Here’s the playlist for my lunch class today. I’m in an alternative rock mood – this mix showcases several American alt-rock bands, and includes one loooonnnnngggggg climb.  It’s a toughie.

go-cycle-signMother We Just Can’t Get Enough – New Radicals (5:48): From the opening bars, you know you’re in for a challenging ride today.  Warm up your legs with 3:30 – 4:00 minutes of easy spinning, gradually increasing the tension from 2/10 to 3/10, then 4/10.  Around 4:00 come out of the saddle and climb, but keep the tension where it is – we’re still warming up.  This 1999 song by 90’s alt-rock New Radicals was never released to retail, but you can find it on iTunes.  I hear a definite Rolling Stones influence.  I learned of the song from J.R. Atwood over at  He used it as the warmup for his latest spin mix.  (Thanks, J.R.!)  J.R. is a virtual fount of alt-rock goodies, so be sure to check out his blog for music ideas.

You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid – The Offspring (2:58): Since we did a longish warmup, we’re ready to sprint!  I have mixed feelings about this song, which features the use of the word f**ker in the chorus.  I downloaded the bleeped version, but it’s still pretty obvious what the bleeped word is.  Start the sprints from the, “dance [bleep]er dance,” line.  They run 40/55/35 at 0:15 – 0:55, 1:12 – 2:06, and  2:22 – 2:58. The Offspring is an American alt-rock/punk band.

Disturbia (Craig C and N***e’s Tribal Mayhem Mix) – Rihanna (8:22):  Rihanna, of course, is all pop, and this is one of her best – it hit #1 in the U.S.A., Belgium, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, and Turkey (who knew?) but didn’t impress the Italians or the Russians,since it failed to crack the top 10 in both countries.  The songwriting credit for Disturbia goes to Chris Brown, who chose not to record it himself, because (according to Wikipedia) he felt that the song needed female vocals.  Disturbia gets a lot of airplay in cycling classes because it’s such an energetic song.  To keep it fresh, I’ve used a pounding remix that challenges riders with an 8:00+ minute climb.  Take the first 30-60 seconds for recovery.  Beginning riders and riders looking to leave with some gas in the tank should take another 30-60 seconds for recovery in the middle.  Everybody else, get up off the saddle and dig in.  Lots of time for varying tension and position and cadence here – mix it up every 20-60 seconds, and the time will fly.

Beautiful U R – Deborah Cox (3:52): High tension lifts – 7/10 or higher, first 8 counts, then 4, then 2 counts.  Riders are going to be tempted to slack off on the tension after such a long climb, but encourage them to keep going and get what they came for.  They can rest in 10 minutes when we hit the cool down.  Cox is a hard-working Canadian R&B singer who started singing for TV commercials at age 12.  This is her most recent single.  So far it’s only charted in Canada but given the positive message and can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head beat, I expect it to take off internationally, too.

Shake It – Metro Station (3:00): This American pop-rock band is co-fronted by Trace Cyrus, half-brother to Miley Cyrus and son of Billy Ray, but there’s nothing achy breaky about it.  We’re going to balance our long climb with the first of two final songs for sprints: three of them here, at each chorus: 25/25/45 (0:45 – 1:10, 1:36 – 2:01, 2:17 – 3:00), with only a brief respite for recovery between them.

How Far We’ve Come – Matchbox Twenty (3:31): Let’s finish the ride strong, with some final kick-ass sprints: 25/25/60 seconds.  Take 45 seconds for some much needed recovery, then go! at 0:45 – 1:10, 1:30 – 1:55, and 2:30 – 3:31 (ride out the end of the song).  Cool down is gonna feel so good.  Another hat-tip to J.R. Atwood for reminding me of this great sprinting tune.  Matchbox Twenty is another American alt-rock band.  This song is from their most recent CD.

Sorry – Buckcherry (3:48): I don’t know why I’m so apologetic all of a sudden, but let’s cool down with two songs about male contrition, first wildly-tattooed bad boy Josh Todd’s relationship mea culpa, “I’m sorry I’m bad/I’m sorry you’re blue/I’m sorry about all things I said to you/And I know I can’t take it back/I love how you kiss/I love all your sounds/and baby the way you make my world go round/And I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”  Slow your legs, ease off on the tension, and do some stretching.

Sorry – Gordie Sampson (3:37): Nova Scotia songwriter Gordie Sampson is “sorry for everything” (even the song!) in this charming tongue-in-cheek ditty.  Sampson won a Grammy for writing Carrie Underwood’s, Jesus, Take the Wheel.  A final song for stretching and cleaning off the bikes.

How to help riders get what they came for?

I got up early on Sunday to attend another instructor’s ride with some friends.  Drove to the gym (about 15 minutes from my house by car), signed in for the class, which was almost full, and did some easy spinning to warm up before it started.  This instructor had lots of great music and varied drills, but the ride left me still searching for that pleasantly thrashed feeling we’re all chasing.

My heart rate monitor backed up the feeling: my peak and average heart rates were both lower than usual.  One of the friends I rode with remarked to me that she felt “really disappointed” that the ride didn’t scratch the itch for her, either.  It felt like a lot of effort – getting up early, driving, signing in – for not much payout.

This got me thinking.  What went wrong?

Was she a bad instructor?  Not at all – she was enthusiastic and she’d obviously put attention into the music and the drills she used.  She had to instruct a class that varied widely in ability, from a senior citizen taking her first cycling class (awesome!) to a yoga instructor who is one of the most fit individuals I know.  (I would love to have this woman’s biceps.)

Were our expectations too high?  Everyone knows the Spinning prima donnas at their gym – they’re the ones wearing high end gear who must have their usual bike and will stalk out in a huff if the workout doesn’t feel like a Tour de France stage.  Were we orbiting dangerously close to prima donna territory?

I don’t think so.  I’ve been riding for years, but I’m still relatively new as an instructor.  I enjoy going to other instructor’s classes, and I almost always learn something – a new way to cue, or describe proper form, a creative twist on a drill, a great new song, a way to make riders of all abilities feel comfortable and welcome.

So what was it?  After thinking about it for a while, here’s what I came to: yes, everybody does their own ride, and you can go as hard, or as easy as you want, but I think even committed riders can use a push from the instructor.

I try to strike the balance by offering lots of opportunities to turn it up to 11 (as it were).  I’ll often ask, “is your tension where you want it?” to prevent people from coasting, and encourage them to turn it up if they have more to give.

I also try to make riders feel comfortable with not going all-out-leave-nothing-in-the-tank.  We need recovery rides, too.  I try to cue regular and advanced options and make sure riders see me choosing both, so they feel comfortable choosing both.  (Though today on the last 60 second sprint in How Far We’ve Come one of my riders shouted, “I’ll do it standing if you will!”  So we did.)

What do you do to encourage your riders to push, while keeping the class accessible to everyone?