How to use “Indoor Cycling Tidbits” to freshen up your classes

As an indoor cycling instructor I always thought that finding songs to use for my rides was the easy part.  How best to use the song to compliment the overall ride profile was the hard part.  Making the most out of each song requires (for me, anyway) lots of prep time.  I first map out the song on paper, listen through it several times, decide which riding technique it would best compliment, make a rough draft, practice it myself, tweak it again, try it in a live class, and finally tweak it once more based on how it went in class. 

Over the years, like most instructors, I’ve accumulated many, many folders worth of song profiles.  I’d hate for all that time and effort to be wasted filed away in a cabinet, so I’m sharing it with you with the hopes it will save you at least a few hours of prep time.  Each week I’ll publish a new song and profile that has worked well for me and my riders. 


Indoor Cycling Tidbit (ICT) Philosophy

I currently hold, or have held in the past, a few different indoor cycling certifications.  Between them, there are vast differences in philosophies and guidelines regarding everything from profile designs, verbiage, cadences, and even the importance of music at all (there is a school of thought that the music should be secondary compared to the overall ride profile.)

When I used to teach at clubs that offered the Spinning® program exclusively, I adhered strictly to the Spinning® guidelines.  However, over the past few years I’ve been teaching in non program-specific studios, and my ride profiles have morphed to include influences of other indoor cycling programs, as well as honoring my natural teaching style.

I find that connecting the musical landmarks in a song with the ride profile makes sense most of the time. That strategy has never not resonated well with my riders, so I continue to do it.  It also innately energizes me, which in turn helps deliver a better experience to the room. (There are certain ride profiles that by their very nature cannot adhere to the music, and if you are an instructor who leads those rides, Indoor Cycling Tidbits probably won’t be too useful for you.) 

Now, there is an important caveat:  While I think it’s fun to connect the movements with the music, it should always make sense within the context of the overall ride profile.  Otherwise it’s just choreography on a bike for no reason, instead of a motivating strategy to a specified goal. 


Why detailed songs and not entire ride profiles?

The odds of you taking an entire playlist verbatim and using it in your classes are very low.  You’re most likely going to choose the songs that resonate with you anyway, and ignore the rest.  So I’d rather give you more detail on fewer songs because I think you’ll get more mileage out of it.  After all, as I mentioned above, programming a song is often the most time consuming part of planning, not choosing a song.  

Plus, that’s not the way my mind works either.  I never file away entire ride profiles and playlists.  I file away songs in their corresponding folders based on types of terrain (flats, climbs, sprints, etc.) When it comes time to create a new ride, I pick and choose songs/profiles from the folders based on my overall ride focus (interval ride, endurance ride, etc.)  Then, the next week, if I decide the overall ride profile worked well, but I want to change out some of the songs it’s easy to do without interrupting the flow of the overall profile.  For example, I could exchange the existing “Mixed Climb with jumps” song for another “Mixed Climb with jumps” song without affecting the overall ride focus. 


How should you use this?

Just like I do.  Responsibly within the overall context of your ride focus.  If you’re searching for a seated flat song or a sprints song that fits within your existing profile, see if one of the ICT fits the bill.  

The categories are divided into: Mixed Climbs, Mixed Climbs with Jumps, Seated Climbs, Mixed Terrain, Seated Flats, Seated Flats with Sprints, and Mixed Flats. 

You may  have to tweak the beginnings or the endings to make a better flow from one song to the next; in other words, if the ICT mixed climb profile has you back in the saddle for the last 30 seconds but the next song you selected has you starting in a standing climb, it will make more sense to adjust the first song to stay in a standing climb.  

I’d also highly suggest practicing and thoroughly getting to know the song prior to presenting in a live class.  While I always bring notes to each class (there are a lot of details to remember after all) you must know the material well enough to be able to give the riders a brief synopsis of what to expect during that song and be able to pre-cue changes before they happen.  


What about the symbols?

I use the Spinning® symbols in my notes because they are an easy way to simplify my notes when I’m teaching.  I also subscribe to the Spinning® philosophy of defining a flat vs. a climb by using  cadence. Period.  If you’re going 80 RPM or above, you’re on a flat.   If you’re going 60-80 you’re climbing. 

If you aren’t familiar with the symbols, here is a cheat sheet for ya:

 Indoor Cycling Tidbits


This part is kind of a big deal…

I’m assuming that if you’re reading this you are qualified to teach indoor cycling and already understand the basics of safety, proper technique and form, and  cueing because I make very few references about these items in the notes.  This is not a resource about how to teach, it’s merely inspiration and ideas for those who are already qualified to teach.  

I also make no mention of heart rate, watts, power, perceived exertion, etc.  However, these aspects are always integral to my rides (and any type of training for that matter.) I’m a huge proponent of training with purpose, and if you don’t measure, it’s hard to do that.   There was just no easy way to include any of that in my notes without going down a never-ending rabbit hole that would no longer make this a quick and easy resource for instructors.  As an instructor you are responsible for knowing your group and the best way to integrate these tools of measurement into these ICT profiles.  


Have more questions?  Let me know.  Have a song for which you’d like a profile?  Let me know. 

About Kristin Dowell

Kristin is a group fitness instructor and personal trainer with certifications from ACE and AFAA, is qualified to coach over a dozen specialty programs, and is the creator of 3 exercise DVDs. From creating physical training programs for fire academies, to teaching preschool dance, (and just about everything in between)...
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