HIT IT! Audio Master Class with Tom Scotto

When it’s time to go hard, you might as well learn how to do it the right way. This is more than just a profile, though. Tom teaches you how to perform explosive power efforts and lactate tolerance efforts for any class. We discuss when a class this hard is appropriate and when it is not, and provide suggestions on how to give options to students not ready. Therefore, this audio master class is a MUST for those who like to HIT IT hard! When it’s time to go hard, you might as well learn how to do it the right way. 

This is more than just a profile, though. Tom teaches you how to perform explosive power efforts (hint: it’s not to 92% of MHR!) and lactate tolerance efforts correctly for any class. We discuss when a class this hard is appropriate and when it is not, and provide suggestions on how to give options to students who are not ready. Therefore, this audio master class is a MUST for those who like to HIT IT hard.

There may be some who might ask, “Should an indoor cycling class be this hard?” While it is a valid question, Tom and I both believe that instructors must learn how to coach really hard classes. You must know the proper technique, and you must know how high, how often, how many, how it feels, and when to stop. And you must know when it’s appropriate or not for your population and time of year.

Many of you do have students who can handle this kind of intensity, as do I. We’ve been carefully leading them down the path of gradually increased intensity, building their aerobic base, emphasizing their threshold development, and giving them tastes of very hard intervals. For these students, yes, this would be appropriate.

It’s important to point out that, unfortunately, so many indoor cycling classes reach a level of intensity that is very high but unguided and uncoached, and they do it class after class after class. These classes are often unstructured and lack proper recovery for the intensity that the instructor is demanding. This is why it’s better to learn the proper way that cyclists utilize very hard, painful efforts to improve performance than to conduct a haphazard sufferfest with no overall objective other than to leave a huge pile of sweat (and hopefully nothing else) on the floor.

This kind of profile is better if you coach off the bike. Not all of it, of course – you need to demonstrate a proper sprint and to let them know how you should sound when trying to talk during a lactate tolerance, very high effort. In other words, they need to hear that you are breathless. However, you cannot teach the whole class like that – you will not be able to coach them properly and won’t be there when they need you. So get your stopwatch out and walk around the room like a coach!

Tom is also providing ICA members with an MP3 that he has created for the 30-second explosive power efforts. Feel free to use it as you wish. You may also want to find a short recovery song, or segment of a song if you are skilled in MixMeister, that you can replay for the recoveries, as Tom suggests in the interview. Having the same music segment for recoveries is a sign that it is OK to go easy. It’s like Pavlov’s dog, but instead of salivating when they hear it, big smiles will spread across their faces!

What to do if you have a mixed group

In the interview, Tom and I discuss how to offer options if some of your students are less fit, but I want to go into it in a little more detail here. If you have a large population of less fit or older students, do not do this profile—at least not now. But if you have a mixed environment of mostly fit students, as well as the occasional newbie or less fit participant, you can still do this ride. It is a perfect test of your skills as a coach. 

I would suggest you stand next to the student(s) whom you do not want to push as hard while you are coaching the others through their higher intensity intervals. Before you start the intervals, tell this group that you don’t want them to go to the same level of intensity as the others, and that you will coach them to a level appropriate for them. Wink at them, pat their hand, do whatever you feel will let them know that you are on their side, while not being patronizing.

Most importantly, make sure they do not do the explosive efforts. Instead, simply have them surge harder against a resistance for those 20-30 seconds. During the lactate tolerance intervals, have them go to a perceived exertion of “hard” instead of “very hard.” Your less fit students may still be discovering what “hard” means to them, and likely, it isn’t really even that hard. There is nothing wrong with that! As they develop the physical and mental ability to deal with discomfort, they will naturally progress to a harder effort.

You should also compliment them at the end of the intervals, maybe give them a high five. Tell them after class that everyone else in your class who’s been riding with you for the past X months/years all started out not being able to go that hard. Remind them how important it is to be gradual about adding intensity, which is why you were so careful with them. Encourage them to continue coming and to keep it at their own level of ability, gradually increasing what they think they can do. And one of these days, they will be ready to sprint with the others. This kind of individualized coaching is very important, and believe me, they will love you for it. Instead of never coming back to your class because they left feeling like they were failures for not being able to complete the efforts (and afraid that all classes are like that) they may become your most loyal students, safe in the knowledge that you took a personal interest in their success.

So, you should now be ready to HIT IT hard!


  1. In the form sprints, how many times total are you doing them, and what is the recovery time? I know the notes say “let’s do two of these” but it’s an 8 minute track…

  2. Lisa, what kind of computer do you have? With a Mac, Control Click, and then select “Save Link As”. It will save to where you have preselected where online downloads will go in your settings (mine goes to my desktop). You can also change where you want it to go. (I find the desktop easiest to find – then you can drag and drop it to a specific ICA folder if you want). Then, just click on the file and it will open in iTunes. For a PC, it’s probably a right click with an option to Save As.

  3. I love the profile, and would love to use the 30 second sprint mp3, but when I click on it, all I am able to do it play it. How do you download it into iTunes?

  4. Colleen,
    thanks so much for that great tip. I knew there was a way to do it in iTunes too, but had never explored how to do it. Now I don’t have to! 😉 XO

  5. Tip for 2 min Recovery song if you don’t use MixMeister

    Tom says he uses MixMeister to shorten Chambre 606 to 2 minutes. If you don’t use MixMeister – don’t fret because you can still do this easily just working with iTunes.

    Go to “Get Info” for the song in iTunes (on mac this is a control-click on song) and then go to the “Options” tab. In Options there is a “Start Time” and “Stop Time”. By using one or both of these settings you can adjust the length of any song.

    I find this useful for other songs to chop off a segments at the beginning or end of a song that doesn’t work or that I don’t see fit to play for a class (long live talking intros/cuss words, etc) but it also can work in adjusting a 6 minute song to playing for only a 2 minute segment.

    I’ve found that if I select the Start Time and Stop Time options it will then always play with the Start/Stop times I’ve indicated and automatically transfer the setting to my iphone/ipad/ipod.

  6. It’s one of the best I’ve ever feasted my eyes on. It’s brutal. I love it. Your cues are freaking awesome. Your descriptions are right on the money and I can’t wait to bring it in to my class. I am training them now for a big ride the week after the 4th of July. I’ve been carefully preparing them. I will be using parts from the HIIT ride…THANK YOU.

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