How to Challenge All Rider Levels

We’ve all wrestled with it: creating and delivering a class that challenges each of our riders’ different fitness levels.

There’s the creation side and the delivery side. When creating your profiles, you’re playing with combinations of speed, intensity, duration and movements. As you put those together (smartly), ask yourself how you can cue each to either raise or lower the challenge level.

Picture each component of your ride as a lever that you can adjust up or down depending on the make-up of the majority of riders in your class. For example:

  1. RPM – Faster or slower
  2. Resistance – Add, subtract
  3. Duration – Longer, shorter
  4. Movements – Modify to make harder or easier (e.g. in the saddle vs. out of the saddle)

The key to creating the appropriate challenge is how you apply the FITT principles – Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. (We cover the details of how do this in our How to Turn Great Ideas Into Great Rides workshop.)

When cuing, clearly articulate the modifications:

  • “Option to stay where you are or add resistance.”
  • “Fast flat in the low 100s or stay in the 90s if that works better for you.”
  • “Sprinting in 15 seconds. Decision: in the saddle or out of the saddle in hand position three.”

Another example is if you are using a more advanced movement like jumps (lifting and lowering out of the saddle), cue the option for newer riders to opt out if they don’t feel ready or join in for a few.  For the same movement, you can further challenge experienced riders to focus on their ability to lift and lower in and out of the saddle primarily using legs vs. over-involving arms. Same movement, different options and emphasis depending on experience level.

More generically, coach personalized resistance levels with language that makes it clear to experienced riders that it’s their challenge and for new riders that you expect them to listen to their bodies and make smart choices. Help them set realistic expectations throughout the ride.

What about challenges that go beyond the fundamentals of speed, movement and resistance? Here are a few challenges that help create interesting classes.  Ask riders to:

  • Hold a steady cadence for a period of time – it’s more challenging than it sounds!
  • Focus on some aspect of proper form. For example, add pedal stroke drills.
  • Create flow with rhythm, breath, mental clarity

Lastly, try this three-step approach when one profile has to meet the needs of many:

  1. Mentally graph your riders’ experience and fitness levels (think bell curve).
  2. Create your profiles with the middle in mind.
  3. Adjust the challenge to the outliers with your coaching and cuing.

Remember, your riders are bringing these four variables to each class:

  1. Experience level
  2. Fitness level – Strength, endurance, condition
  3. Mental discipline – Ability/wiliness to focus
  4. Motivation – Desire to perform and participate

Build your profile for the middle – the majority of your riders – then, cue and coach using the four variables. Your less experienced/less fit riders will have something to strive for without feeling overwhelmed, and your “majority” and high-performing riders get the challenge they crave!

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