Scheduling your indoor cycling classes: how to offer variety for both students and instructors

In a recent Ask the Expert article, I answered a question from Andrea who has been scheduled to teach one Endurance and one Strength class per week. Her club has recently decided to only teach the five Spinning® Energy Zones and classes are the same every week on the club’s schedule. In my article, I discuss what I feel is limiting about the five Energy Zones® if taught as strictly as the Spinning® manual suggests. In fact, you can potentially detrain your riders.

I then go on to offer suggestions about scheduling. The concept of scheduling the types of classes in advance is an excellent one because it ensures that riders aren’t subjected to HIIT in every class which may be the case if it was solely up to many instructors.

It can be limiting and unmotivating to instructors to only teach one type of class every single week. Riders might pigeonhole an instructor as “too easy” or “too boring”, especially if they must teach an Endurance Energy Zone® every week, and if a program director requires adherence to the MHR charts for intensity guidelines.

A better way for scheduling is to not only provide variety throughout the week for each time slot but throughout the month so instructors rotate what they are teaching.

I knew I had my old Spinning® schedules from my previous club, so I dug around in my computer files and found a schedule I created in February of 2002 for the Aria Spa & Club in Vail, Colorado. I’ve posted this ancient schedule as a PDF below.

Before you check it out, read this DISCLAIMER! That was way back in 2002. I was a Master Instructor for the Spinning® program at the time and stuck closely (though not 100%) to the Spinning program guidelines. Even back then I felt the five Spinning Energy Zones were too restrictive (read my

That was way back in 2002. I was a Master Instructor for the Spinning® program at the time and stuck closely (though not 100%) to the Spinning program guidelines. Even back then I felt the five Spinning Energy Zones were too restrictive (read my Ask the Expert article for the reasons why) so I added the class “Spin Training” to describe classes that didn’t fall into the prescribed protocols of the five Energy Zones. If I were the program director today, there are quite a few things I would do differently, which I outline below. Before I tell you those, first a little background on my club and the schedule…

The Aria Spa & Club is attached to the luxury Vail Cascade Resort Hotel in the ski resort of Vail, Colorado. We offered a Spin & Stretch class in the afternoons on Saturday as an “Apres Ski” class. You’ll notice a “Tri-Spin” on Friday nights. We had an instructor who is a top level triathlete and coach, so he would do a snowshoe or run after the cycling segment. At the time (February), we were running a base building program called “The LSD Club” (Long Slow Distance), and all classes were limited to a ceiling of 80% MHR, even the Interval and Strength classes. This is also why you don’t see any Race Day classes (one of the Spinning Energy Zones) on the schedule—those were added back in late April. I never scheduled “Recovery” classes but you can see on the class description page, we preached recovery to our members.

The reason why I want you to see this is to notice how I manipulated the types of classes on the monthly scheduled. Normally, most students attend the same time slot, for example, M/W/F at 6:15 am. When creating the schedule, I worked horizontally across the week making sure that each class was different for those same time slots. Since it was during base building, I tried to have an Endurance class almost every week per time slot.

Then I worked from top to bottom (week to week) and made sure that each day alternated the type of class. For example, the Monday instructor in this example taught Strength, Spin Training, Interval, Endurance and Spin Training. I changed this every month. Yes, it took more time, but instructors were much happier, students always knew what to expect and management was happy, too, because students and instructors were happy. Win-win all around!

When we were not in the base period, I made sure not to schedule Race Day and Interval the same week per time slot.

OK, now let me tell you what I would do differently if I were the program director today. Ohhhhh, if only I knew then what I know now!

  • I would not base intensities on a percentage of MHR. Instead, we would offer periodic field tests to estimate lactate threshold.
  • I would not put a ceiling of 92% MHR. Intensities above threshold should not be based on HR but on perceived exertion.
  • Interval intensity should be based on RPE and the duration of the interval, which depends on the desired adaptation (e.g. threshold improvement, anaerobic capacity, lactate tolerance, VO2 max, etc).
  • I would not follow the strict Spinning Endurance Energy Zone® guidelines. Back then, Spinning suggested a 5-beat range within the 65–75% MHR zone. Now I know that the 5-beat range limits performance and potentially detrains students due to cardiac drift. I also know that 65–75% MHR is way too low for the typical indoor cycling student.
  • I now know that even during the base building period, intensities should approach threshold from time to time. The requirement not to exceed 80% MHR across all classes was far too limiting.
  • I wouldn’t leave time trials or field tests (“Race Day” in Spinning language) off the schedule for four months, and instead, offer them once a month during January and February, then begin adding them in March with gradually longer and longer periods at threshold.
  • I would not use the term “LSD”. It is dated and misleading.

Click here to download the pdf of the class schedule
Click here to download the pdf of the class descriptions.

Copyright Indoor Cycling Association 2011. You are free to disseminate this schedule and class description, as long as you also provide the article with the suggested programming changes.


1 Comment

  1. It’s so interesting to see how we would handle certain things in hindsight. Loved looking at those schedules! 2002 was a year before I even knew Spinning/indoor cycling existed! Too funny!

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