And by "it," I mean a super-low key, refreshing Endurance ride. The kind that leaves them refreshed and ready to take on the world... as opposed to ready to take a nap.
I introduced a ride a few weeks ago with this premise. That we can't conquer our worlds if we're exhausted -- so, therefore, we should probably pace ourselves. People giggled/chuckled/etc. (I even thought I heard a bona fide "guffaw" coming from the back). But I was serious. And they knew it.
I'm writing this post, inspired by four big-deal personal experiences within the past week:
1) I received a most LOVELY email from an instructor who reads "Spintastic," describing her challenges of showing her riders the light of aerobic training -- as well as her steadfast resolution to stay true to what she believes in. I was so encouraged (actually a bit misty-eyed), knowing with full confidence that this coach is absolutely making a difference in the world around her.
2) By some crazy fluke, I taught the best ride of my Spinning career last Friday -- in the face of two majorly crazy challenges: a) the speakers were broken; b) it was a 90 minute ride... which I'd never coached before, and NONE of my riders had ever ridden before. Getting 25 people to remain focused, engaged, AND aerobic... for 90 minutes? With compromised volume? OH my goodness. I was petrified of this being the worst ride I'd ever presented. Instead, I truly felt like it was some of my most creative and precise coaching language -- I could SEE people "getting it." I even taught them about mid-ride re-fueling, and even got them on board (I expected people to think that they "knew better," not bring food, hit the glycogen-exhaustion "wall" and crash). Not so. Everything just WORKED, right to the tee. And afterwards, three people made me cry. (Noticing a pattern?)
3) I presented a pretty lame ride yesterday, same heart rate parameters, similar themes of focus and mindfulness. But didn't take the time to re-explain fat metabolism from scratch, reminding people of the basics behind why they were being asked to demonstrate self-discipline to maintain a low heart rate. It was scientifically sound and occasionally engaging -- but mostly, it was a pretty boring Endurance ride. But afterwards...? 5 people came up to me asking about HRMs. 24 hours later, 3 of them actually ordered some. No joke.
4) I learned about the actual biochemistry of endurance training today (what hormones are going where to direct a muscle's "choice" of energy substrate: fat vs. glycogen; what substrate uptake molecules kick in; who activates and/or inhibits whom). I was super-existed to soak up all the subtleties that go above and beyond my current knowledge base -- as, clearly, MEDICAL SCHOOL would offer. Turns out, not so much. I was SUPER-underwhelmed at how, consistent with my own experiences and those of my riders and clients, the average doctor knows NOTHING about exercise other than "you should do it." The appreciation of intensity having an impact on... anything? Non-existent.
So what's a person to do when he or she knows better... and knows it? I believe that one, in possession of knowledge that will improve the lives of people who experience one as a resource, has an obligation to share it in a meaningful way.
If that means that your classes aren't packed to the nines like the psychospin cheerleader-type calling for the "10 out of 10" (of resistance, of course -- to layer on the tragedy thicker) hills and balls-to-the-walls 10-minute "sprints," SO BE IT.
It's a matter of figuring out a way to share your knowledge in such a way that people come to LEARN a) what a good, solid aerobic base actually is; and b) why they should train to develop one.
One of my life policies to try to find a new way of doing this at least once a month, to keep it fresh and interesting. I don't do this perfectly by any means. But I did have a line backed out into the hallway, having to turn away people from my Friday night 90 minute "boring Endurance ride." But in thinking back to how it was that I initially commenced my master plan to woo the masses, converting them to fat-burning junkies, I actually did it by tricking them. I'd been teaching for about 6 weeks at that point. I made my first loop ride. Called it "Loop It. Loop It Good." (Point of trivia: I hate all of my rides once they are older than 4 months old, as I feel that my coaching -- and even musical -- style changes so rapidly. Even rides from 6 months ago strike me as such amateur stuff -- and 6 months ago, I felt the same way about rides from 6 months prior to then, and 6 months before that and... so on and so on. But I've been doing "Loop It. Loop It Good" for years, and continue to dig it.) I didn't have the confidence to do an all-out Endurance ride... yet. So, I told them that the trick to this ride was that the last 6 minutes were the hardest part -- so that their job would be to pace themselves, to conserve their energy, so that they'd have enough left to really "go at it" when we hit that 6 minute mark. During the warmup, I explained a very BASIC overview of fat vs. sugar as fuel, where your HR or perceived exertion should be to increase your likelihood of burning fat. Periodically, I would remind them of that ever-anticipated "6 minute mark."
So how the profile worked was thus:
3 loops: seated climb + run
6x "accelerations" -- first 5 seated for 30 seconds; last one standing for 1 minute
SO SIMPLE. And they walk out remembering that high-energy finale. A "stunt" to lure them for buy-in.
Then, I built on that. "Hey remember that thing we tried? Wasn't so bad? Can we add another layer to that?" -- start to work in progressive resistance loadings, aerobic speed intervals (maintaining or at least controlling heart rate). Oodles of variations you can do with that. And, turns out, you don't even need that "stunt" at the end anymore if you coach it the right way.
Want them to "want it bad?" Educate them. Make them understand WHY they should want it bad. Choosing your words with precision, translating science into concepts that mean something to people, is a profound responsibility as a coach. It's one of the life skills that I try my darnedest to continue to invest in, as it perhaps has its most direct application to my life as a physician-in-training. It's a big deal, a tremendous privilege.
It's just a matter of making it count.
*UPDATE* Psychological Effects of Heart Rate Monitor Use Study
12/21/2010: Preliminary results were reported at Indoor Cycle Instructor in October 2010. Manuscript in preparation. Once published, results will be made available on this site and at ICI.