The Power of Words: Cueing Maximal Efforts

Your words have power, so make sure you mean what you say. Make sure you know what it is you are asking of your students, and that you are serious about what you are asking them to do. Students take what you say seriously. This coaching article examines the power of your words when you ask for a “sprint” or for a “maximal effort.” I am adamant that indoor cycling coaches use the term “sprint” correctly. But how many instructors truly know the real meaning of the term? Because of the fact that “sprinting” is so often overused and overdone in classes all over the world, many students are misinformed about what real sprinting means or how to do it. As a result, they never learn to sprint properly, and they don’t get the physiological benefits.

This is not an article about how to sprint properly (although a technique article is in the works by expert sprinter Tom Scotto, so you can expect that soon). Rather, I want to discuss two things about our word choices when we coach, and specifically, when we are asking for high-intensity efforts. These two things are:

  1. Using the proper terminology when we ask for something
  2. Is what we are asking even plausible?


  1. Saraspin and Melissa, you two are right on! It’s hard to sometimes feel in the minority when it comes to keeping it real (especially when faced with others who just don’t “get it”). I love that we have a community through ICA, and it reaches far and wide. We may not see each other in person, but I know my classes “get it” and that you all are out there–and that gives me energy to fight the good fight!! 🙂

  2. Hi Jen,
    When you have different teaching styles, trying to get all of the instructors on the same page is difficult enough. After 8 months of teaching at a local Y, I still have members that want the “fluff” as you put it in one of your latest articles. So you can imagine, cueing techniques is one thing, having them listen to you is another….and getting the instructors is yet another issue. Believe me, I have talked to my director until I am blue in the face.

    So, I keep it real in each class and go in prepared and with a purpose for that class. Recently an instructor told me she just “wings it”. Unbelievable.

    When I use my cues, some members get it, some don’t. Some just want to show up and not give any effort. I use sprinting to get to the finish line and it’s the last 30 seconds of the last song….but not in every class. Maybe once a month I will have a “sprinting” song. Sandstorm is awesome for a closer.

    I won’t give up keeping it real, there are many classes for members to choose if they want the “fluff”. When they come to my class, they are going to work and I tell them that. I have my followers and hopefully more will understand what I do, why and how, and appreciate my class.


  3. Too often I see/hear this exact issue. “Sprint at 130rpm!” yikes! My motto is: Put your watts where your mouth is.

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