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Here’s Recent Constructive Feedback from One of My Group X Participants

Group Exercise Instructor Implementing Feedback

It’s very rare for me to get feedback in my Group X classes. Usually most participants will leave with a smile and simply say, “thank you”. To tell if they like the class, I wait to see if they show up again, and most do! But, I never get to hear if they like the intervals or a certain song. Once you’ve taught the same group of folks for a while, you can start to recognize participants’ demeanor and get familiar with how they act when they like something, but other than that, specific, useful feedback is far and few between.

So, I was so appreciative when a participant came up to me after class one day to share a suggestion. Here was the feedback:

“Make sure the effort and pace match the beat of the song, especially at the very end of the song.”

I am guilty of listening to songs for just the first 30 seconds or so, and if I like the beat, I’ll add it to the queue. But, there have been numerous times where the song will end in a weird way, either by cutting out early, audience applause or just a slow, drawn out finish. In the past, I’ve told participants to, “go faster than the beat,” but this person explained that it wasn’t enjoyable to do that.

Lucky for me, there is such an easy fix. Now, I make sure to listen to the end of the song — each and every week — as a reminder of how it ends. Sometimes I’ll write notes to myself to point out when I should do the intervals to make sure I’m doing them when the beat is most intense and upbeat.

Something to think about in your classes, as well. If you think your participants don’t notice when you’re slacking off, think again. Also, it’s a good idea to ask for feedback every once in a while, especially if you’re first starting with a new class or have been teaching the same class for a while. And, of course, listen to all of the song at least once right before you teach it — always.

For more tips, check out the group exercise ideas page.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich.

 

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April 2017 Links I Love for Fitness Professionals

April Links I Love for Fitness Instructors

It’s that time again! Another month has come and gone, along with a lot of great fitness and health articles and studies. For me, April was a blur, between celebrating friends’ birthdays, picking up my wedding dress (5 months to go!) and keeping up at work. I’m really looking forward to May — lots of planned family and friend time, and I’m hoping for good, sunshine-y weather. Before we jump into May, I want to take a second to look back at the top articles in fitness and health, so that other fitness professionals, like yourself, can keep up with the latest trends and happenings.

If your month was anything like mine, it was quite the challenge to stay in the loop on everything that happened in the fitness industry in April. There were a few important studies you’ll want to brush up on and viral articles you’ll want to make sure you read. That way, you can come to your next group exercise class armed with the most up-to-date knowledge to better their experience.

Here’s a look at my favorite fitness and wellness articles from April that fitness professionals should read.

  1. One study found that high-intensity intervals were the best for making our cells regenerate, so on a cellular level, interval training helps us look and feel younger (reported by Inc. magazine). I tried to explain this to my spin class, and as soon as I mentioned “mitochondria” their eyes glazed over. So, if you do share this information in your class, be sure to keep it simple.
  2. The 5 Most Common Excuses Holding You Back by Susie Moore via Greatist. Yes, I’m obsessed with Susie Moore — if you ever catch me reading one of her articles, you will see me nodding along in agreement the whole time, eyes affixed to the screen. She speaks to my soul.
  3. 10 reasons why you should be stretching by Jessica Matthews via ACE Fitness. If you’re already a fitness professional, chances are you already know the benefits of stretching, so this is a great tool to share with your classes to encourage them to stick around and do stretches after exercise.
  4. How to do a bodyweight split squat via New York Times Well blog. I love the angles and color of this post. Great exercise to add to your next group exercise class, too.
  5. 3 Lessons About Mental Toughness You Can Learn From Yoda via Tor Constantino for Entrepreneur magazine. We all know participants show up to your group exercise classes so you can motivate them and get them to work harder than they would on their own. These mental toughness tips are great to try in your next class.
  6. If your talk doesn’t do these three things, don’t give it, via Neil Pasricha for Fast Company. While we all know how important it is to provide participants with a safe, effective workout, it’s also just as important to entertain and educate. We need to think of ourselves as not only lesson planners, but also public speakers and teachers.
  7. 5 must-do exercise to do if you want a stronger core, via Lee Boyce for Muscle & Strength. Crunches are a thing of the past, yet many participants will still show up expecting to do “abs” for the last 10 minutes of class. Here are some great core exercises to try that will get away from crunches and sit-ups.
  8. Why Vanessa Hudgens never wears a shirt to the gym via Haley Goldberg for Self.com. Whether you teach in just a sports bra or not, this is a trend that seems to be getting attention right now.

If you liked this roundup, you may also like the fitness and wellness articles from March and February. You can also check out the group exercise ideas page.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich!

(Image Source: Vanessa Hudgens’ Instagram/Self.com) 

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What’s Your Group Exercise Instructor Uniform?

Group Exercise Instructor Uniform

As group exercise instructors, we put a lot of effort into our class presentation, including our motivational cues, voice and gestures. It’s important to note that even things like our appearance has an impact on what participants think of our class. If we come into class disheveled with our hair always in our face or constantly adjusting our clothes, participants are going to have a reaction. So, it is important to put some time and effort into your group exercise instructor uniform (your workout clothes, hair and overall hygiene) to make sure you’re giving the best impression to your clients.

Appearance is a very personal topic, and it is important to let your personality shine through when you’re teaching. Don’t feel like you have to follow the mold of what you think a “typical group exercise instructor” looks like. Participants truly value authenticity above all else. When it comes to what you wear, there are a couple common questions and dress codes I’ve seen group exercise instructors swear by. I wanted to share these with you today, and then you can decide for yourself if it’s a uniform that fits your style.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when picking out your group exercise instructor uniform.

  1. Will I wear colorful clothes?

Bright colors are super popular right now, so it’s understandable that you want to wear bright colors as you teach. I do think it’s surprising that not all instructors wear colors. Some swear by sticking with neutrals, like black and grey. The argument here is that black is considered a professional, serious color. If you’re wearing all black, folks might look to you as a leader of the room. I do wear a lot of colors, but the one thing I admire about folks that only wear black workout clothes is they always look put together. There’s something about a monochromatic or very blended outfit that looks both effortless and stylish.

  1. Should I teach in just a sports bra?

This is a very touchy question: can you teach in just a sports bra? Nowadays, those high-waisted workout pants make it all the easier to teach in a sports bra and look professional. I would look at the dress code of the other instructors before stripping down, because some gyms are pretty modest. Showing a lot of skin might also make participants uncomfortable, so proceed with caution.

And, speaking of sports bras do your best to make sure your girls are supported during your workout. It’s distracting when an instructor has cleavage or starts jumping and moving in an unsupportive sports bra.

  1. How should I do my hair?

Some instructors will always have their hair falling down, and regularly fix their hair in class. Again, it’s distracting and takes away from the professionalism. I recommend securing your hair as best you can so that it stays put and doesn’t require your attention at all in class.

  1. Should I wear brand names?

Your participants are very impressionable, and the clothing choices you make will have an impact on them. I try to limit the brand names (e.g. Nike) that I wear, because I don’t want to use the power I hold to influence my participants’ consumer decisions. Especially in certain geographic areas I’ve taught in, like the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, there are a lot of participants that come in expensive workout clothes (think: Lulu Lemon). I want participants to feel comfortable taking my class without needing expensive gear or equipment. I may wear a nice pair of Lulu’s one day, but always try to balance it with non-descript capri pants on other days, as well.

The group exercise instructor uniform is a very sensitive topic. You want to balance your own desire for self-expression with your responsibilities as a role model to your participants. When in doubt, I usually err on the side of caution. If you are ever uncertain about what to wear, I recommend talking to your group exercise director or a colleague you trust.

For more tips, check out the group exercise ideas page.

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Why I have an ACE Group Fitness Certification to Teach Group X Classes

ACE Group Fitness Certification handbook

If you want to become a Group X instructor, you’ve likely started researching different fitness certifications that you can get to teach, including the ACE Group Fitness certification. You may have noticed that all you need is a Group X certification and CPR/AED to technically teach group fitness classes; however, some certifications are more impressive and widely-accepted than others.

If you have a specific gym in mind, you’ll want to make sure you ask the group exercise director that runs their program what fitness certifications they’ll accept. It might also be worth emailing the gyms nearby to see what fitness certifications they require in case you decide down the road you want to teach there. Otherwise, you’ll have to decide for yourself what certification to take.

Here’s why I chose the ACE Group Fitness Certification.

When I was taking UCLA’s Fitness Leadership Program back in 2010, we were encouraged to take the ACE Fitness group exercise certification test, because it was one of the most accepted and respected options for Group X instructors. There were other choices, but this one was strongly encouraged. I didn’t think anything of it at the time and just selected the ACE Fitness test, but I was so glad I did.

Moving up to San Francisco Bay Area after college graduation, I started looking for gyms I could teach at, and every single one accepted the ACE Fitness certification. For reference, I’ve been on the group exercise instructor list at more than five gyms. A year in, one of the gyms I taught at ClubSport even changed its policy and required instructors to have either ACE or AFAA nationally-accredited certification. Many instructors were frustrated that they had to go out and get another certification. If you’re just starting out, you can avoid this scenario by choosing ACE or AFAA in the first place.

For more advice, check out the group exercise ideas and tips page.

(Image source: ACE Fitness

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March 2017 Links I Love for Group Fitness Instructors

One of the group fitness instructors leading a class

March was a month to remember, with the SCW Fitness convention in Burlingame and family trips to San Francisco. Once again, it feels like we’re flying right into the next month. I’m pretty excited about April. This next month will kick off the six-month countdown to my wedding in October, and it’s the one-year anniversary of starting this fitness blog with you all, my fellow group fitness instructors!

Before we dive into April, I want to take a minute to share my favorite article links from the past month that group fitness instructors should check out. This is a round-up of the top fitness and health studies, tips, exercises and stories. For anyone that had a busy month, now is your chance to catch up on all the major news happenings in the industry. For example, a recent study was published revealing the benefits of strength training (see bullet 4).

Here are my favorite March 2017 links I love for group fitness instructors.

If you liked this roundup, you’ll also like my “Links I Love” roundup from February and January. You can also check out the group exercise ideas and tips page for more posts.

And, let’s connect on Twitter @GroupXMich.

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This “Best of 2016” Indoor Cycling Playlist Rocks the House

Indoor cycling instructor Michelle

Since last year was monumental for the music industry, I couldn’t get too far into 2017 without creating a “Best of 2016” indoor cycling playlist. First and foremost, we said goodbye to quite a few celebrities with significant contributions to music, like George Michael, David Bowie and Prince. 2016 also saw new Top 40s hits that are great for a spin class. So, I combined some of the chart-toppers with classics from those that passed last year to create the ultimate indoor cycling playlist of 2016.

I’ve done this one a bunch in my spinning classes, and it is a huge hit with participants. They always finish this ride out of breath and wiped. Now, whenever I’m in a pinch and need a go-to indoor cycling playlist, I’ll pull this one out.

Here is my member-approved “Best of 2016” indoor cycling playlist.

As you know, I like to teach my spinning classes in a series of exercises that we do twice or three times through, depending on the series. So, I pick a couple exercises to make up my series, and we stick to it throughout the class. That way, participants know what to expect, so they can go big when they’re supposed to and not hold back for fear of another interval around the corner.

Here’s the series — do it three times through. The first two songs are “climbs”, which means you add resistance throughout both songs. In addition, you can add some fun variations to the ride. Like if your bikes have monitors, you can ask participants to increase their RPMs or leg speed on the chorus, or go in and out of the saddle as you go, as long as everyone is increasing resistance throughout. Then, the last song is for intervals. I ask participants to track their distance for a 2-minute breathless interval in the first song.

Then in the second series, we use that distance as our guide. So, I’ll ask participants to do half the distance in half the time. Divide that original distance by two, and time the class for one minute. Finally, in the third series, we’ll again do half the distance in half the time, so divide the number by two and go that distance in thirty seconds. You choose how many intervals you’ll do for each song. I like to do the first one once. Then, series two has two 1-minute intervals. And, series three has three or four 30-second intervals.

The “Best of 2016” Indoor Cycling Playlist

  1. Cake By the Ocean, by DNCE [Warm-up]
  2. Let Me Love You, by DJ Snake feat. Justin Bieber [Song 1]
  3. Faith, by George Michael [Song 2]
  4. 24K Magic (Workout Remix), by Bruno Mars [Song 3] *Make sure to get the edited version of this song!*
  5. Just Hold On, by Steve Aoki & Louis Tomlinson [Song 1]
  6. Under Pressure, by Queen & David Bowie [Song 2]
  7. HandClap, by Fitz & The Tantrums [Song 3]
  8. Can’t Stop This Feeling, by Justin Timberlake [Song 1]
  9. Just Like Fire, by P!nk [Song2]
  10. 1999, by Price [Song 3]
  11. Take it to the Limit, by The Eagles [Cool Down]

Hope you enjoy! If you’re looking for more spinning songs and playlists, check out the workout routines and playlists page.

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St. Patrick’s Day Spinning Music Playlist & Routine (45 minutes)

St. Patrick's Day Spinning Music Playlist and Routine

It’s fun to make a themed spinning music playlist and routine for St. Patrick’s Day, since there’s a lot more room for creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. When it comes to Christmas and Halloween, you’re often stuck playing the chart topping hits, because that’s what participants expect. For St. Patrick’s Day, you can throw in a bunch of quirky songs loosely related to the holiday and get away with it.

I’m a big fan of tying together songs around a very broad theme, because then I can play the songs I want, and my participants get a kick out of the wackiness. This year, I’m adding a handful of Irish artists and songs about luck, gold and the color green to my St. Patrick’s Day spinning playlist and routine. Because, why not?

If you’re putting together a spin playlist of your own, I encourage you to have fun with it! If you think a song will be awesome for spinning, but doesn’t fit perfectly into a theme, that’s okay.

Here’s my St. Patrick’s Day spinning music playlist and routine.

As you know, I like to teach my spinning classes in a series of exercises that we do twice or three times through, depending on the series. So, I pick a couple exercises to make up my series, and we stick to it throughout the class. That way, participants know what to expect, so they can go big when they’re supposed to and not hold back for fear of another interval around the corner.

Since it is a St. Patrick’s Day spin playlist, the series is three songs long and the resistance on the bike mimics the shape of the rainbow. So, the resistance will get heavier for the first two songs and then dial down for the last song.

Here’s the series — do it three times through.

  • Song 1: Climb (Part 1). Start seated at a flat road resistance and moderate intensity. Add resistance periodically during the song to increase intensity, ending the song at hard intensity. If you do have monitors, try to stick to roughly the same RPM the whole song.
  • Song 2: Climb (Part 2). Keep the resistance on the bike and continue the climb. This time, every 30 seconds we’ll go from seated to standing (and vice versa). Each time you stand, add more resistance to continue to increase intensity, starting in hard intensity and ending at breathless intensity.
    • Please note: when you stand, the intensity of the ride will not be as challenging, so participants will get some reprieve during these times. Students will monitor what their intensity is like in the saddle (seated) going from hard to breathless.
  • Song 3: Bring the resistance back down so that it’s just a touch above flat road and you’re working at a high-moderate intensity. When the chorus comes, students will go faster, finding a breathless intensity. If you have monitors, encourage folks to increase their revolutions per minute (RPMs) by 10-20. At the end of the chorus, go back to that initial resistance and intensity.
    • Please note: if students need a longer recovery period, feel free to recover a bit longer at the beginning of the climb in Song 1.

The St. Patrick’s Day Spinning Music Playlist:

  1. Green Light, by John Legend [Warm up]
  2. The Other Side, by Bruno Mars (feat. Cee Lo Green and B.o.B.) [Song 1]
  3. Holiday, by Green Day [Song 2]
  4. Get Lucky, by Daft Punk (feat. Pharrell Williams) [Song 3]
  5. Pot of Gold, by The Game (feat. Chris Brown) [Song 1]
  6. California (There is No End to Love), by U2 (they’re Irish! :)) [Song 2]
  7. Lucky Strike, by Maroon 5 [Song 3]
  8. Gold Digger, by Kanye West (feat. Jamie Foxx; “clean” version) [Song 1]
  9. Brown Eyed Girl, by Van Morrison (also Irish!) [Song 2]
  10. Rainbow in the Dark, by Dio [Song 3]
  11. Lucky, by Jason Mraz (feat. Colbie Caillat) [Cool Down Pt. 1]
  12. Lucky, by Britney Spears [Cool Down Pt.2]

Hope you enjoy! If you’re looking for more spinning songs and playlists, check out the workout routines and playlists page.

 

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February 2017 Links I Love for Fitness Instructors

Shay Mitchell's Workout for Fitness Instructors

February was a fun month for me. I got to share resistance band workouts and how I became a spinning instructor with my favorite fitness instructors and enthusiasts (yes, that’s you :)). On a personal note, I got to go bridesmaids’ dress shopping with my gals and celebrate National Margarita Day/Presidents’ Day with friends. My wedding is this October, so buckle your seat belts because it’s going to be a wild ride until then, but I will continue to post most Mondays and Wednesdays in between planning.

I may have been busy this month, but that didn’t stop me from keeping up on the latest fitness tips and trends. I pulled together a list of my favorite articles for fitness instructors, so you can easily keep up on what’s happening in the health, wellness and exercise industry.

Here’s a roundup of 10 February articles that fitness instructors and enthusiasts should read:

  1. Shay Mitchell (or should I say SLAY Mitchell?) recently posted her workout on Instagram and it is straight fire. SELF broke down all the moves in the video here. Also, those braids?! #GOALS.
  2. How to pack on muscle with eccentric exercises — I love seeing articles that teach the body mechanics behind exercise.
  3. Refinery29’s hip dip plank exercise. I anticipate group fitness participants bringing their booty too high in the air for this one, so something you’ll want to monitor when you introduce in your next Group X class.
  4. I have yet to try an Orangetheory Fitness class, but this article points out all the reasons I want to go: “Orangetheory Fitness Wants to Shame Your Half-Assed Workouts Out of Existence”
  5. Why Shape Magazine’s fitness director Jaclyn Emerick wakes up at 5 a.m. everyday. Advice for anyone looking to become a morning person.
  6. Fun Lower-body exercises to add to your fitness routine for dynamic balance.
  7. On days where you need some serious #fitspo, check out these 28 black fitness pros you should be following on Instagram.
  8. 5 creative body-weight exercises to mix things up.
  9. My kind of Valentine’s Day love: why exercise is good for the heart.
  10. And, in case you missed it, my most popular blog post from last month was this Valentine’s Day spin playlist. I’ll tell you, it was a big hit with my spinning classes!

If you liked this list, you’ll also like my link roundups from January and December. You can also check out other group exercise ideas and tips here.

(Image Source: Byrdie)

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Stop Using Food as a Fitness Instructor Motivational Cue

Don't use food as a group fitness instructor motivational cue

When participants leave a group exercise class, they should be absolutely glowing. As a fitness instructor with a unique personal style, this may not be your goal exactly, but the effect is still the same: participants should leave feeling like your class was a positive and valuable part of their day. Unfortunately, fitness and body image are such sensitive topics that participants may encounter a group fitness instructor motivational cue that ends up damaging their experience. Have you ever been to a class where the instructor said something that rubbed you the wrong way? I know I have.

This puts a lot of pressure on us as instructors to say the right things at the right time. While we can’t be perfect, we can make sure we’re practicing our motivational cues, talking to fellow instructors and continuing our education in order to provide the best experience for our class.

To start, I’d like to point out one particularly harmful fitness instructor motivational cue that I hear on the regular: food as a reward or punishment.

For example, I’ve witnessed an instructor shuffle on up to the stereo and say, “hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend, now time to work off that extra BBQ!” Or, I’ve heard, “if you do one more plank, you can have an extra glass of wine this weekend.”

Here’s the problem: talking like this in your group fitness classes creates a reward and punishment relationship between food and exercise. If you eat too much, you need to punish yourself with exercise. If you work out, you can reward yourself with food. It makes it seem like we must always be suffering for either food or exercise.

I understand this is complicated. Food and exercise are intertwined, and we’re all familiar with the “calories in, calories out” equation. But, unless you’re a registered dietician, I’d argue that food has no place in your group exercise studio. Instead, I challenge you to up-level your motivational cues. Find ways to inspire your participants that don’t leave them feeling chained to their kitchen table and guilty for what they ate yesterday.

Am I saying you should never eat that extra burger at the BBQ? Absolutely not. If you want to have two burgers, have two burgers! What I am saying is we need to stop feeling guilty for what we are eating. Even more so, we as instructors need to stop making our participants feel guilty for what they are or are not eating.

So what fitness instructor motivational cue can you use instead?

  1. Explain how these exercises are benefitting their bodies.

Exercise is so good for us. It helps us think better, move better and live better. Talk through the healthy advantages of working out.

  1. Make a goal for the class, and work towards it.

It can be as simple as how you feel afterward. You want to feel like you gave it your all, and have nothing left to give by the end. Or, you want to feel refreshed and ready to start your day.

  1. Express gratitude.

Studies show that there are positive benefits to thankfulness. Thank you participants for coming, and also encourage them to be thankful for everything their body can do today. Did ya’ll just do 10 push-ups on your toes, something you couldn’t do five weeks ago? That’s something to take pride in, and be thankful for.

  1. Do the same ‘ol thing you always do, without the food talk.

Some of these motivational cues may not be a fit for your teaching style. All good with me. Just stick with the style participants have come to love, and hold back on the food comments.

I know finding the perfect group fitness instructor motivational cue is incredibly challenging, and it’s okay if we mess up now and again. There are plenty of times where I’ve said something and immediately regretted it, sometimes even before I finished saying it! Oops. But, that’s where self-compassion comes in and we remind ourselves that we’re doing our very best.

For more tips and tricks, you might also like my Top 5 tips for cueing group fitness classes. You can also check out all of my fitness motivation and cueing advice here.

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How to Best Use Indoor Cycling Bike Consoles

Indoor cycling bike consoles

Late last year, my gym finally got new (to us) indoor cycling bikes with consoles. Even though they’re used bikes, it’s so exciting to have consoles that we can use to measure different aspects of the ride. One participant even commented that indoor cycling rides are more challenging when you have a console to hold you accountable and motivate you. The only bummer I find with most indoor cycling bike consoles, including ours, is that the numbers can vary so drastically from bike to bike, and sometimes even day to day on the same bike. Especially as the indoor cycling bike consoles start to get some wear and tear, they’re easily off calibration, and usually read much different numbers than you would see if you were riding outside.

So, here’s the problem: how do you suggest a range to work within for any of the items displayed on the console (speed, RPM, watts, etc.) when the bikes’ calibration varies so drastically? For example, you might say, “your WATTS should be between 100 and 500,” but what if their WATTS are calculated on a bike console with an inaccurate calibration? Even if the calibration is correct, 100 to 500 is such a huge range to work with as a participant.

My solution? Do the same interval more than once, and use the first interval as a guide to match or surpass in the remaining intervals. That way, it doesn’t really matter if the numbers are inaccurate, because riders will be able to reach their max using measurements they establish instead.

Indoor Cycling with Bike Consoles Ride #1: WATTS

For example, if you want to track WATTS, you can suggest:

“We’re going to do a breathless, sprint interval for 30 seconds. Resistance is just a touch above flat road. During your interval, observe your WATTS to see how high you can get that number. In the next interval, I want you to try to match those WATTS. In the final interval, I want you to try to pass those WATTS.”

That way, participants are pushing to find their very best WATTS they’re able to ride that day, despite any inaccurate indoor cycling bike consoles’ calibrations, and can use that to guide the rest of their ride.

Indoor Cycling with Bike Consoles Ride #2: Distance

Another measure I like to use is distance and time. These two are nice companion measurements, and you can do quite a few exercises with them.

For example, you can track distance over a specified amount of time:

“We’re going to do a breathless, sprint interval for 60 seconds, seeing how far we can go using that distance measurement. Then, on our next interval, we’re going to cut both numbers in half, so half the distance in half the time.”

Creating a guide measurement to follow for the rest of the class helps to avoid the issues we typically find when offering broad ranges for participants to follow. Make sure that you start over each week, asking participants to observe and measure their numbers on the first interval, since they may switch bikes from week to week or their indoor cycling bike consoles may have been altered since. Then, use that metric as a guide to match or beat during other intervals in the class.

For more tips and tricks, check out the group exercise ideas page. You can also find spinning playlists and workouts here.