Ask the Expert: Help – I’m only allowed to teach Endurance and Strength classes!

I received an excellent question from Andrea. Actually, it’s multiple questions, but first I’m going to take on the scheduling issue. When I was director of my club, I took these very issues into consideration when scheduling instructors, and as a result, I believe my instructors were much more happy teaching at our facility. Instructor turnover was low, adherence to the program was high, and members were very happy with the instructors, the program and the variety offered. Let me know if any of you are faced with these kinds of scheduling issues:

Hi Jennifer,
I know this is an old chestnut of a question, and a total conundrum for me. Our gym just went all Spinning, all the time with assigned class profiles. That’s fine. I have one strength ride, and one endurance ride. It is somewhat frustrating for me to have to keep my people in a pre-defined HR limit because I like throwing in some variability within a ride; it’s just more fun and realistic, I think.
My director says for us to wear HR monitors, and have our people wear them, too. Well, mostly they aren’t, and they most likely aren’t going to. We are really trying to convince them to purchase one; our computers on our Spinner bikes work quite well with them. He then put up that HR count chart on the wall that the Spinning website has (that ends at 60 years old, and we have older riders than that), and they are to keep their HR within that count. Okay, you know the problem. The chart is BS, we aren’t stopping to count our HR numbers, etc. I talk a lot about RPE, etc., as the way to go because of lack of anything better.

Are there any good charts, recommendations, etc., that you can make than don’t rely on metabolic testing? Do I just have to suck it up and run a threshold test? I’m a very experienced fitness person (Masters in Sports Medicine, credential P.E. teacher, adapted P.E. specialist, long time group fitness instructor and personal trainer), but I have no confidence in my ability to lead people through this test and trust the numbers we may come up with.  I feel like we are basing our training on bad information without offering anything better that our members can easily grasp. And I’m not finding anything from the fitness community (ACE, IDEA, etc.) to really help in an easily consumed, concrete way, either.

Thanks, and I’m really enjoying your new website,

There are several good topics here I’d like to address.


  1. I’m privileged to work for a facility that allows me to plan my weekly rides. I teach one HIIT and the other 5 rides are basically Endurance and Strength rides (My choice!). It helps me target my riders’ specific heart rate. I have to clarify that we don’t follow “industry standard” age-specific heart rates and zones. Each ride is based on our LT heart rates. I keep my rides as close as I can to the targeted heart rate for the ride. Yes, I realize the occasional rider who stumbles into our class is looking for constant “variation” in her/his heart rate. Those riders seem confused about why there are no sprints during our “strength rides”. And our HIIT rides are another puzzle to them.
    I am a very firm believer of staying true to the specific zones in each ride. I agree that if you are assigned to always teach “endurance” or “strength” you may be labeled or you may be dissatisfied as an instructor. However, knowing that the main frame of fitness is built on those rides, I’d say it’s not a bad place to be 🙂
    Ride On.

  2. You are doing the right thing by allowing riders to stretch the limits of the Energy Zone, because in all classes, it’s important to allow people to do what is important to their own goals.

    But I say that with a caveat! Someone can choose to work harder in your endurance ride, as long as it’s not disruptive. In other words, they should be doing breathless HIIT while you are mentally engaging in your pedal stroke!

    For the higher intensity rides, like Interval or a Race Day class, the way to stretch the limits” is the opposite – simply allow them to ride easier, give them permission to not push as hard.

  3. Thanks so much for your thoughtful answer, and I’m looking forward to the rest of information you’ll be giving us. While I am locked into certain energy zones, I do coach making it their ride in accordance with their goals, to consider what rides they’ve already done during the week, and what they are planning for the week ahead. I give permission to stretch the parameters of the energy zones accordingly. For me, it’s fairly easy with endurance/strength to do that, less easy with race day and interval (but that’s just me). I personally really like endurance and am having quite a bit of fun with it. Strength is a gas and that’s when I put up my big profiles for things like the AMGEN stages, handouts for each rider, etc. They love looking up at the huge poster I’ve put up on the mirror and referring to their race logs, etc.
    Thanks again, and I’m loving this site!

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