Do you have a rider you’ve seen go from novice to really good in a matter of months? If so, chances are a key reason is that they are willingness to stay focused throughout the ride. Juxtapose that rider with the ones who don’t seem to progress no matter how many classes they take with you.
Riders who focus create and retain muscle memory, learn more quickly, are more likely to set and meet goals and ultimately perform better. But how do you coach your class to ensure the riders who listen keep listening and coax the riders with drifting minds to fully engage?
Here are three tips for creating and retaining engagement with your riders for better performance and a consistently great class:
1. Give riders a specific task to focus on and align the task with the movement and duration.
For example, for a longer flat road, challenge riders to find and hold a steady cadence (and yes, do the dreaded counts if you don’t have meters), then challenge them to stay dead-on or within 1-2 RPMs of that number for a specific timeframe, perhaps close their eyes if they’re comfortable.
Pepper your ride with intermittent focus on excellent pedal stroke technique and break it into minutes, i.e. for the first minute focus on the dominate leg, switch to the less dominate leg for a minute, then put it “all together” for the third minute with both legs – even, steady, smooth. You have no doubt cued and coached these many times, but how easy is it for us to get lax about providing micro-challenges throughout our profiles to keep riders engaged?
2. Use cues that create attention: commands, counts and questions.
Use timing, volume, emphasis and body language to create maximum effect. When I use a command I usually sit up or use some other visual cue to grab attention. My go-to is: “Now listen…” then a small pause, then lay out the next challenge, and I say it in a way that creates anticipation. Using counts and countdowns is another simple, but powerful way to get and keep rider’s attention. (Revisit our video “Upping Your Game with Precision Cuing” for a refresher.) And ask your riders questions that they can respond to with hand signals: Are you ready? Thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs in the middle – how are you feeling?
3. Set specific goals at the beginning and throughout the ride.
Look at your profile with a fresh set of eyes. Can you introduce it as a set of specific challenges: Today we have four challenges – two eight-minute climbs sure to get your legs fired-up, then we’ll tackle two sets of speed-strength challenges.
After accomplishing each challenge, recap what they just did and then ask them to set a specific personal goal for the next one: You just proved to yourself you can do a strong eight-minute climb. Now you get the chance to do it again – but better. I’m going to tweak the challenge with varying durations. I invite you to pick a personal goal to add to the challenge. Pause, then ask: Did you pick your personal challenge? Fantastic. Only you know what it is; only you will know if you meet it!
Using these three techniques – give riders a specific task to focus, use cues that create attention, set specific goals at the beginning and throughout the ride – can increase your rider’s focus and ultimately their overall performance, skill and commitment to each class.
Enjoy and stay awesome!