Anatomy of Inquiry-Based Coaching

What would you accomplish if you knew you couldn’t fail? ~Robert Schuller

When it comes to cueing in the cycling studio, there are two distinct paths instructors can take with their riders: telling and asking. Both have their place and both are paired nicely with showing, or demonstrating.

Telling is the go-to, instructor-centered approach. You, the instructor, know what you want from the rider and you tell them to achieve it. There is clarity in instructing a rider to sustain a hard effort for 6 minutes, followed by 2 minutes of lesser effort. It’s even clearer if the riders have metrics such as cadence, heart rate, and power output displayed for them.

We will hold this cadence of 85 rpm for the full 6 minutes while staying seated and not letting our intensity fall below a level of “moderately hard”—an effort that makes us think twice, but it’s sustainable. Ready? Go!

We are embarking on a series of high-intensity intervals. There will be three 1-minute intervals going as hard as you can muster for the full minute, followed by a minute of recovery. After a 3-minute longer rest, we’ll do it again, and your goal will be to hit the same numbers as the first set. We begin in 2 minutes, so start preparing yourself mentally.

This is a command-and-comply approach to cueing that involves little initiative from the rider other than simply doing what is asked of them. This style is most effective when you need to be precise and concise.

Asking, or inquiry-based cueing, is taken from the growing body of life-coaching techniques, which recognizes that the response to meaningful questions can elicit more effort toward the goal and ownership in the outcome.

If you had the opportunity, could you show more courage? It takes courage to sustain this work for 6 minutes. I know it’s hard. Everyone here knows it’s hard. No one is asking you if it is hard. I’m asking you if you have the courage to hold on even though it is hard.

We have a 16-minute enormous mountain in front of us. There will be some steep parts where you’ll have to dig in deep—especially at the summit, so you will need to save some for the end. I am leaving it up to you to decide what you need to succeed. You’ll need to ask yourself, when is it appropriate to stand? When do you need to sit back down? When will you need to pull back, knowing the hardest part is yet to come? So this hill is on you…are you ready to create it?

Why a question works


  1. Excellent material…keep it coming!

  2. Wonderful article. Well done. Helpful.

  3. Cori this is an excellent article on engagement and focusing on thej riders. Thank you so much for your insight on questions for cueing and emotions. Great article.

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