I pray that you are the epitome of organization. I hope for your sake that you are one of the folks who are on top of their stuff and never forget or leave anything out of place. But, if you’re like me, and are over stressed, always rushed, never in the same place twice, then you’ve probably done what I did this morning at least once or twice.
I arrived at my early morning 6 am Spinning class ready to work. I got set up, got everybody all excited about the ride ahead grabbed my mp3 player then gasped in horror. The cassette adaptor I use to get the music out of my handheld and into the speakers of the room was no where to be found. Neither were my backup CDs. I rushed to the car to see if they had fallen out of the bag, but I didn’t see either anywhere.
What a dilema! Riding without music? I had done it before, and had been in classes under the exact same circumstances, so I knew that it would not be the worst thing ever. However, a silent ride is best presented with plenty of preparation and a warning to your class that it is coming. Since I had neither, I pulled this ride out of my derriere. The whole experience reminded me why preparation for any disaster that could befall you is essential. I recommend that you take some time to plan out a silent ride to use anytime you find yourself in a room with bikes, eager participants and no music.
This Spinning Profile isn’t really a profile so much as it is a compilation of coaching and motivational techniques that have successfully helped me improve as a rider, and which I use to help my students improve their “mental game.” Sorry, there is no Napster link, because there is no music! Enjoy.
The first thing I did, so that I could pace myself and my cues, was to cut the ride in thirds. Plan to spend 10-15 minutes focusing on each of these sections. Since they won’t be able to “get lost in the music,” the sections are designed to take your students on a visualization journey. The warm up and introduction are just basic relaxation exercises to help calm the mind and bring the focus internal. The second section allows riders to connect to their bodies and be truly present in the work that they are doing. The third section challenges them to feel the boundaries of their comfort zone and explore their bodies natural way of pushing the envelope.
I recommend that you spend the first two sections mostly on the flat road with light resistance. Instruct students to stand up any time they need a saddle break. Of course, you can bring everyone up to a different position if you sense they need a change. However, be cautioned. If you don’t allow yourself and your students the time to settle into the motion and calm your thoughts, you will have a tough time with this ride. No matter what move you are performing, your goal is to center the mind. Throughout the ride, it is essential that you provide positive motivation cues and remind them that they are doing something that is nearly impossible for the average american: being quiet. Encourage them to think of it as a mental vacation. Use words like: refresh, revitalize, gentle, heathful, restore, fortify, invigorate, inspire, solace, sanctuary, rejeuvenate….
Section One: Centering. Have your students close their eyes and visualize an object. It can be anything: a point of light, a shape, something inanimate, a person’s face. Don’t think about what it will be just accept the first image that appears. While breathing in calmly and deeply through the nose and out through the mouth, continue focusing all of your attention on your object. Let the mind be free and easy. As thoughts start to occur, gently let them slide out of focus. Give yourself permission to table those things until after the ride. If they truly are important, you will not forget them. Let go of the apprehension you have about this new experience. Suspend your judgements. Quiet your inner voice. Just breathe and focus on keeping your attention on your image. Listen to the whisper of the gears as you pedal. Let the natural rhythm of your legs become like your heartbeat. Allow yourself to fully experience the unity of your movement and your pulse. If your rhythm seems choppy, focus your efforts on making a smooth, even, balanced pedal stroke that feels like steady motion of a locomotive.
Allow your students plenty of time between suggestions to process what you’ve said. You will probably need to repeat yourself several times, and you will want to add in your own helpful comments to assist your students in forgetting the outside world, ignoring their inner talker (who is probably grumbling), and getting internally focused. It is really important to always speak affirmatively in this time. Tell them always what you WANT them to be doing and feeling. Try to avoid telling them what not to do, because their brain will interpret the command without the not first, and they’ll end up doing it anyway, or having a hard time avoiding it.
Section Two: Attention to the body. Start with the crown of the head. Feel the very top of your head and observe how it is contributing to the action on the bike. It may not be churning the pedals, but is it reaching out optimistically, guiding the spine toward proper bike posture, or is it pointed to the floor or too far back? Is the energy from the top of the head able to flow through the body? Move to the face. Is is scrunched up with emotion or calm and relaxed in an expression of willingness and commitment? Feel the back of the neck. Is it overstretched as you hang your head or scrunched up because you are looking straight ahead? Let it feel long as your head floats out from the shoulders in a nice extension of the spine. Observe the posture of the shoulders? Is your energy stuck there because of tension? Are they being squeezed toward the ears? Allow them to drop away, melting into their normal position. Are the arms tense or locked out? Are you gripping the handle bars? Flap your elbows to release any tension that may exist in the arms. Lift the heels of the hands up and down resting only the fingertips on the handlebars to assist in lightening your grip. Continue moving down the body, taking a minute to observe each body part, then take steps to improve that part’s action for the betterment of the whole body. Focus on recruiting each muscle for it’s purpose, without creating stress or tension there. Help them find ways to be aware of how each body part contributes to their ride and how that translates to better fitness. A quick list if you are stuck: chest, between the shoulder blades, lower back, abdominals, hips, quadriceps, inner thighs, outer thighs, glutes, hamstrings, calves, shins, ankles, feet. If you are not sure what these body parts should feel like, do a little research or hit me with your questions.
Section Three: Challenge the comfort zone. Up to this point, because there is no tempo, your riders have been performing your motions at their own natural cadence. You may or may not have given any resistance cues up until now. The rest of the ride will be truer to your typical class. Here is where you help them find their own inner motivational speaker who will help them turn up the dial on output. If they haven’t been tuning you out (and some of them have, don’t take it personally, just remind them not to give up or surrender to their noisy thoughts). Use any movement, pattern, cadence, resistance, or combination of them all to help your students steadily increase their exertion levels over and beyond where they are comfy. It can be intervals, it can be a steady increase of all the variables, or whatever you like. Remind them to perform like an athlete, to be the Spinner they are in their minds, to perform at the top of their game, give their personal best, whatever you need to say. Your goal is to help them keep their inner voice silent and let their bodies do what they do best. You can finish it off strong or ease them on back down to the cool down. Be true to your natural teaching style and let your students determine their own highest intenisty levels.
Finally, cool down. Use the opportunity to congratulate yourself on tackling a difficult challenge. Don’t worry if you were unable to keep your focus the whole time or if your mind wandered. We, as a society, are very unskilled at centering our minds, so acknowledge your moments of success and your moments of failure or weakness. Commit to improving your mind as well as your body, since the two are so intricately linked. Try yoga. Try prayer. Try turning off the TV.
Hopefully, by now you’ve learned something about yourself and your students. And I’m sure you’ll get more out of this ride, than I did, because you have the luxury not only of what my class DID do, but also all the things that have occurred to me that we could have done better. You can always try integrating small amounts of silence into your existing rides: a few moments to determine your baseline cadence, or a song to quiet their minds before an intense push. Whatever you choose, I know that you will be surprised by the benefits and the sense of renewal you feel after a ride in the silence.