maintenance mode

Where Do We Go From Here?, Part 2

In part 1 we identified the wall we can hit when trying to keep things fun, exciting, and continually effective in our classes. No one really likes to be in maintenance mode. Heck, I don’t like maintaining my car. I do it, but it is not exciting. Now, adding new accessories like a bike rack and fancy wheels or upgrading the stereo gets my juices going.

I’ve seen this maintenance humdrum attitude recently as I’ve been hitting the gym for strength training. In the beginning of the year I was conditioning and strengthening my muscles in preparation for a strong cycling season. Then I hit the point where my strength-training sessions took a major back-burner and fell into the category of strength “maintenance.” Yuck. Boring. Uninspiring. I’ve recently taken on a new approach and the excitement is back and I’m again seeing the benefits (including a better attitude).

So how do we reinvigorate our classes so they stay clear of maintenance mode? Before I share some things to do, let me tell you what to avoid. Avoid hype. You know what I’m talking about. All that talk about “taking it to the next level.” After a while, that smack talk starts to sound like a bad TV commercial for the quick fix for slim earlobes. We block it out and our riders will too.

Avoid killing people. Anybody can make a workout so hard that bodies are dropping like flies. We are fitness professionals who need to meet people where they are at and take them someplace glorious—a place they have only dreamt of.

Can you actually claim to accomplish this? I believe you can. Here’s how.

No One Wants to be Left Out of the Fun

Think through the classes you have given thus far. What did they consist of from a muscular, cardiovascular, and mental perspective? Now go and tell your riders what they have achieved. They need to know that indoor cycling is not an isolated session. It is cumulative and a key part of their journey to better health and fitness.

I recently told my class, “We had a very productive few months. Our classes emphasized the foundational elements of your fitness: cardiovascular conditioning, muscular endurance, muscular strength, [leg] speed, and mental toughness. We need this solid platform as we continue to build and develop. You feel stronger, faster, have more stamina, and can generate more power than when we started. I can’t wait to tell you where we are going next!”

Those riders who have consistently taken your class are thinking, “Yeah, I’ve worked hard and achieved all that!” The riders who are new or recent are thinking, “Whoa, I’ve missed a lot and I’m not going to miss any more.” No one wants to be left out and no one wants to miss out.

To avoid intimidating new riders, I have said the following: “For those who joined us recently, don’t fear. We are going to progress slowly but powerfully. We will be reviewing our foundation on a regular basis so no one is left behind and to ensure everyone remains strong and successful.”

You definitely do NOT want to give the impression that “If you have not been taking my class, you are $&!# out of luck and there is no way you are going to keep up.” Even though everyone’s goal is different, everyone’s success will be the same. So, where are we going?

State YOUR Goal for the Class

Everyone might have their own specific fitness and performance goals, but there is nothing wrong with presenting a goal that will help everybody. Here is what I recently inspired my class with:

“This week starts our next journey to 40 Minutes of Fury. That’s right. Over the next six weeks, we are going to continue to build on that powerful platform until you are able to sustain a 40-minute continuous effort. Now I know we did a field test early in the year, but let’s face it…ain’t nobody was ready for that. It was just a way of providing a starting point and some direction. Now we are going to obtain the fitness to crush it.”

Maybe your goal is different. It doesn’t matter as long as it is a goal they want to achieve. Think general fitness and NOT cycling specific. Why? Because you want it to appeal to everyone. Now, if you have a class that is composed of all outdoor cyclists, by all means, make it cycling specific. If your class attracts a large population of fitness enthusiasts, pick a goal that inspires greater conditioning, such as building muscular strength, improved stamina, greater endurance, and even mental discipline and toughness.

Remember to bring your point home so that it applies to their reality. “When you achieve ‘X,’ you will feel the effects of what you have gained in different areas of your life. This may be the ability to play with your kids longer; completing that century or charity ride and getting a faster time; more energy during the day; a fine-tuned metabolism able to burn calories effectively; and more.”

Our role as instructors is to provide opportunities for better overall health to allow participants to enjoy life to the fullest. So don’t be afraid to state the obvious.

How Are You Going to Get Them There?

You need a plan, one that is obtainable and sustainable. If the plan is too complicated, people will not believe they can follow it. If the plan is too challenging, people will not believe they can do it. It doesn’t have to be super detailed; just provide enough information to demonstrate that it makes sense and is achievable. Here is what I told my class we would do to achieve 40 Minutes of Fury:

“Today we are going to start with three 4-minute efforts at threshold so we can experiment. The class will conclude with the Terrible 20…20 minutes at threshold. Don’t panic, just continue to learn and grow. Over the following weeks, we will be taking on some workouts that will increase our steady-state strength, intervals that challenge our intensity and stamina, sustained climbs to make us stronger longer, and cadence work to make us more efficient. Then we will take on the beast…40 Minutes of Fury. So put that in your head and let it marinate for a bit. Think of the fitness and strength you will obtain and how good it will feel…not the effort, but the result of your fitness.”

Here are a few sample approaches you can take.


  1. Tom
    Nice article again. Like the methodology and particularly not being afraid (not really the right word) of stripping it back before taking on the next challenge.
    Been building my Friday class towards Race Day next Fri.
    Challenge is now for ME to come up with something interesting!

  2. I would LOVE to the see the 40 minutes of Fury Profile Tom! I love love love your rides! 🙂

    1. Stephanie, thank you so much. It is one of my favorites. I’ve got a few profiles waiting to post on ICA, but may have to move this up in the cue. 🙂

  3. You have given us so many great ideas to work with. I already can envision dividing the year up into smaller segments, building towards first one goal, then bringing it back to basics as we embark on the next journey – this is going to be so fun!

    1. Lisa, you nailed it! I love this approach because it keeps me focused and provides a fresh start every time. Let me know how it goes. Have Fun!!

  4. HI Tom
    this is a great article! I have taken to teaching a month long plan. Tomorrow being the start of May we start a new one, HR training. We have just done a month of interval training. I continue to reinforce cadence training (we only have cadence on the Tomahawk bikes) and now HR but no power measure. 🙁 I love the idea of the Furious 40. Interestingly I have stopped putting in an “easy” training period as so many members are competing at different times of the year here In Austraia. The triathlons have just finished but there are still a lot of bike and run races on and many members use the spin classes to cross train.

    My goal for the year is to really get good understanding about power, strength and cadence this year since we got our new bikes. That’s 52 sessions for m

    1. Imogen, a 4-5 week focus is a great approach. I break many of my training focuses to 4 weeks. Then I provide my class with a review on week 5 taking elements from each class and putting them together. It gives riders a chance to evaluate all of the challenges, and provides a FREE fifth ride since all I need to do is combine and reconfigure the previous 4 classes.

    2. Imogen,

      I love this idea and have given it some thought in the past. I think what is holding me up is coming up with 12 or so different month long focus points. What else have you done besides cadence, interval and HR training?

  5. I teach two beginner classes, fortunately everyone signs up for 9 week sessions so implementing a plan like yours Tom, is very possible. Of course I will have to modify it to accommodate the usually low fitness level of the new people. I like your opening talk, reviewing what was accomplished and what the next goals are.

    I can’t wait for the next instalment!

  6. I teach two beginner classes, fortunately everyone signs up for 9 week sessions so implementing a plan like yours Tom, is very possible. Of course I will have to modify it to accommodate the usually low fitness level of the new people. I like your opening talk, reviewing what was accomplished and what the next goals are.

    I can’t wait for the next installment!

  7. Lisa’s question above is the exact same one I had. Great article!

  8. These are great articles and I will definitely use, so thank you very much. One question though, how do you cater for variable attendance during the ‘plan’ and especially beginners who turn up, in say, week 3?

  9. Nice job, Tom. Great information.

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