is generally accepted that during the base building phase of a periodized program, in order not to let the "ceiling drop" too much, an occasional effort to threshold should be performed. This way, while focusing on the lower end, you don't lose as much of the high end. Different coaches preach differing amounts of this higher intensity, but it makes sense to me. For the most part, it is generally accepted that 80-90% of one's efforts should be in the aerobic range during this first phase of a periodized program.

I stuck to the "No HIT" during base building belief for years, but have recently altered my views about base building, and encourage my clients and students to ride at threshold once every 10 days or so. 

We train like athletes in my Spinning classes, and that includes spending 6-8 weeks each winter in a periodized base building program.  And I consider all my students "athletes", even the out-of-shape, newbies! If an athlete will benefit from base training, then why should someone in the fitness realm not benefit as well?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes We Can....

....all become coaches!

[Just borrowing the slogan from this momentous inauguration day in the US; I can hardly contain the joy I am feeling for our country, the world and our future! Yes we can!]

I've been a little pre-occupied lately (with my bike tour business, with promoting my ebook, with building a new house, with life, with skiing, with the inauguration, etc), and I've been intending to write my next post on building your self-confidence to become more of a coach. But it's proving to be harder (and more time consuming) than I imagined, because there's so much I want to share with you! (ahhh, perhaps the subject of another e-book!)

In my last post I prompted you to do a little self-reflection and ask yourself:

Do YOU perceive yourself as a coach?
Do you believe that you CAN be a coach?

It all comes down to self-confidence and believing that you have a lot to offer your students. If you don't believe it yourself, how could they possibly consider you a coach?

I feel this subject is a very important one, and I don't want to write a quick, glib post on how to build your self-confidence; I need to put a little more time into it. So, I'll feed you my ideas on building your self-confidence as an instructor (whether a newbie or veteran) a little at a time. And I will intersperse it with some other timely information that I've been intending on talking about, and that is the controversial subject of aerobic base building.

So, keep coming back, keep posting your fantastic comments, keep believing in yourself, and keep empowering your students to go beyond their self-perceived limitations. 

That goes for you as well: you never know your limits until you surpass them, so keep surpassing them!

If you have not read the comments from my last post, go back and do so. You'll find some great reflections by instructors on whether they perceive themselves as coaches. I guarantee you'll learn a lot from their comments.

One of my favorites:
They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Think about this the next time you teach.

Yes you can!

Nothing limits us except ourselves, for the truest aspect of every person is unbounded potential.
Deepak Chopra

Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
Robert Allen



PS I am joining all the girls from my book club tonight at an inauguration party, and to us it's the biggest party of the year. I feel that today is the most important day of the decade, perhaps even my lifetime. It's a non-partisan belief that this is the step in the right direction to fix this country, our economy, our earth, and our place in the world! I just hope I can get up for my 6 a.m. class tomorrow without too much difficulty!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Anyone can instruct, but being a coach must be earned

The title to this post comes from a comment left by a reader on my last post. It really got me thinking. Yeah, you can decide you're going to be a "coach" and hang up your shingle The Coach is IN. But what do you have to back it up?  

You don't need years of experience to be a coach, but you're not going to graduate to "coachdom" the day after your orientation either. One must allow the time to learn, to experience, to make mistakes (and learn from them), to internalize what works and what doesn't work, and to develop your style. It might take a new instructor six months, it might take a year. If you've been in the industry awhile before teaching IDC, it might only take a month or two. But you want to earn the respect of your students on the way so they perceive you as a coach.

Being a coach requires a willingness to grow and change, and it takes a commitment; a commitment to learning and a commitment to your students. I know you're committed to learning - you're reading this blog! ;-) But you should also seek out continuing education courses (in-home, on-line or at conferences or seminars), read books on training, and read books on cycling. The Spinning website has a long list of great in-home CED. [Better yet, come see me at WSSC!]

But it's not just what you say, it's how you say it. Make sure to read books or articles on presentation and communication skills. Leading an indoor cycling class (or any fitness class) is really no different than being a presenter, so you're going to want to brush up your public speaking skills! (Tips on how to do this will be the subject of a future post).

After my last post, did you ask yourself if your students perceive you as a coach or as an instructor?

First, let's define the difference?

An instructor gives commands. She tells the students what to do as she decides to do them. Sometimes there's no rhyme or reason to the movements in class, and sometimes she's even following a profile in her head (or on an index card taped to her handlebars), but because she fails to let the students know what it is, they don't know the difference. They're just following orders. There's no greater goal to the class but to breathe hard and create a pool of sweat underneath the bike.

A coach, on the other hand, always has a plan and objectives, and explains them to her students. This shows the students that she's prepared and that she has her students' best interest at heart. A coach will begin the class with the following:
  • This is what we're going to do today.
  • This is how we're going to do it (how many, how long, how intense, via what mode, etc)
  • This is how you should feel
  • This is the benefit that this training session will provide you
  • And this is what we're going to do next week (and next month)
It's entirely possible that the individuals described in the two scenarios above are utilizing the exact same profile, doing the same movements to the same music.  However, the students' experience will be entirely different.  In the first instance, the students aren't let in on the what, how and why. They may go too hard (and as a result, not be able to finish the desired segment), or too easy (and therefore not achieve the desired result). They work hard, and might feel good after class, but there is rarely any connection from one class to the next and they rarely feel a spark of inspiration.

In the second scenario, the students know what to expect, and are going to be inspired to work harder (or easier if the format requires - but the operative word is inspired). Their perception is that the instructor is well prepared, and that he has planned this training session out just for them. They're not in the dark about what's coming next and can plan their efforts accordingly (e.g. how hard and for how long); therefore they are much more likely to achieve results. They sense a flow in every class, and from class to class and know how this training session fits into the long-term plan.

Their opinions about the second person will be different than the first, even for the same exact ride

Your goal as a coach is to empower, inspire and educate your students. Do this by learning how to present your class and your goals to them in a professional way. Practice communication and presentation techniques that show your students that you want to help them reach their goals and are planning your classes with that in mind. It may be your goal, but if you don't let them know it through your communication prior to, during and after your classes, they'll just think of you as just another instructor. A good one maybe, but you want to go from Good to Great don't you? (to borrow the title of a very good book on management that applies to coaching as well).
Here's an example of describing the goals for an upcoming segment in a class, and what it will do for your students:

"We're going to do four 4-minute intervals on hills, to just above your threshold. For each one, I want you to focus on a different goal. The first one you'll stay seated working a harder grade at 65 rpm, focusing on powering through it with a smooth pedal stroke. The second one you'll do jumps on a hill with smooth transitions, controlling your intensity with your breathing. The third one will be a fast seated climb, maintaining the same intensity with less steepness and higher cadence of 80 rpm. And on the fourth one you'll stand up for most of it, controlling your cadence to 75-80 rpm, relaxing the upper body, and noticing how this is different from your seated climb. 

During the 2-minute breaks on the flats in between each hill, you're going to use your breathing to recover quickly and prepare yourself mentally for the next climb. Our goal is to become a better and stronger climber while improving our smooth pedal strokes and increasing muscular endurance. Are you ready to start? Great, let's go!"
Can you take this example and apply this concept to different segments of road? Here's some homework. Write a brief description of how you would coach your students through the following (give the what, when, how long, why and what they should feel):
  • a 10-minute flat road at an aerobic pace, cadence 90-ish rpm
  • a 15-min tempo pace with 2 minute high cadence seated drills to 110 rpm
  • a 30-minute rolling hills segment
  • a long flat with several high intensity jumping segments
  • a 20-minute climb with switchbacks
  • 5 high intensity short intervals to 5-8 beats above LT
  • 3 medium length threshold intervals
  • Three 10-minute loops of increasing intensity

The next question I want you to ask yourself is the following:
Do YOU perceive yourself as a coach?
Do you believe that you can be a coach?

We'll talk about that in the next post.

Now, go out and empower your students!