[Note, this post was first published August 27, 2013. I am reposting it as a reminder to use this series of songs for Martin Luther King’s birthday].

I don’t usually use all-caps in a headline, but I wanted to get your attention! Tomorrow, August 28th, is the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington in which Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

I hope you all can find the place to use this song in a profile this week. If you’re teaching tomorrow, all the better, but it will be applicable all week. There are celebrations worldwide this entire week to commemorate this amazing moment in the history of Civil Rights. I play it almost every year on Martin Luther King’s birthday, and I, or my students never tire of it. It is a spectacularly beautiful song to use in a cycling class.

The song is called “Spiritual High Part III,” by Moodswings, from the album Moodfood. There are three parts to this song, each about five minutes long. They are all 95 bpm, so if you ride to the beat, then it is more appropriate to use this for a fast flat road. But I have to admit, because of the emotional feeling of the song, I love to climb to it. That would mean a very slow cadence of about 48 rpm—not a good idea if you have students who tend to load on a ton of resistance on slow-cadence climbs. Bad news for the knees. But…

Part 1 is instrumental; Part 2 is sub-titled “State of Independence” with Chrissy Hynde on vocals; Part 3 is centered around Martin Luther King’s speech. You can either just use Part 3, or if you are willing to take your students into a total mind-body experience, put all three together.

My suggestion is to use it mid-way through your class, or towards the end. Tomorrow, I will use all three songs together for a 15-minute segment. This is what I will do:

For the first part of the class, I’ll do some flat road work, with songs building from 80 to 90 rpm, all in Zone 3. Within those efforts, I’ll do a couple of medium-high-intensity surges of 30–45 seconds to Zone 4 (just below threshold). We’ll do this using higher resistance at whatever cadence we are riding. I’ll use a hill every 2–3 songs as a cadence break, while still keeping the intensity at around mid-Zone 3.

Then after 30 minutes, I’ll explain that we are about to do some inner work, both on our kinesthetic sense to connect deeply to our pedal strokes at a high cadence of 95 rpm, as well as to connect our breath and our minds. It will be a long 15-minute song. The first 5 minutes we’ll do as cadence surges to 95 rpm, with moderate (not easy) recovery, the second will be consistent 95 rpm, and the final 5 minutes will be on a climb, at a slow, hard cadence.

I will tell them that the bpm for the third song will still be the same, which for a climb would mean a cadence of about 47 rpm. I’ll say, “That is really too slow, and normally I do not recommend that, so I want you to leave the beat and pedal faster, about 60 rpm. That segment of the ride is going to be more about losing yourself in the music. You’re going to see why when it comes on. Once we get on the hill, I’m going to just be quiet and let you close your eyes and focus and listen.”

Spiritual High, Part 1: I’ll have them grab the beat and ride at 95 rpm, raise intensity to hard (Z4). Hold 1 minute, then slow the legs down a bit, drop heart rate a little for 1 minute. Repeat 3 times. Stand up for saddle breaks on the recovery.

Spiritual High, Part 2: As Chrissy’s voice starts, relax a little bit (recovering from the previous cadence surge). Then as the beat picks back up at :40, grab it again. Ask students to hold the cadence, and find a resistance that allows them to hold it steady in Zone 3. Close eyes, focus, breathe. Find a rhythm and lock into it with both the legs and the mind. Listen to her voice, to her words. Then be quiet for most of the song.

Spiritual High, Part 3: MLK’s speech doesn’t begin until 1:20. But as soon as the song starts, remind them what you said earlier about the slow cadence and riding faster than the beat. Ask them to make the transition to a climb, slowing the legs, increasing the resistance. Give them permission to sit or stand as desired, with a preference for staying seated. Then ask them to close their eyes if they can, and tell them you’ll see them in about 4 minutes at the top of the mountain. And then, leave them alone with their thoughts…


The video below is part 3, with Martin Luther King. You can find the full 15-minute version (Parts 1, 2 and 3) on Youtube. 

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