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Spin Class Ideas: Maximum Effort Interval Training

Folks doing interval training in a spin class

As a fitness instructor, have you ever asked your Group X class to give their all during high-intensity interval training only to watch as they held back in the execution? You tell them to go all out, and while your participants are working really hard, you know they still have a little bit more to give.

When we take group fitness classes, most of us have a tendency to hold back. Especially if we’re not sure what’s to come for the rest of the class, we’re hesitant to really give it our all in case we need more energy and effort later on. And, that maximum effort is an uncomfortable feeling that takes a lot of willpower and determination to achieve. Plus, it’s difficult to sustain that max effort for a long period of time. While I know it’s almost impossible for riders to truly work at “maximum” level, we all can recognize when we feel like participants are giving their best in the moment or holding back.

So, how do we bring out the very best effort from our participants during sprint interval training in spin class?

Recently, I tried a new strategy in cueing sprint intervals in my spin class.

We’ve done 30/30 intervals before — 30 seconds of maximum, breathless work and 30 second recovery. But, sometimes we struggle with truly getting breathless by the end of the sprint.

This time I tweaked my cues for the intervals. I asked folks to give me their max effort right out of the gate.

Go as fast as you can possibly go and hold it for as long as you can (within the 30 seconds).

So, if you can’t hold that effort for 30 seconds, that’s okay. Instead, you would dial it down and continue at a “hard” pace until the 30 seconds are up.

The response was amazing — wheels were flying and legs were pumping fast! And, I was blown away with how long participants could hold that maximum level of effort. Just about everyone was able to keep with it for the entire 30 seconds of the first sprint.

I think part of the reason this was so successful was because it deviated from the status quo. We don’t normally do our intervals like that, so the change was appreciated and embraced.

And, since members knew they could slow down whenever they wanted, they allowed themselves to tap into that maximum effort mentality.

While I loved the response I received on these intervals, I don’t think I can incorporate them into the spin class routine every week. These intervals are more of a special option to be used when riders need fresh motivation. Otherwise, the cue will lose its impact.

Also, be careful with how many intervals you do in one class. If these intervals are going to more challenging than usual for participants, you’ll want to consider doing less, so they can really give their all when called upon.

Try incorporating this interval training mentality in your next spin class. Feel free to tweak the instruction to meet your teaching style.

For more tips on what to say to a Group X class to encourage great work, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

 

 

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Group X Motivational Cue: Don’t ID It, Just Let it Go

Group X Instructor sharing a motivational cue

As group fitness (or Group X) instructors, we’re always on the lookout for new motivational cues to share with our exercise classes. We all have our go-to phrases to encourage members to work harder, faster, etc. However, there’s nothing quite like the moment when you bring in a new cue that has the room buzzing with inspiration. For me, that’s one of my favorite moments in a fitness class.

I stumbled upon a new motivational cue this week that’s stuck with me. To be fair, it’s not a motivational cue in the traditional sense. This isn’t one of those, “work harder,” or, “do more,” types of instruction. However, it still plays a key role in fitness, because it helps participants clear their minds to focus and give their all to the task at hand.

The motivational cue? Whatever’s stressing it out, you don’t even need to ID it, just choose to let it go.

Shout out to Yoga with Adriene for introducing me to this cue in her, “Yoga for Stress Relief,” YouTube video. You can hear it at 8:00 minutes (embedded below).

Now, I’ve heard variations of this phrase before. And, this one hits close to home, because I personally have a wandering mind. There are many classes where I’ve gotten lost in my thoughts and come back ten minutes later to realize I totally forgot I was even taking a Group X class. So, I usually tell my class something like, “clear your mind,” or, “leave everything else at the door”. But, I worry that my cues encourage folks to think about whatever’s bothering them, ultimately making things worse. Instead, help your class let go of what’s clouding their brain without taking the time or energy to focus on the stress itself.

While this phrase is a great way to help members destress and enjoy your fitness class, it’s also a nice segue to encourage them to refocus on their workout. When folks aren’t distracted, they’re able to do better. Period. We all know maximum effort takes a person’s full attention and nobody can concentrate on their workout when they’re focusing on residue stress from work, relationships, etc.

Of course, this might not work with the style of your class, but if you like it, feel free to play around with the phrase until you find a genuine way to add it to your arsenal of group fitness cues. The goal is to liberate your Group X class — even just for an hour — from the stresses of everyday life. And, at least for me, this phrase does just that.

For more Group X cue ideas, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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‘Woo’ Girls No More: Group X Class Check-in Tips

How are you? In most of the U.S., this question is often answered with a “good” or “fine”. But in many group fitness (Group X) studios scattered across the country, the appropriate response to that question is a variation of the phrase “woo”. I’m here to not only give you permission, but to encourage you, to break-up with the woo in your next Group X class.

Why? Because there are other questions or call to actions that will elicit the response you want.

Ultimately, when you ask a question expecting the woo response, you’re asking Group X class participants if they’re okay and if they’re following along. With the woo, most folks do not respond. If they do respond, it’s typically not in unison, which takes away from the momentum of the class. And to the chagrin of instructors everywhere still wearing leotards, leg warmers and hair scrunchies, the woo is wasted air — it doesn’t provide you with any useful information about your participants.

Lily and Robin talking about woo girls in a Group X class.

Now, before I go any further, some of us are meant to be woo girls. When the instructor asks how everyone’s doing, the whole room responds in perfect unison as if they were extras in a Disney movie. If that’s your style and you like it, then own it! As long as it feels authentic, you can ask your Group X class whatever question feels right, in the moment. But, if you’re still trying to find or evolve your group exercise teaching style, here’s a look at a few ways to check in with participants without demanding the woo.

Thumbs up/head nods

Rather than asking your class to say something, you can ask your class to give a thumbs up or nod their head. For some, this will feel less invasive or embarrassing. When you’re in the back of the class and don’t want any attention on you, it can feel unnerving to woo.

Instead, after you finish providing instruction or just finished a really challenging drill, ask your participants to give you a thumbs up. It can sound like this, “Give me a thumbs up if you understand and you’re ready to own this next interval,” or, “If you feel like you’ve finished your recovery and are ready for the next sprint, give me a thumbs up.” That way, you get the desired feedback from your class and your members still feel comfortable.

If/then statements

This is similar to a thumbs up, but it requires your participants to talk. Instead, of asking an open-ended question (e.g. how are you?) that puts your class on the spot, ask a direction question and feed them the answer. For example, you can say, “If you’re ready to do this next interval, say yes,”  or, “if you understand the next drill and are ready to give it all you’ve got, say ‘let’s go’.”

If/then statements are great, because they don’t require a lot of thinking. All your participants need to do is listen to what you’re saying and then respond. Then, you get what you wanted out of it, which is feedback that they’re still following and/or are ready to go.

Visible scan of the Group X class 

One option for checking in on participants is simply to scan the room. Once you’ve taught a class for a few weeks, you’ll start to get familiar with the participants. Their body language will tell you everything you need to know — how hard they’re working, do they understand, etc.

If you’re getting blank stares when you explain a new drill, don’t be alarmed. That could be how your participants look first thing in the morning or after a long day at work. More than likely, they’re following along just fine and will do a great job on your exercises. Have confident in your lesson plan and teaching abilities — allow participants to enjoy the class without feeling the need to give you feedback throughout. If you still want feedback, you can ask for it after class when everyone’s putting equipment away and packing up.

Ultimately, how you decide to ask for feedback and check in with your class is up to you. Take a chance and try something new in your class next time. Once you find a strategy that feels authentic, your classes will benefit.

For more suggestions on how to communicate with your Group X class, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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How to Cue a Group Fitness Class Without Wasting Time

Group Fitness Instructor Cueing an Exercise

When the energy is high in your group fitness (or Group X) class, the last thing you want to do is slow things down to explain the next activity. If members stand around for too long, you’ll risk losing momentum as their effort and attention start to decline.

Instead, you’ll want to find a balance between providing ample Group X instruction and getting the fitness class moving. Here are a few cueing and fitness tips to strike the right balance.

Share basic cues first, start the exercise and feed in more cues as they work.

Most participants have a basic understanding of standard movements, like lunges, squats, bicep curls, etc. For exercises like these, get the class started with a short sentence, like, “grab your dumbbells, because we’re going to do alternate forward lunges”. Once you have the class doing the exercise, then you can provide additional form and safety cues. I’ve found it’s easier to cue form once the class has started, because then you can share tips based on what they’re actually doing (e.g. if members’ lunges are too narrow).

The same technique can be used in a progression exercise. Start the group doing a simple exercise first, continue to cue, then add on progressions once the class has mastered it. For example, you can cue, “grab your dumbbells, because we’re going to do alternate forward lunges and then add on”. The class can quickly start their lunges and then you can cue changes, like going faster, slower, or holding the lunge. Also, you can easily transition to a compound exercise, adding bicep curls or upright rows while the class is still doing the lunge.

While they’re still completing the last exercise, demonstrate the next one.

Especially if you’re ending a sequence with an isometric exercise, you can have your class continue to hold it while you demonstrate the next move. That way, you can physically demonstrate the exercise and verbally explain it, so participants can seamlessly transition to the next move.

For example, while your class is in an isometric squat, you can reveal the next exercise at the front of the group fitness room. From there, participants can go right into the next move. You will have participants that break when you break, but that’s okay. Some people are kinetic learners, and only learn by trying the exercise with you. But, other folks will appreciate that they’re not standing around while you explain what’s coming.

Introduce a series of exercises at the beginning and then do each one back-to-back.

If you’re planning to do a few different exercises in a series, you can demonstrate all of them first and then the group fitness class can do one right after the other when you say “go”. This works great during times when members naturally need a break, like after an interval or another series has ended. Folks will appreciate the rest in between series.

Start the move on your own and then ask the group fitness class to, “Join me when you’re ready.”

There are some exercises that are complicated to explain. Sometimes, it’s easier just to do the move, find the pace you want and ask the class to jump in. That way, everyone is on beat (lookin’ at you, my rhythm teachers!) and everyone has an example to mirror.

Use phrases your class will recognize.

How many of your friends know what an abductor or adductor is? What’s the different between an upright and bent over row? There are certain phrases you’ll have to explain the first few times in class, but once members are familiar with it, you can quickly say the term and go right into the exercise. Be sure to go back and explain those phrases every once in a while as a refresher, especially when you have new participants.

For example, I’ll pick a name for each ab exercise we do (i.e. crunches, scissor kicks, circle, etc.). After we go through the series once in a class, then we can do it a second time much faster. I can just call out a name and they can recall the move.

If you feel like you’re spending too much time explaining exercises and the class is starting to get restless, start testing the group exercise ideas above in your fitness class. It feels great once you’re able to find a balance between instructions and execution. And I know your group fitness members will appreciate it most of all.

For more tips and tricks, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.

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Spin Class Ideas: Using Visualization as Fitness Motivation

Group X Instructors Discussing Spin Class Ideas

You might have the perfect spin class ideas or playlist planned, but sometimes you put on your Group X mic, get in front of the class and realize you’ve lost your participants’ attention. That’s especially important in a spin class — you need to provide fitness motivation for your participants or else you’ll lose everyone’s attention and, ultimately, their work effort.

One of my favorite techniques to inspire my Group X class is visualization. Help your participants create mental images in their head to boost their confidence and encourage effort. These images can be anything you want them to be, as long as they’re relevant to your participants and easy to follow. You can also have everyone close their eyes, if you’d like.

Here are three tried-and-true visualization story lines:

The mountain of doom

I kid, I kid. I don’t really call it the mountain of doom, but it sounds cool, right? My participants are usually pretty focused during shorter, quick-paced intervals. But, when it comes to longer intervals or slower leg speeds, they don’t need to focus so much on moving their feet, so their mind starts to wander.

As soon as we start a segment like this, I begin to describe a looming mountain (or hill) in the distance that we’re preparing to climb. It goes something like this:

Picture yourself in a forest at sunset. It’s just you, your bike and nature. You look up ahead and see the sun setting just over the peak of a towering mountain. My friends, we’re going to climb to the top in this next song. Let’s make it to the top before sun sets and it’s too dark to see. What do you need to do to make it?

As soon as the song (or segment) ends, you can move on and never reference the mountain again. Or, you can circle back to the same mountain, by pointing out another peak or sprinting downhill.

The pack of riders

This one is pretty popular in spin classes, since many instructors will try to mimic an outdoor ride. And I think this technique is here to stay, because classes really seem to enjoy this one.

You’ll want to start by describing the scene. Pick the number of riders you’ll be riding with and the landscape. Then, explain the situation. You can use the pack of riders for intervals (working hard to overcome the rider ahead of you) or endurance (trying to keep up with a pack that’s a little too fast for you), among other scenarios.

Here’s a sample of an interval visualization:

You’re on a flat road at the back of a pack of four riders and you want to pass them up one by one. So, we’re going to do an interval for 30 seconds where you go as hard as you can without going breathless — you don’t want them to see you “sweat”. From there, we’ll take a 20 second break and do it again. On the last interval (#4), you can go breathless.

Your special someone

In this situation, you have your participants picture someone else, whether it’s a friend, family member or someone else important to them. Then, you explain that for this next song, we’re riding for that person.

You can do a lot of different things with it. I’ve done an interval drill, where with each interval we thought of a different person that could use our positive energy. You can also use this technique for longer segments with greater resistance.

Here’s an example:

I want you to think of someone else that you want to ride for during this next song. It might be someone that couldn’t make it today or just a friend that really needs some good vibes today. Now, you two are riding on a tandem bike and you’re at the bottom of a hill. You know that in order to make it up this hill you’re going to have to do the work. Help your friend make it up the hill.

These visualization story lines are great ways to mix things up and give your Group X class a little extra fitness motivation. Above all, you have to say what feels genuine and right for you. Take one of the spin class ideas above, add your own flair to it, and give it a try next week. As long as it comes from the heart, your participants will love it.

For more Group X and spin class ideas, check out the fitness motivation and cueing page.