Recently, two separate cycle participants have made comments about fitness leaders using percentages, such as “cycle at 50%”, in class. In both cases, the cycle participants both stated that they didn’t know what 50% means. They found it challenging (and frustrating) to interpret the percentages on the fly as they were being used in the class.
Monitoring intensity is an essential part of any cycling class. The difficulty lies in communication. Not only do instructors need to effectively communicate their intended intensity but they also rely on feedback from the participants indicating they are working at the intended intensity (something that is often difficult for the instructor to judge directly).
Over the 10 plus years I have been teaching, I have explored a number of ways to describe and monitor intensity during cycle classes. I find a combination of various tools helpful:
1. A simple check of “How is everyone doing?” and interpreting the response from the group (i.e., no response means “I’m tired” and enthusiastic response means “I’m ready to push myself”).
2. Showing of hands in response to my questioning. For example, “I am doing great”, “I am doing so-so”, and “I am ready to get off my bike because I just can’t ride anymore”.
3. Setting a specific resistance and revolutions per minute (more to come in future blog posts) and having class participants continually check if they are maintaining the set intensity.
4. Individual Rating of Perceived Exertion cards that dictate how hard class participants are to work.
If planning to use percentages to monitor intensity ensure the following:
1. Explain and explain again to ensure you are communicating how you would like class participants to quantify/qualify their intensity.
2. Consider discussing how to gauge individual intensity during the warm-up. Best to be on track from the start.
3. Use visual cues such as a Rating of Perceived Exertion poster or individual cue cards that explain what each level represents.
4. Ask for clarity from the group and if they understand how you would like them to monitor their intensity during the class.
Using percentages is one way to monitor and describe intensity during a cycle class. Find the combination that works best for you and your class participants.
Workman's Cycle Drills & Skills
Enjoy some of my favorite cycle workout drills either in a cycle class or on your own bike at home!