Intentions vs. Expectations: How a 5:30AM Indoor Cycling Class Grew from 2 to 20 Participants in 10 Months

2Almost a year ago, I was assigned to a newly-added 5:30am indoor cycling class. No such time slot existed previously, so I immediately knew that building attendance numbers and promoting this class would be an uphill battle. Little I knew that it would be **my** battle as I came to discover a few weeks later that I had to go through a fundamental change in my approach and thought process. Here is what happened:

My Expectations

For such an early time, I expected to have a few participants show up. And, with that expectation, that’s exactly what I got. There were two participants. In the next four classes, I had no more than five. I was concerned that the class may get canceled because the GFM is very metrics-driven and is all about the bottom line. After two months, with numbers hovering around 6-7 participants, I approached the GFM and the Marketing group with some ideas about promoting the class using posters, social media blurbs, website announcements and the like. Again, I expected that they will help, which they did. However, after a four week period, the posters and postings did not increase the attendance numbers. As the weather got colder, the numbers fluctuated even more. If it was very cold, I would expect that fewer people would show up. Guess what, I got what I expected.


The Let Down

After a week off on vacation, I had time to re-think my approach. I was reminded by my wife that expectation is a hope that something will happen. Everything becomes connected to the outcome and everything is framed by the outcome. In other words, everything hinges on the outcome. And, when the outcome is not to our liking, we are faced with disappointment as well as a sense of failure. Simply put, expectations come from the ego, from wanting to be in control, from needing to shape the destiny or the result.


The Transformation – From Expectation to Intention

“Control the Controllable” – that’s what Nigel Adkins used to say during his tenure as head coach at Southampton FC. Brilliant!! Why was I trying so hard? I cannot make people come to class; I cannot count on social media to bring people in. This is a 5:30am class – no gimmicks, themed rides or any promotion is going to make you get out of bed so early in the morning (especially in the winter). In my commitment to remaining in control and having things go my way, I was actually creating the very results I was trying to avoid. I was focusing so much on the outcome that I simply lost sight of the process. Yes, the process. And so the critical shift in thinking began.

I set my intentions on the process, not the outcome. Using intention allowed me to remain detached from the outcome. For every 5:30am class, I intended to:

  • Bring my “A” game regardless of what state of mind I am in
  • Motivate and inspire the riders by helping them accomplish their goals
  • Participate and partner with the riders by encouraging them to commit to and invest in their fitness
  • Inspire riders to make the 5:30am ride a ritual, a key component to their success, an integral part of their day not be missed
  • Foster an inclusive atmosphere regardless of skill set and ask riders to provide feedback, playlist suggestions, etc.

Guess what? The above intentions were not new to me. In fact, I use them in every class I teach. What happened? Why did I forget them? I simply and temporarily needed to re-focus more of my intentions and less (or none) of my expectations on the 5:30am class. I had the answer all along and….it worked!! Into the fourth month, an additional four riders joined the group and by the sixth month, an average of 14 riders would attend. By the tenth month, the average would hover around 18-20 riders.

The answer was within. More intention, less expectation.


Sempre Avanti!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s