Instructors: How Varied Are Your Class Offerings?

I believe your job as an indoor cycling instructor is to lead your students to greater fitness, provide motivation and inspiration, educate them, and have fun in the process.

In fulfilling these obligations, you will want to have a mix of the following elements in your quiver of classes. Note that these aren’t energy zones or specific types of profiles; rather they are different objectives (or sub-objectives) for your profile:

  1. Technical, form-related, skill acquisition profiles (including cycling specific drills for cadence and pedal stroke, climbing technique, etc.)
  2. Specific physiological adaptation profiles (such as field tests or threshold rides, VO2 max intervals, muscular endurance, and other targeted training)
  3. Mind-body, mental enhancement classes
  4. Outdoor simulations, whether it’s a Tour de France or Giro profile, a local race simulation, mountain bike profile, or a local out-and-back or loop ride that students will recognize, either from having ridden it, or even having driven it in a car
  5. Community building, just plain fun rides

Keep in mind that any one of these five general “categories” of classes can include all types of terrain, such as flat, rolling, or predominantly climbing classes. They can also range in intensity from moderate, to somewhat hard, to hard, to very hard (the latter would, however, be limited by the physiologic adaptation that is sought, if in fact that is a primary objective, such as an LT enhancement profile).

Most of these can be mixed and matched, with one serving as the primary objective of the profile, and the second as the secondary objective of the profile. Or your terrain choice can be the objective (i.e., one long climb) with one of these as the secondary goal of that ride.

The exception would be mind-body and mental enhancement classes; these would probably not be combined on that particular day with “just plain fun.” In a mental focus ride, you want to lead your riders to that point of intrinsic motivation, and throwing in any competition or fun and games will detract from that goal. It could, however, be an outdoor ride, a threshold adaptation profile, or have skill acquisition as a secondary goal, all entrenched with a mind-body focus.

If you are an instructor that focuses primarily on just a couple of these types of rides, then I would suggest expanding your horizons. You will appeal to a wider audience and generally have more fun in your profile creation and coaching. If you are an outdoor cyclist who vows to Keep it Real, and you focus mostly on the more technical skill acquisition or outdoor rides, but ignore the more “entertainment” aspects of a strictly for fun profile, you’re missing out an one of the great aspects of teaching indoor cycling. To paraphrase a famous song from the 1980s, “Riders just wanna have fun!”

But if all you do are haphazard entertainment profiles, you are seriously shorting your own growth as well as your students. This is probably by far the most common type of class out there and the type of instructor who could benefit the most from the education provided at the Indoor Cycling Association.

I want to focus on those “fun” rides for a moment. Whenever I teach a ride where I list “fun” as the primary objective, it always has an underlying purpose that may or may not be revealed to the class. My regular students by now know that there will be a physiologic or technique benefit to it. But if I were to sub somewhere, or if I picked up a new class, I may not reveal what we are trying to achieve until perhaps much later. I’d want to suss out the students first…find out why they are there and what motivates them before I tell them that we are working on. For that reason, I wrap an interactive but purposeful HIIT profile around the concept of having fun while training.

Classes such as these can be profiles in which you ask for class participation in selecting the next activity or type of terrain. It gets them involved and excited. But underneath it all, it may be a lactate tolerance interval ride, and they are unsuspecting!

While at the Indoor Cycling Association, we provide rides from each of these five categories of profiles, these fun, community-building classes have been very popular. Recently, the Red Pill Blue Pill ride asked for class interaction in a fun way to select the next interval. Robert Baldi brought you Top Gun, based on elements of the popular movie of the 1980s. Jen Lynn provided a back-to-school fun ride called Partner’s Choice. Many of the theme rides for holidays are game-oriented, community-building rides focusing on fun and the holiday (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines, St. Paddy’s Day, etc.).

The key is variety! Not necessarily within one class, however. Make sure to limit the number of things on which you focus within one class because otherwise it becomes too diluted and few benefits are achieved. But overall in the course of a month or several months, your class offerings should rotate between a wide variety of class objectives and manner of presentation. 

If you have any questions or comments on how to be better at teaching any of these types of classes, please share them below. I’d love your input.



  1. Thank you for your prompt response I loved the article. My classes were based on how I was feeling on the bike and this will make me a better instructor too.

    I have a class in the morning and I’ll let you know how it goes.


  2. Author

    Hi Ruth,
    Here is a post on teaching off the bike (the whole class)

    and here is one on teaching part of the class off the bike

    Hopefully these can help you. I had to teach 5 classes off the bike in April following surgery. It was a periodized program so classes were already pre-selected. However, it was during a period of pretty hard interval classes. I find those easier to teach off the bike. You are more engaged, you can count down, and you don’t have to give them long periods of silence or mental focus.

    Let me know how it goes Ruth! I hope you heal quickly!

  3. Hello there,

    I have been teaching for about 10 weeks and a couple of weeks ago I rolled my ankle and got an avulsion fracture of the fibula. I was fortunate to have a sub for the last 2 weeks and I need at least a 2 more weeks off the bike.

    To keep my class I have elected to teach my class off the bike. Do you have any suggestions for a format that would work?


  4. Sooo timely! Just wondering today how I can mix it up and voila! Here’s your article.

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