Escape from Your Rut: A Process to Create Unlimited Fun and Unique Indoor Cycling Rides

Escape from Your Rut

Instructors, does it feel like you’re in a rut when creating new profiles? Are your rides beginning to all seem the same, with only slight variations of the playlist? Do you suffer from “writer’s block” when you start to plan a new class, taking hours to complete one?

Don’t worry, it’s not you. It’s your ride creation process. All of these problems can be fixed by simply adopting a new approach to planning your classes. If you’re used to first generating a playlist from the most current mainstream hits, then pairing each song with a “drill,” invariably you will run out of ideas, each class will be a mishmash of drills with no overarching purpose, and your classes won’t offer the variety that will keep things fresh.

It may be time to completely change your approach.

Using the process outlined below, I have created over 100 unique rides (200 counting the variations of the playlists).

I start with what I refer to as the “3 Ps.”

Profile creation process = Purpose, Profile, Playlist

  1. Purpose

The first step in the process is to establish the purpose of the ride.

What do you want your riders to get from the class? The answer should not be “to get their sweat on” and “to groove to the music.”

It may be to create physiological adaptations, such as building anaerobic power, greater aerobic capacity, increased functional threshold power, or improved muscular endurance. Or, it can relate to developing a skill or technique, such as improved climbing ability or a smoother pedal stroke. It may be a mental goal such as focus, patience, or increased tolerance to discomfort.

By varying the purpose of your rides, you provide your riders with a more balanced approach to their fitness. Offering only HIIT workouts for every class will primarily promote anaerobic development and increase the potential for burnout or injury. On the other end, teaching solely sub-threshold sessions will only build aerobic endurance.

Providing a wide variety of objectives in your class offerings also has a physchological benefit. When you do the same old song-and-drill routine every time, it will become repetitive and monotonous. Varying the purpose leads to a completely different structure for each ride and will keep your riders more mentally engaged and physically challenged.  


  1. Thanks, Jennifer – it does help!

    A question: since I’m a new instructor, I don’t have a huge collection of music that needs to be organized. What would really be amazing is to see what others have in their collection – or to have a main data base that instructors could draw from – that way we can build up our collections quickly.

    1. Hi Christel,
      We are building up a database of sorts through our weekly suggestions, plus all the theme ride playlists and specific playlists such as the field test/time trial ones.

      To help build your music library with free (legal) music check out these posts:

      Free electronic music:

  2. This is great, and super helpful for me as a newish teacher. A question: Can you tell me how to find music and organize music? Seems easy for you to pull out an song for a challenging 7 min. climb at 65bpm – not so simple for me! Is there a place where music is organized to find that song easily? THAT would be a tremendous resource, worth a lot!!

    1. Christel, here are some resources on ICA that will help you organize your songs so you can quickly search for the songs you want.

      This is about iTunes, however, the same exact tips can be used for organizing your music in Spotify (except you can’t see the bpm in Spotify). Also, keep in mind that there have been some iTunes updates since I did this…so posting this for you actually reminds me I probably need to rerecord this one of these days to take into consideration some of the newer things in iTunes!

      Nevertheless, the info here will be really helpful!

      Here is a video on how I organize my music in iTunes by bpm, and by what I can use the song for:

      Here is Tom Scotto’s Tour de Tunes video:

      Here is a post on organizing music (non-video):

      Looks like I didn’t do the next video on how to get the bpm column and the bpm data into your iTunes, but most of that has changed anyway with the updates. Tom includes some tips on the bpm in his video. I’m putting a reminder to myself to create a new video soon.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Excellent, Bill. Thx for reminding us that variety makes for better classes for the participants and us!

    1. Variety is so important from both a mental and physical perspective. Often times I will tell my class ‘If you don’t like this week’s ride, next week will be completely different. And if you like this week’s ride, we’ll do it again some time in the future, but I can’t tell you when.’

  4. Good article. As an artist I find that my creative juices are stimulated when I make rules that limit my options. Last year I made a rule that I must present all new classes (with permission to repeat four theme rides). That worked out to 145 classes. The rules for class development were:

    1. Must fit into four categories – Form, Fitness – Endurance, Fitness – Strength, Form

    2. Must be progressive. Even if I had a good idea I sometimes I had to reject it or save it for later in favour of developing one that worked for that point in time. That also meant that I couldn’t fall back on adding new music to an existing profile.

    3. Must contain at least 80% new to me music, with the exception of choices for cool downs. I was allowed to repeat a new song three times during the year.

    The music rule sparked the most creativity. Often the idea for a whole new approach to a mechanical or physiological topic sprung up when listening to a new song.

    Last year was my most enjoyable as an instructor. My classes, which have always been well-attended, went over the top and were frequently over-subscribed. I intend to put all of that work to good use and repeat the series this year, although I have made a new rule that I must write 25% new classes.

    1. Christine – Your rules sound challenging but you obviously complied with them and provided great classes with tremendous variety for your riders. My first couple of years instructing, I had a rule that I wouldn’t use the same song twice in a profile ever, but over the past 10 years I’ve found many tremendous songs that I allow myself to use them again.

      You listed ‘form’ twice in your categories, so were there only 3 or did you mistype one of them?

      One of the benefits that I’ve derived from my process is the ability to re-use an old class and having members think that it’s new because it had been so long since we last rode it. You’ll have the same experience this year of keeping things fresh without having to put in as much time as you did last year.

      1. Sorry. That second Form should be Fun which was my opportunity to create a theme ride or less structured class that built on the things we had been doing over the last week. The consensus was that I had a lot of Fun writing the classes but the participants found them the most challenging (as they were, in fact, designed to be since integrating information is difficult).

        I have a dozen years worth of classes that I can go back and use and no one but me would know that they aren’t brand new. But I am a better teacher when I am jazzed by the new material. I tend to shake things up every two years so that I can sort of coast the second year.

        Before this last iteration I developed a theme based on physiology and muscle function and wove that information through all of the classes, not just some of them. That was a bigger challenge but I can still see the impact today so was well worth doing.

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