What Does “Make this Ride Your Own” Really Mean?

You’ve probably heard your instructor say it many times: Make this ride your own!

But have you ever wondered what that means, exactly? Does it mean you should ignore the profile and do your own thing whenever you don’t feel like doing what the instructor has planned?  Or does it mean that if the intensity or move isn’t on your agenda that day you should set your own course? Well, sometimes, yes. But for the right reasons at the right time, and that’s why understanding what “making a ride your own” can be confusing.

Making a ride your own is ultimately about three things:

  • being in control of how much effort you exert at any given time during the ride (determined by speed and resistance)
  • being aware of how you are feeling in response to the exertion
  • making smart decisions based on both factors

Let’s say you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, you’re fighting a cold, or you’ve worked out hard for several days in a row. You get to class tired, determined, and hoping for the best.  As soon as you start to pedal, you feel/see your heart rate elevate higher than normal and your quads fire off a reminder of yesterday’s lifting session. The instructor lays out a challenging ride and you’re like, ugh, this is going to suck.

Or it’s the opposite scenario – you are well-rested, ready to go and the instructor lays out an aerobic ride that doesn’t sound like what you were hoping for to burn off that energy. What do you do?

In the first scenario, when you are not feeling 100%, the instructor is counting on you to do three things:

  1. pay attention to what your body is telling you
  2. adjust intensity or the move accordingly (e.g. stay in a seated climb versus standing climb)
  3. modify any predetermined goals to match your energy level.

For example, I’ve had riders tell me they are fighting a cold but are still determined to burn x calories, hit x watts, or ride x miles. Yes, we are a very goal-oriented crowd! Couple that with a motivating playlist and your proximity to other riders and it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of the ride or the perception that someone other than your instructor will notice if you’re riding at a lower intensity. Remember that one of the many awesome things about indoor cycling is that you are working out in the dark and no one is paying attention to your work effort except you and your instructor, so don’t worry that someone will think you’re slacking!

In the second scenario, when you’re raring to go but the profile seems less intense than you were hoping for, you can still follow the overall ride format but make it your own by cranking up the intensity. One word of caution here, however; skipping working recoveries between efforts can ultimately cheat you out of meeting your overall goals. If you’re riding with a skilled instructor, he or she has structured the profile to reflect how your body works by building in opportunities to ride at lower intensities. This is because the typical indoor cyclist can’t maintain good form riding all out for 45 minutes. Remember that it’s about riding smart.

Having the choice to ride the ride the instructor lays out, to rise to the challenges each class offers, and to often push yourself harder because of the group experience are all factors that make indoor cycling so popular. The ability (and responsibility) to modify the intensity according to how you’re feeling that day with no one judging you – to truly make the ride your own – is gold


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