Planning and structuring indoor cycling classes

Part IV: the 2-hour class

In parts I, II, and III of this series I discussed the two broad approaches (i.e., interval and continuous) I use to plan and structure indoor cycling classes. Typically these classes, regardless of approach, are 45 minutes in duration (including warm-up and cool-down periods). However, 2-hour classes have recently become a regular part of my schedule. In this final part of the series I will briefly discuss how these 2-hour classes came about, and how my approach to planning and structuring them has developed.

My first experience of planning and structuring a 2-hour class was not long after I had started teaching indoor cycling. Myself and another instructor were discussing the upcoming Tour de France, and from this discussion the idea of putting on a class longer than the usual 45 minutes came about. We asked the participants in our regular classes if they would be interested in a 2-hour class, and the response was positive. Following approval from the managers of the health and fitness facility, we scheduled and promoted the class, with over 20 participants signing up and attending.

When planning the first 2-hour class we opted for a continuous session based on a mountain stage of the Tour de France (see part III for information about continuous sessions). Durations and resistances were allocated to represent the terrain of the stage, and mapped against the stage profile. Due to the overall duration of the class, and the number of sections using heavy resistance to represent the climbs, the management of pace by participants was important. Several participants were used to long rides (e.g., on the road) and managing their pace for extended durations. For those participants who did not have experience of long rides, we advised them to start conservatively, review how they felt at regular intervals, and to reduce pace and resistance if they were not feeling good. All participants were advised to have some easily consumed food (e.g., energy gel, chocolate bar) to eat if needed during the later stages of the class. A staff member was available to refill participants’ water bottles at the halfway point if needed.   

The class went largely as planned, and we received positive feedback from the participants. However, despite the positive feedback, the next 2-hour bike class did not take place for a number of years. The catalyst for next 2-hour bike class was a discussion about the first 2-hour class with some of the original participants. The participants said that they enjoyed the first class, and that it would be good to do it again, and so a 2-hour class was scheduled and promoted, with 15 participants attending.

Once again, the class was based on a Tour de France mountain stage. However, on this occasion, a staff member was not available to provide water bottle refills for participants. Therefore, at the halfway point of the session I scheduled a period (~ 5 minutes) of low intensity and slow cadence. During this period participants could get off the bikes and refill water bottles if needed without missing a main part of the class. This period led to the class feeling like it had two distinct sections, rather than feeling like a continuous 2-hour session like the first class. Nonetheless, the participants enjoyed the class and requested that it become a regular event. This led to a 2-hour class being scheduled once a month. 

Teaching a 2-hour class regularly led to a different approach to planning and structuring the sessions. The inclusion of a period of low intensity and slow cadence at the halfway point was retained, and this led to the basis of the classes becoming two sections, with a different focus for each section. The sections would typically be based around the ideas discussed in previous posts in this series. For example, the first half of a session could be interval-based (as discussed in part II), with the second half continuous (as discussed in part III). Alternatively, a whole session could be interval-based, with the first section focusing on long intervals with moderate resistance, and the second section focusing on short intervals with heavy resistance.  

Feedback for the monthly 2-hour classes was good, and attendance was better than expected, with 12 to 15 participants typically attending. Attendance was occasionally increased by several participants who were experienced road cyclists, and attended the class if their training ride was cancelled due to bad weather. The majority of participants completed several 2-hour classes, and developed their ability to manage their pace based on the duration of the class, and the specific structure of the session (e.g., first section – interval-based; second section – continuous). Additionally, I became familiar with the participants, and they hopefully became familiar with my approach to structuring the class.

In summary, the 2-hour class evolved from a one-off event to become a regular, well attended class. I hope it provided an opportunity for participants to develop their ability to mange their pace over longer durations, and an alternative training session for those involved in other forms of cycling. Whilst it has been based on approaches I use in 45 minute classes, when classes can resume I plan to revisit the original continuous approach used in the first 2-hour class.


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