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Killer Cues

“Go!” “Push it!” “Feel it!” “You can do it!” “C’mon!” “Whoohooo!”

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever struggled with trying to find cues that have more impact and depth for your Spinning classes, you are not alone.

We all want to be great with our instructional language. We want cues with clout. We want commanding cues. But where does rock-solid cueing come from? How do great instructors manifest their ideas and thoughts into the spoken word? Is there a secret to creating impactful language? The good news is that with just a bit of creativity, instructors can learn to bring more captivating verbiage into their coaching. Everyone has the ability to transform ordinary words into works of art and everyday cues into luminous language.

The Spinning program has always been rooted in powerful language. New instructors are introduced to this philosophy for the first time in the Spinning instructor manual—remember the language examples listed on the Energy Zone™ pages in Phase 3? Great coaches utilize powerful, effective language. And who doesn’t want to be a great coach?

It is very common for instructors to get stuck saying the same things over and over again, class after class. If you’ve become aware that you’re repeating yourself, believe me, your students knew long ago.

Luckily, there are some simple resources that can help you develop more effective cues. First, consider that the expansion of your language is connected to the depth of your knowledge. Here are some simple suggestions to increase your knowledge base: 

  • Take classes from other instructors. Whether they are classes at your club or at a conference, hearing how others cue pedal stroke or climbing skills can give you some solid ideas.
  • Explore other types of fitness classes. Take yoga, martial arts, kickboxing, Pilates or any other type of group fitness class. It will open your mind and expose you to new ways of saying things. That awesome diaphragmatic breathing cue you heard in yoga class may easily translate into an effective breath cue on the bike.
  • The more you know about the sport, the more you can speak the language. Read cycling books and magazines. Peruse cycling websites. Join a cycling blog. Get out on your bike more often. Enter a race. Participate in a benefit ride. Embrace the culture of the sport and your mind will fill up with coaching ideas and language.
  • Take Spinning Continuing Education courses. Our live workshops are always guaranteed to provide a healthy dose of new cues.

Now, getting a bunch of new cues from someone else might help fill the bucket, but it is just a start. You might be all dressed up but you’ll have nowhere to go. We often repeat things verbatim that we hear other instructors say and the impact is lost. Effective, meaningful cues must come from a place that is personal, natural and comfortable for you; otherwise you risk sounding like you’re reading from a script. Reciting someone else’s lines constantly will diminish your ability to impact your students.

So besides improving your knowledge base and learning from others, the next step is to learn how to carve out your own cues. One of the easiest strategies to employ is to simply start exploring how to say the same thing in different ways.

Let’s take one of the most common cues heard in a Spinning class: “Relax your shoulders.” First, come up with 10 other words that have a similar effect as the word “relax.” Don’t worry if you’re coming up blank—simply whip out your trusty thesaurus and you’ll be amazed at what you find. How about soften, smooth, ease, release, relieve, sigh, unwind, diminish, reduce and settle? Super! Now, with a little creativity, we can put these new words to work:

-Invite ease into your neck.
-Release the shoulder blades into your back pockets.
-Breathe a sigh of serenity into the shoulders.
-Allow the neck and shoulders to unwind.
-Reduce tension in the shoulder girdle with a deep, cleansing breath.
-Let tranquility settle into your shoulders.

How about the word “strong?” Here are a few options to consider instead: tenacious, steadfast, determined, resolute, unwavering, unyielding, uncompromising, firm, immovable, stable, unshakeable, and the list goes on.

Once you get comfortable with looking at new words, composing new phrases and cues becomes natural. Let’s take a look at this phrase: “Relax your shoulders and commit to this climb.” Let’s transform it with a bit of magic: “Breathe calm into your neck and be resolute in your climb.”

 Now let’s get really creative with another very common cue: “Feel the music.”

-Immerse yourself in rhythm.
-Allow the guitar to drive your pace.
-Embrace your own dance.
-Surround your body with the drums.
-Unwind. Unleash. Uncover your natural rhythm.
-Marry music and movement—let the sounds lift you! 

Take the time to play with these language strategies and you’ll see your cues diversify.

One final tip is to borrow from the great visionary leaders, poets and musicians. Use them as inspiration. Quote them in class. Bruce Lee said, “Be like water.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” The group Origene says, “There is a place within all of us, it is sacred, so free of judgment. This is yours to share with who you wish. This is your sanctuary.”  

Remember that our words convey messages and evoke emotion, so choose your cues carefully. You will notice that the more powerful language you employ, the less you will have to say, thus giving your students time to actually assess your instruction and then implement it. It is better to have fewer cues with greater impact than too many cues with little or no substance. Oliver Wendell Holmes may have said it best, “Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”

Effective cueing comes from a combination of increasing your knowledge base, learning from others, and reaching outside your language comfort zone. Instructors dedicate much time and effort toward developing their music libraries and profile libraries.  Dedicating the same efforts toward developing an expansive language library will render a more comprehensive and fulfilling class experience for students.

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