Endurance Classes Tick Everyone Off

Indoor cycling endurance classes are a lose-lose situation. Low-intensity, steady-state classes are hated by your fitness enthusiast (or non-outdoor rider), and the fact that you attempt to deliver an endurance class to your outdoor riders within 60 minutes is just enough to tick them off. Instructors that try to force these mind-numbing, ineffective classes down riders’ throats will receive the same response as parents telling children to eat some nasty-tasting food because it is good for them. Some of you right now are possibly confused, stunned, angry, unfriending me on Facebook… What in the name of Keep it Real is Tom talking about?!

Endurance—Who Needs It?


  1. Yo Tom,

    For those instructors that were not getting the message by staring at empty bikes or the stink eye from those on the bikes this post needed saying! Thanks

  2. Hello Tom,

    Great article and timely too. My class profiles tend to lean more on the side of ‘endurance’ or ‘stamina’ (I like this word and will use it). When I am talking with other instructors and we discuss profiles they are always amazed that I can teach such rides. Their fear is that they will lose their audience and therefore would prefer to keep it HI. I guess it comes down to how you present the ride and I am not afraid to let the class know that this would probably be their most challenging ride in that they will have to focus more and anticipate less extremes of intensity. Case in point: Last week I taught a class that consisted of a good warm-up and then a variety of flat roads each with a consistent level of resistance. The class did find it very challenging but also quite calming. When they came back the next week, they actually felt it more after the ride than they usually do:)
    I may not be able to convey all the scientific elements to my class, but I have yet to hear a complaint and they keep coming back!

    1. Hi Margaret,

      feel exactly the same. When I first introduced “Stamina” (Sexy) they weren’t really getting it. They wanted harder and faster. Now they are excited when I teach them. They get it now!

  3. Tom- As I and my team are fully in agreement with you here, we have adopted the term “Stamina” as it is infinitely sexier…

    1. Thanks Emily. I also like the term “stamina”. I agree, it is sexy to more people than just cyclists. Who doesn’t want to have more stamina for work, outdoor adventures, playing with their kids, and…. well, you get the point.

  4. Tom,

    This seems like very good advice. And yet I am wondering though what evidence there is that camping out in the fat burning lower HR zone makes the body more efficient or adept at burning fat? Also, burning off all one’s glycogen stores leads to bonking! And no one wants to ride 90 minutes in a “bonked” glycogen deprived state!


    1. Mark, besides the research conducted via the endurance athlete community (pro cycling as an example), I have the results of the clients I perform metabolic tests on. However, most convincing has been my personal transformation. When I had my knee reconstructed a number of years ago, for various reasons, I did not do any higher intensity training for 2 years. The bad news was that I lost a good amount of explosive power and the ability to sustain at threshold (VT2/LT2). The major benefit was improving my fat utilization over 11%. My threshold HR at the time was 164 bpm. I improved my cross-over point (when the predominant fuel source moves from fat to glycogen) from 135 bpm to 150 bpm. Hence I was able to use fat as a more effective fuel source longer and at higher intensities. I’ve witnessed similar improvements from those I coach/test, who’s training was adjusted from predominantly interval-based to incorporating 2 to 3 90+ minute rides per week. It again boils down to stress and adaptation. If you stress the bodies ability (appropriately), it will adapt. Since fat is not known for a quick delivery of fuel, particularly when intensities are high, its demand is often not stressed when energy needs remain consistently high. Intensity needs to be lower and glycogen stores not in abundance.

      Bonking is definitely NOT a desired feeling nor the effect one goes for during long endurance rides. Remember, these “pure” endurance rides are performed consistently in Zone 2 (60-70% perceived exertion). As long as the energy needs are low, the demand for glycogen will not be great. It is a common practice for cyclists to go out for an endurance ride in the morning BEFORE breakfast to provoke a greater use of energy from fat stores. They are not cutting back on calories per se, just the timing to ensure the body optimizes the delivery of the available fuel.

  5. A very real appraisal of some of the difficulties of teaching a “true endurance’ in less than 60 mins – and I really appreciate some of the comments suggesting (and teasing a little I feel) ways round this. Absolutely nothing to disagree with but I think there is more that could be said. In cycling terms endurance is exactly as Tom says – but when compared to a lot of the classes taught under our banner in the name of spinningTM and indoor cycling in general there are other things we can do that contrast with the “eye popping effort ” recovery (repeat until completed 50 mins) that we often see.
    Working at the higher end of the endurance zone, constant effort, no sitting up, is a revelation for many riders. Add to this some mind-body parameters, a little self discovery and we are beginning to paint a new picture, perhaps add a little climbing in the saddle, not to steep and at HRs below threshold, then into a high cadence flat maintaining HRs within a few beats of of this value – still at the higher end of the endurance zone – then add-in ………….. boy there is a lot to do and still – we are “Keeping it Real” – have faith, have fun!

    1. Mark, I agree 100%. What you are describing as constant efforts or high-cadence flats in the higher end of Spinnings® Endurance Zone would correspond to aerobic conditioning and the aerobic steady-state efforts (also called Tempo) included with last weekend’s profile. The seated climbing you describe would be the equivalent of muscular endurance (climbing) efforts referred to in the article. As you said, there is so much that we can do while still “Keeping it Real”.

    2. great comment..agree 100%!

  6. Amen sister !

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