9 Tips & Tricks to Designing & Successfully Implementing an #IndoorCycling Program for Kids

kidsEarlier this summer, I was approached by the group fitness manager where I teach indoor cycling to ask me about creating a special cycling class for kids, 10-14 years old. Having done that previously, I inquired about the group’s overall fitness goals, fitness levels and goals behind such a class. With that information in mind, I created a 3 month program called “Summer Fit, School Fit” with the goal to get kids actively involved in one cycling class per week, for three months and concluding this program in time to start school in September. Here are some recommendations, tips and tricks to help you deliver a successful indoor cycling class or a complete indoor cycling program for this age group:

  1. Always lead, but accept the chaos: In the first class, I attempted to setup each kid properly (seat height, handlebars, etc.) but managed to confuse all of them. Kids have a shorter attention span and trying to explain the mechanics of the bike and its setup proved to be futile. Case in point: I had 20 kids and when I started setting up the first bike, the remaining 19 kids were already on their bikes and pedaling away. However, here is an interesting observation: within a few seconds, the kids who were setup too high or too low stopped, dismounted and asked for my help. Needless to say, I spent the first 20 minutes setting up bikes and then, we finally got the 30 minute class started (and did only 10 minutes of work!!).
  2. Assign bikes & tag them with setup details (if repeating the class): Much like in a school setting, kids gravitate to their favorite desk (and thus a bike) and tend to keep it for the rest of the school year. After struggling with the setup, I used index cards to write each kid’s name and their setup numbers (I was using Kesier M3 bikes which have numbers and letters on the handlebar and seat). I taped the card to the corresponding bike. In the next class, we were up and running in 5 minutes as each kid went directly to their bike and looked at the card for easy reference.
  3. 843491_x5-right-side-viewDon’t be concerned with ride mechanics or power, but focus on safety: From the first class, some kids just wanted to pedal so fast to get the computer display to show the highest possible RPM’s. I tried to explain some of the fundamentals of speed and resistance, but that was too technical. Kids want to have fun and that theme should remain paramount. So without much fuss, I instead shifted the focus onto safety and asked the kids to make sure the seat is securely locked, their feet are secured in the cage and showed them how to apply the emergency break. Three simple safety procedures that they can all remember.
  4. Focus on fun, and use teams drills: Trying to get the kids to focus on a climb or a specific routine was challenging at times. However, trying the same routine by using a team approach yielded better results. For example, I split the group of 20 in 4 teams of 5 kids each. I gave them unique names (Team Blue, Team Red, etc.) and when the routine started, I assigned each team a task. This way they remained focused on one objective. When one team started a task such as a climb, I asked the remaining teams to pedal at moderate speeds but cheer on the team that is currently climbing. Because their friends were on that team, kids felt engaged and participated in all of the remaining drills. As we alternated turns, every kid got a chance to participate in a drill and cheer their friends.
  5. listCurate a playlist: All of this would not have been easy without a properly curated playlist. So how does an adult like me curate a playlist for 10-14 year old kids? Simple, call on your kids (if you have any in the age group), your nieces, nephews and friends’ kids. Ask them what is popular, what they listen to, names of artists, characters in favorite TV shows and the like. You want to show that you are connected to your participants. So the playlist included songs they are familiar with, songs they can sing to and songs that come from popular TV shows or movies. While there are plenty of songs and playlists to choose from, I picked songs performed by Kidz Bop which are mainstream and clean (click the image to enlarge).
  6. Don’t forget hydration & recovery: Both of these elements are equally important for adults as well as for kids. I brought a case of water to class as I did not expect the kids to have water bottles. Sure enough, they did not and having water on hand is much better than having to stop for a water break and disrupt the follow of class.
  7. _580_1000_90_1325983871964592107Breaks, engagement & rewards: Treating this class as if it were in a school setting, I give the kids 1-2 minute breaks every 10 minutes and asked them about their reaction, what they liked and what they did not like. Keeping them engaged prevented them from drifting away and becoming distracted. Next, I engaged them with simple Q&A (while on the bike as well when walking around the room) such as what is their favorite subject in school, favorite teacher, favorite foods, best movie and so on. Once they were given an opportunity to participate, they appeared more at ease on the bike and getting back to drills was not as difficult. Finally, I purchased small gifts to hand out when they answered my questions and also give them additional gifts at the end of each class. Some of these gifts included sports bottles that can be refilled, medals for completing a routine, glow sticks, glow bracelets and the like.
  8. Kids-Spin-BikeFollow proven recommendations: Spinning(R) suggests that “Spinner bikes are suitable for individuals who are at least 4 feet, 11 inches tall; however, this is not an exact minimum height, because leg and torso length are also determining factors.”
  9. Define program rules: As a good steward for indoor cycling programs, you and your facility’s general manager should collaborate on ensuring that the following rules are in place (adapted from Spinning.com):
  • Be sure to have a signed permission slip on file from a parent or guardian before any participant under the age of 18 gets on a bike.
  • Get a parent or legal guardian’s contact information, a release of liability waiver, and any relevant health information (e.g., if a child has asthma).
  • Request that participants who have asthma or other medical conditions inform you, and that they bring their inhalers or other necessary medications to class.
  • Have a strict, no-nonsense policy against horseplay on or around the bikes.
  • Be sure that shoe laces are securely tied and not in danger of getting wrapped up on a pedal or crank arm.

With the program I designed and implemented, I felt that a significant impact can be made on kids who may not participate in regular physical activities. By sharing with them the concept, application and benefits of indoor cycling, my hope is that those kids, one day, will embark on their fitness journey and chart a course for a healthier and more fulfilling lifestyle. kidsworkout Ride On. Tom

#Indoorcycling Playlist for the Artist Duel on 29 July 2015

This playlist features three artists: Pitbull, J Lo and Rihanna and was based on members’ feedback who liked previous themed-rides such as 80’s, Motown, Disco/Funkytown and many others. Wrapping up the month of July on a high note and looking forward to exciting new rides in August and beyond.



5 Critical Success Factors: Delivering a Tour De France #Indoorcycling Class

map_routeEach year in July, the Tour De France inspires many riders to exceed their potential, find new heights and achieve the elusive goal of winning the most prestigious cycling competition in the world. Over the past few years, I have incorporated videos of “Le Tour” stages in my indoor cycling classes. These rides, 60 minutes each, are meant to expose indoor cycling riders to the competitive nature of riding in a race, as well as to some unique aspects of outdoor competitive cycling such as: riding near the threshold, riding in a peloton, alternating between endurance stages and attack stages, time trials, team pursuits and mountain climbing.

Although the concept is exciting and leads to a nice break from teaching traditional indoor cycling classes, I have established the following success factors that you need to pay close attention to if you plan on implementing a “Le Tour” video ride at your studio or gym.

The 5 Critical Success Factors – Pre-requisites:

  1. Plan ahead – at least 30 days prior to the class, make an announcement in your regular classes and repeat the announcements at subsequent classes. If you have multiple rides planned, announce those as well (see example below).stages
  2. Ask your facility’s group fitness manager or communication staff to include the ride’s date and time in their emails, tweets, blog posts and social media posts. Creating awareness is critical.
  3. Obtain the necessary videos and companion music (check if licensing or fees are required), practice the ride and routine and make sure any audio/video equipment that is needed is available and in working order.

The 5 Critical Success Factors

  1. 66_20140722_©BrakeThrough-Media_DSC9655-659x440This is NOT Interval Indoor Cycling: While obvious to us indoor cycling instructors (especially if you ride outdoors), this is a really important notion to impart onto your riders. Typically, most indoor cycling riders do not ride outdoors. They are used to indoor interval routines, where music, tempo and instructor cueing help them achieve specific goals. With a “Le Tour” video ride, there are significant differences, where for example, you are in the seated position in a peloton, plugging away at threshold or tempo levels (90-100 rpms) for prolonged periods exceeding 10 minutes. For indoor cycling, staying seated for that long is somewhat unusual and to many, uncomfortable. Similarly, there are portions of a “Le Tour” ride when a breakaway occurs and you reach anaerobic levels (>110 rpms) to overtake the leader. While doable in indoor cycling, the pace and intensity as well as duration may not be in line with what indoor cyclists expect.
  2. The Playlist will be different: The majority of “Le Tour” videos I use have an already paired playlist, mostly instrumental with no lyrics. If your indoor cycling group is used to certain motifs (EDM, Pop/Hip Hop, Motown, etc.), or used to “your” style of music as the instructor, the video tour will certainly be quite different. Make sure they are aware of this during the communication stage I described in the pre-requisites.
  3. tour-de-france-2015-video-game-screenshots_0002_Layer-48The Video is your Competition: Most indoor cycling classes feature a two-dimensional approach: the instructor’s cues, and the music+routine. With a “Le Tour” video ride, a third dimension is introduced, the video itself, whereby riders are now paying attention to the screen upfront and they are following the pack. As an instructor, your role will be sidelined a bit. You should still cue and provide motivation, encouragement and anticipation to changes in levels (for example when a climb is coming or when a breakaway is about to occur). However, I would suggest you cut back on the amount of cueing and let the riders make an immersive connection to the video. I believe this makes the ride more effective. In other words, do not be a distraction.
  4. Make it Educational: While all indoor cycling participants are looking to work out, there are rare opportunities to educate them on the particulars of something as popular as the Tour De France. If possible, and if you are using Microsoft PowerPoint, you can have companion slides along with the video that you can use to share certain facts such as the distance of “Le Tour”, the number of riders, funny tidbits about food consumption and country facts (see screen shots of slides below).
    tdf1 tdf2
  5. Listen for Feedback: When the ride is over, encourage the participants to share with you and the rest of the group how they felt, suggestions for improvement, what they liked or disliked and if they wish to see this type of ride repeated. Over the years, I’ve had groups who loved the Tour De France video ride, groups who hated it and others who wanted something different such as videos for Pikes Peak, Colorado state park rides, mountain biking and cyclocross.

If you are planning on a video ride, ensure your group is aware of it, preparing them for the key differences and enlist the help of your facility’s marketing team to spread the word.

“Bon chance et merci”.


90 minute #indoorcycling ride playlist: Endurance, Persistence, Dominance

After repeated requests, I scheduled a 90 minute indoor cycling class for my #MondayHillCrushers. This ride used a similar theme to another 90 minute ride we held in the Spring. That theme was about Endurance, Persistence and then Dominance.

For the first 30 minutes, the focus was on Endurance: steady pace, moderate but steady speeds and increasingly difficult climbs. Then the focus shifted to the next 30 minutes where Persistence was key to overcoming challenges, combination hills, tabata portions and seated climbs. The final 30 minutes were an affirmation of the strength achieved through endurance and persistence – it was about dominating the rest of the obstacles through sheer determination and power.

Here is the playlist:



My Review of Tandem Cycle #IndoorCycling Studio

In late June, I was graciously invited to visit Tandem Cycle by its founder and owner Maryclaire Pennotti. Tandem Cycle tandem-logo(http://www.tandemcycle.com) opened its doors in late March 2015 in Manasquan, NJ, a vibrant NJ Shore community of Monmouth County. The studio is easily accessible from East Main Street (as well as the Garden State Parkway, Route 35 & Route 71) and is in close proximity to the NJ Transit Manasquan station. The studio is surrounded by several eateries and specialty retail shops, with free parking near the studio’s entrance as well as on adjacent streets (Warren Av., Euclid Av.). The studio space was modernized and renovated, offering numerous amenities such as changing rooms/lockers, a retail mini store, storage cubbies, dedicated reception and a large waiting area.

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Maryclaire founded Tandem Cycle after a career in pediatric nursing. With no nearby  studios and a passion for indoor cyclingl from previously attending classes in New York, Maryclaire created Tandem Cycle with the “goal to better ourselves and the world around us”. According to Maryclaire, “each time you get on a bike, you provide school children from every corner of America with the opportunity for a better education. The more you ride, the more you provide. Public school teachers across America post classroom project requests through DonorsChoose. Every ride at Tandem Cycle will help fund a selected project. You have the potential to provide public school children in all 50 states with the tools and experience needed for an excellent education.”  3l


Indoor Cycling

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Tandem Cycle focuses exclusively on indoor cycling, with several classes offered per week. There are 20 Schwinn AC GS69865_SchwinnACPerformanceCyclingBikePerformance bikes without the traditional cages . That means you can bring your own cycling shoes or rent ones for the duration of the class ($2 fee). These bikes are SPD and Look compatible offering a very smooth ride with the patented Carbon Blue drive train. The instructor’s bike is elevated on a platform and is in front of a mirrored wall. Reservations can be directly made using the studio’s website (https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/home?studioid=197459). The interface is provided by Mind & Body software and is easy to use on a desktop or mobile device. Tandem Cycle offers a variety of class types with the most common class duration being 45minutes. Prices start at $20 per class with discounts offered for students and multi-class purchases. The “20 class package”, at $350, is the most cost effective, in addition, unique 3-month packages are offered such as “Shedding for the wedding” at $375 and “Baby bounceback” at $375 as well.

For Summer 2015, Tandem Cycle is offering a very aggressive package for new clients, an unlimited 30-day ride package for $100. With shore traffic increasing during the summer months, this deal will generate enough new riders who will likely become regulars.

Quick Summary

Final Thoughts

Tandem Cycle  provides a modern indoor cycling facility with a cutting edge bike platform, the Schwinn AC Performance, in an area that has the demographic to sustain the business model. Maryclaire’s story is inspiring – it epitomizes the determination of small business owners who pursue their dreams through hard work, persistence and a vision that drives ultimate success. Tandem Cycle’s mission is empowering and uplifting – to go above and beyond – “to help ride for yourself. ride for others. ride tandem.”

Ride on.


images courtesy of Tandem Cycle