Endurance rides, or segments of aerobic efforts in the middle of other higher-intensity profiles, are the perfect opportunity for using creative visualizations to help guide your students. Intensities below threshold, when the heart rate is under control, are the best time to work on connecting the mind to the body, and the body to the bike. Using visualization and imagery that is designed to engender peaceful and serene thoughts can help riders stay in control of their effort and to channel their energy into a committed, smooth pedal stroke.
It’s easy to create your own visualizations by immersing yourself in a comfortable, peaceful place and drawing to mind the feelings and emotions you want to evoke. What thoughts and sensations help you attain that feeling? Write any and all thoughts down, and then search through your own notes to create visuals that mean the most to you.
According to Marv Zauderer of Pez Cycling News, successful visualization should include some or all of the following components:
- Emotions: What you want to feel, and the intensity of those feelings.
- Intellect: Any thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes you want to have.
- Body: The “physical techniques” of cycling, the experience of any or all of your five senses, and the “feel” (kinesthetic or “muscle sense”) you want to have.
- Spirit: This could mean that you feel good about yourself, that you are worthy of performing your best, that you are self-supported, grounded, courageous, intentional, and in touch with your deepest source of energy.
Because moderate-intensity endurance classes are a great time to work on technique, many of the most successful visuals focus on improving skill while being aware of where the body is in space. In a way, it is like you are guiding your students through a dynamic meditation, helping them to connect to their movement, to their breath, to their bike. Your goal should be to guide them to being immersed in the present moment, without distracting thoughts of what they’ve done that day or have yet to do.
Following are a variety of visuals and imagery to help you help your students become more engaged in the moment as they ride at a moderate pace.
If you are new to using this type of coaching and cueing, I would start small, gradually interjecting short phrases about relaxing, breathing, and pedal stroke. As you grow your vocabulary and increase your confidence, you can bring in the more vivid imagery. It takes some confidence to do so, but know that in challenging your students to connect with their efforts on this level, you will be taking the steps to become much more of a coach and separate yourself from the pack of other instructors who rely on loud, verbal, boot camp–style motivations.
Practice saying the following cues by yourself, then interject your own style; modify them so that they feel comfortable coming from your mouth. For best results, you should let them come from your heart, with complete conviction. Believe that they work for you first, or your students will not believe you when you ask this of them.