12 Apr 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2019 issue 10

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Leisure Management - The passion of indoor cycling


The passion of indoor cycling

In last month’s issue we grilled operators about what makes the best indoor cycling class, and they agreed instructors play a crucial part in the overall class experience. Now we’re asking the experts on the frontline for their thoughts on what makes indoor cycling such a phenomenon

Cat Booker, Owner of Cat Booker Fitness
Cat Booker

There are many reasons why indoor cycling has such a huge fanbase. The whole experience is important; the instructor, the class, the atmosphere, the friends people make, the bikes, the ride, the fact that pretty much anyone can participate, and the personalised growth.

Once someone takes a class with us they become hooked. They bring their friends along too, creating a natural organic growth and sense of community, which is why the social aspect of cycling is so huge.

We take great care to put together bespoke rides, looking at the clients and their skill sets to ensure they get the most out of a class. While it’s group exercise, people still want a personalised experience, with set goals they can strive towards achieving.

The bikes play an important part in the overall enjoyment of our classes; people want to feel as though they’re cycling on a road bike. The Precor Spinner® bikes are robust, smooth and adjust to fit everyone. Along with the programming, this helps to give them an authentic experience.

There’s definitely a shift towards the ‘power’ element, which is fundamental to bringing in road cyclists as well as general exercisers. SpinPower® gives clients the opportunity to be tested for a base line fitness and have a personalised programme created. Power, heart rate, RPE and cadence data is tracked during training by smart phone or transferred to leader boards. Adding power and providing accurate data means we can offer prescriptive programming and set specific goals.

Booker says the bike itself is a big part of the appeal, as people want to feel as though they’re on a real road bike
Adam Daniel, Wattbike, Lead Master Trainer
Adam Daniel

Regardless of goals and ability, there are few things more frustrating to an exerciser than an indoor cycling class where the instructor fails to use data and measurement; such as rates of perceived exertion, heart rate zones or power meters, to understand their effort levels and performance.

The session’s success has to be measured beyond sweating and sore legs. Exercisers want to have fun but they also want to understand how their power, pedal efficiency or heart rate might have changed compared to a month ago, to see how they’ve progressed. They demand intelligent, engaging programmes that utilise these types of data to maximise their time spent training.

Coaches have to be flexible in their delivery; being an entertainer to engage those who are simply there ‘to keep fit’, as well as having knowledge of the data and technology to keep keen cyclists interested. A good instructor will be a chameleon; able to adapt classes based on the group.

Indoor cycling has the ability to bring people together as a community. It can be motivating for those who are just beginning their fitness adventure or inspiring for others who want to dig a little bit deeper. Everyone, no matter the ability, can do the same session at the level that’s right for them. And with the technology that now allows you to hop on an indoor bike at home and ride with friends across the world using a structured programme created by world-class coaches, indoor cycling is one of the truly inclusive fitness trends.

Wattbike’s Adam Daniel says exercisers want to be given meaningful data with which to track their progress
Lou Atkinson, Lead Master Trainer for Schwinn Cycling
Lou Atkinson

Something about indoor cycling inspires almost obsessive levels of devotion.

Simplicity. Pretty much everyone can ride a bike. People are more motivated to participate in activities they feel competent in, and someone who’s only been to six or eight classes can already do everything the more experienced participants are doing.

While a few are driven to be the best, most are happy just to know they’re doing as well as everyone else, and indoor cycling gives them that sense, due to the absence of complicated movement patterns and the necessity for only a very basic cardiovascular conditioning level.

A sense of belonging. There are those who embrace their indoor cycling identity; wearing the clothes, buying the gadgets and joining social media forums. However, many enthusiasts don’t feel the need to go this far and they are just as much a part of the community.

Creating and delivering classes that bring people together whilst catering for everyone’s needs is no easy feat, and requires significant skill, expertise and dedication. Most importantly, there’s no substitute for an instructor’s passion. If the instructor is genuinely excited to be there it’s infectious, members will be drawn to the classes and follow them to different clubs.

For everyone, it almost certainly started in a small studio with strangers and an instructor who they suspect may want to kill them, and they discovered they actually loved it! I still get the biggest buzz from starting someone on their journey to becoming the next indoor cycling superfan.

Katy Sullivan, Matrix Master Trainer & indoor cycling instructor
Katy Sullivan

From my experience, the console on the bike plays a massive part in people’s indoor cycling experience. I’ve seen people leave a class before because there was only one bike left and its screen wasn’t working, so they felt there was ‘no point’ in them taking part in the class.

Members love statistics and it’s vital that bikes maximise the focus on this, as the latest Matrix Target Training Cycles do. Nowadays, people want to know their data. This includes RPM, power, calorie burn, heart rate and more. The more competitive members like seeing results in real-time, with their data on screen allowing them to compare and compete with the other riders in the room.

However, the bike, technology, instructor and the experience are all of importance when it comes to delivering a successful indoor cycling class. Most people go to group exercise classes for the experience, otherwise they would just work out on an indoor cycling bike on the gym floor. So you can have all the latest technology, but if the instructor delivers a mediocre class, members won’t come back.

Music, technology and the passion of the instructor are predominantly what draws a person into a class. Music is hugely motivational and can really bring maximum efforts when people feel they have nothing left. And the instructor can have a big impact on the experience of each member – driving a community of regulars. It’s not just their passion, but their knowledge of the technology being used and maximised that makes the class even more impactful.

A combination of music, technology and the passion of the instructor are what draws people to a class, says Katy Sullivan
Darren Lee, International Master Trainer for Keiser PowerED, UK
Darren Lee

The modern indoor cycle studio is all about the environment; understanding the music, the choreography, the lighting, the multimedia and the bikes, but most importantly, it’s about understanding the exercisers.

The days of being able to just bang out the latest nightclub anthem and jump around the bike are long gone. The audience is a lot more educated and they want certain things from a class. When first entering a studio, I immediately start to make connections with my audience members to get a feel for the atmosphere and whether this class wants to train, dance or detonate...

Cyclists these days are a mixture of different types of riders and today’s modern indoor bike offers them the ability to add power into the classes, attracting the road cyclists back into the indoor environment. The Keiser m3i has both the geometric frame and the smooth pedal stroke which allows riders to physiologically develop their power as I incorporate power, zonal and sprint challenges that are projected on a huge screen taking real-time data from each of the bikes and each of the riders.

Hopefully at the end of one of my classes, even if you are an out-and-out racer or a dancer on a bike, you will come out having enjoyed most, if not all, of the elements. The Keiser m3i data app connection and data measurements allows us to look at performance and measure progress... after all, these guys did subscribe to improve their fitness and that will always be the primary objective.

Jen Zweibel, Equinox Director, UK Operations
Jen Zweibel

At Equinox, member experience is at the core of our values. Group fitness is an integral part of our business and we are constantly looking to remain at the top of our game.

Our cycling sessions are one of the highest utilised classes in our group fitness offering, in part due to the education we give our instructors and the signature programming we create. We consistently look to evolve our programming, but also found we needed to evolve our indoor cycling bike. Since 2016 every Equinox club has been fitted out with Stages bikes, and our member experience has improved dramatically.

Stages technology pairs well with our Pursuit class, an immersive studio cycling experience that uses ground-breaking data visualisation and results-driven programming to motivate riders, drive competition and inspire peak performance.

Gamification and data together have completely up-levelled the cycling experience for our members and the bikes have helped us achieve successful results. Equinox Bishopsgate will open in the City this winter, and will be the first club in our London portfolio to offer The Pursuit. We’re excited to bring this unparalleled cycling class to the UK market in collaboration with Stages.

Equinox’s Pursuit class uses data visualisation and results-driven programming to motivate riders
Natalie Mohan, LES MILLS RPM and LES MILLS SPRINT Master Trainer
Natalie Mohan

Understanding the range of different personalities and abilities in your class is essential to running a session that everyone will enjoy. That’s why I always make it a priority to arrive early, chat to members and show myself as a friendly face. This helps me to get to know everyone, understand what they want from the workout and then tailor my coaching accordingly.

Letting your personality shine through when you teach is really important. This is something Les Mills is big on; prioritising the need for us all to teach from an authentic place within their training modules. I quite often laugh at myself, make jokes and chat about random topical things. It definitely helps to build a connection with everyone in the room.

I like to keep the music fresh, choosing a variety of genres to suit all participants. In particular, LES MILLS SPRINT HIIT cycling programme is all about working as hard as possible and recovering during the breaks. The more encouraging I am, the harder my class works and the faster participants see results. That’s what keeps them coming back for more.

Instructors should tailor their coaching style to the members in their class, says Mohan
Zahra Sefiani, ICG® Master Trainer on behalf of Life Fitness
Zahra Sefiani

People choose group exercise classes because they don’t want to have to think about each repetition and they want to maximise their workout in a limited amount of time. Therefore, without doubt, it’s all about getting the basics right, something many instructors can forget, that keeps people coming back for more.

It’s the preparation before each session, regardless of the length, that makes each one a success. Once you’ve nailed the structure and the session aims, you can start to add in some variety; integrating themes based on the time of year, a certain sporting event or even just a specific genre of music.

Many instructors forget these basics, which leads to stop-start classes with little flow. By brainstorming beforehand, you can clearly communicate what’s happening and set an expectation whereby each participant knows you’re going to maximise the short period of time you have with them.

By remembering the basics, being prepared for every session and arriving on time, you can feel more comfortable focusing on the various people in the room and ensuring that you engage with each of them on a personal level. They’ll keep coming back if they know the person they’ve entrusted with their time will push them to the limit and help them achieve their goals all within 45 – 60 powerful minutes.

Instructors need to focus on getting the basics of a class right, says Sefiani
Johnny G, Fitness Innovator and creator of the Johnny G Spirit Bike with Dyaco Inc
Johnny G

The main reason that indoor cycling has built up such a passionate following over the years has to be the huge amount of enjoyment it creates. Enjoyment stems from the combination of three key elements; the class format, the inclusivity of the activity itself and the community that’s subsequently created within the indoor cycling studio as people come together to exercise.

The key ingredient to a great class format is the instructor. When you have an entertaining instructor who can create exciting, motivating, high-energy classes that feature the right music, tempo, structure, personality and guidance, then people will work hard and, most importantly, they will enjoy the sessions.

"Indoor cycling is a very inclusive activity. No matter what your age or your physical condition, you all train together"

Indoor cycling is a very inclusive activity. No matter what your age or your physical condition, you all train together. There’s a common thread, a collective experience, yet at the same time, people are training independently at their own level. The only competition is with yourself, not with each other.

This gives people the confidence and motivation to come back time and again and from that, a community of like-minded, supportive followers is formed.

Johnny G invented Spinning in the early 1990s

Originally published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 10

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