Envision a class where everyone is working at their optimal effort level, having an incredible time, getting stronger and becoming even more inspired to return to class and ride more. Using competition to your advantage can be a valuable asset in your instructor toolkit to fuel the ideal workout experience.
The fitness industry is booming with devices that are designed to elicit a competitive atmosphere. An increase in wearable technology such as watches and other electronic devices make tracking energy expenditure, power, and other performance indicators more accessible. With metrics on display through individual monitors like the color LCD computer on a Spinner® Chrono™ Power bike, or on public displays like leaderboards, instructors have more resources than ever to inspire healthy competition.
With a growing trend of using competition to fuel effort, understanding different approaches to competition is important. In some cases, competition can actually negatively impact performance if not utilized effectively. Spinning® is designed for everyone, so we want to ensure you foster a welcoming, fun-filled environment that does not dissuade or intimidate anyone with intense competition.
Research can guide us on how to best coach competition and integrate information into fitness classes. Three methods to positively motivate riders through competition would include having riders compete against themselves or as part of a team. You can also employ leaderboards and other displays to demonstrate effective metrics like watts per kilogram (W/kg).
What drills can you use to inspire healthy competition in your classes?
Rider vs. Self: This can be one great way to get everyone involved without the added pressure of riders being nervous about what others will think of their performance. If you are employing Spinner® Chrono™ Power bikes, complete a 30-second effort with students tracking their watts. After recovering from the first trial, the rider can repeat the drill and attempt to match or improve on their first effort. When personal improvement is seen, individuals become more empowered and feel driven to return.
Realistic goal-setting and a strong belief in an individual’s self-efficacy, or ability to achieve their goals, can impact the degree to which individuals succeed (1). By riding against oneself, goal-setting can be completely in the hands of the rider because they are competing against their previous time versus seeing an unrealistic metric that is the standard set by another rider.
Rider as Part of Team: This is an ideal way to introduce extrinsic competition in your Spinning® classes. If you’re teaching with a leaderboard system that has this functionality, you can display metrics such as total calories burned and average watts as a group. You can then frame the competition as a group effort to achieve a numeric goal. Or, you can divide the class by the left side and right side of the room, creating two teams within the class. When your riders work as team, they get to experience a type of motivation that is cooperative and supportive.
Even the Playing Field: As an instructor, you want to be aware that it can be demotivating if riders compare themselves to others who are way beyond their skill level or strength. When using leaderboards or metrics that rank the riders, opt for watts per kilogram instead of absolute watts. Watts per kilogram (W/kg) reflects one’s power-to-weight ratio, so it takes bodyweight into account. This is important because, on a Spinner® bike, a heavier person is likely to be able to apply more force onto the pedals with the additional weight.
When choosing a drill to elicit healthy competition, one key is to teach the class as personalized as possible for each individual rider. When there are fewer individuals competing, research states that people work harder compared to when they are competing in or against a larger group (2). Thinking about how an instructor can create that small group atmosphere whether they are teaching two riders or 100 riders can be essential to motivating each individual rider. An instructor can work toward creating a personalized atmosphere by really getting to know their riders in class. Knowing their names and goals can be a great starting point!
Instructors can also become masters of various metrics that can be powerful indicators of performance by taking the SPINPower® Instructor Certification to understand the different tools that can be used in classes that use competition to motivate.
Competition can be a great way to motivate riders in a Spinning® class. However, its success may depend on your particular group of riders. Each student is different. How they respond to competition may vary. Understanding the research about competition and how instructors can intentionally craft an atmosphere that supports healthy competition can help drive performance by inspiring riders to put in more effort and perform at their peak!
If you're ready to motivate your riders even more, take the CEC quiz and earn 1 CEC toward your recertification!
This article was contributed by Olivia Ellis M.S.
(1) Brusso, R., Orvis, K., Bauer, K., & Tekleab, A. (2012). Interaction among self-efficacy, goal orientation, and unrealistic goal-setting on videogame-based training performance. Military Psychology,24(1), 1-18. doi:10.1080/08995605.2012.639669
(2) Garcia, S. M., & Tor, A. (2009). The N-effect: More competitors, less competition. Psychological Science,20(7), 871-877.