In last month’s article, I introduced the idea of treadmill interval training. Using the same principles and the same protocol, you can add a cycling workout and create a duathtlon training class for your clients.
Whether or not your client is training for a competition, duathlon, triathlon or just enjoys a good workout, this class format offers diversity and a fun new challenge to complement any workout program. Group fitness instructors and personal trainers who offer group training packages can take advantage of offering a duathlon training program. Class sizes can be intimate (3-5 participants) or large (10-20 ) participants. Keep in mind that the size limit of the class depends on how many bikes and treadmills are available at your facility.
Fitness facilities can market the class as a “fee-based” program and charge an extra fee to offset the cost of paying for the instructor. Or, personal trainers can offer special group rates to members with the intention of attracting new clients. Marketing the class is half of the fun! You can use it as a member incentive program to increase retention, or offer it as a new class for diversity on your group fitness schedule. Typically you should cap the program at 12-weeks to evaluate the success. Launching the program with a party or open house and finishing the program with a “bang” creates a lot of excitement. If your group is goal-oriented, you may plan the class around competing in a real duathlon, 5k or 10k.
The class is typically 90-minutes in length. Forty-five minutes on the bike and forty-five minutes on the treadmill. This includes a proper warm up, equipment transition time, and a cool down. Keep in mind that a beginner group may need to work up to a full 90-minutes of cardio exercise. I have found that beginning with the cycling component is the most comfortable for most of the participants.
The class format offers a lot of room for creativity. If instructors are currently teaching cycling and/or any kind of group treadmill classes, they will have a sense of what motivates the group. It may also be desirable to pair a group fitness instructor with a personal trainer. This will encourage participant crossover between group fitness enthusiasts and personal training clients. Both the group fitness instructor and the personal trainer will benefit from the shared class.
During the cycling segment of the class, I have my participants go through a series of hill climbs and interval drills. Using good coaching and cueing drills with some imagery is paramount for helping the group stay motivated and enthusiastic. Additionally, having a common goal and some healthy competition keeps client retention high.
I usually divide the class into two or three groups and have each one perform a timed interval segment. While one group is pushing anaerobic threshold, the other two are cheering and offering support. This works with both the cycling segment and the treadmill segment, and it increases camaraderie and teamwork amongst the group. I also use imagery from local hills or familiar terrain to help my clients visualize their goals.
After the final riding profile, I let the participants know that a safe and smooth transition is key _ to move quickly, gather their things, change shoes and head to the treadmills. At this point, because heart rates are high and most people are pushing fairly hard, it is important to monitor the group. Abrupt exercise cessation during the transition must be handled carefully.
It is important to note that reserving the treadmills for the class is really helpful. Having to ask a member to get off a treadmill without giving them any notice by at least having a reservation sign to refer to, does not create a positive atmosphere for members who are not in the class. Because treadmills are typically on a cardio floor with other pieces of equipment, teaching the class during a fairly busy time can create a lot of energy and interest in the club, so its a good idea to give the members fair warning. The class can serve as a great marketing and PR tool for the club and will draw attention to both the participants and the instructors. It will also pique the curiosity of members who typically do not attend group fitness classes or participate in personal training.
Before beginning the treadmill segment of the class, identify your runners and your walkers. It is important to be sure that no one feels pressured to push past where they can go and that everyone in the group feels successful. Have your participants walk on their heels and toes for a few seconds and then have them take large exaggerated steps to open up their hip flexors. After the group has acclimated to the treadmill, once again use profiles or hills and intervals for the class.
Take this opportunity to choose a couple of your stellar athletes and have them push a bit harder then the rest of the group. The facility I teach at has an indoor track around the perimeter of the club and the cardio floor. I will ask for a volunteer and while the group is sprinting or speed walking on the treadmill, the volunteer will run the track two times. The group is finished when the volunteer returns from the second lap. This drill creates a lot of excitement amongst the group and in the club as well. If you are in a smaller facility, this may not be possible, however it does give you an idea of the types of creative programming you can do. Maybe instead of the track, the volunteer has to run the outside perimeter of the club, or while the group is on the treadmill, a volunteer must get off the treadmill and do an explosive plyometric series until completion.
You will find that 45-minutes of each format, cycling and treadmill training, will move fast and that there is a lot to do as the instructor. Paying attention to the group, cueing, coaching, bike set up, treadmill set up and keeping everyone entertained can be like a three-ring circus. You will want to monitor breathing and check for a relaxed upper body. Remember if some of your participants are walking, taking shorter steps and driving their elbows back will ensure maximal caloric expenditure. Walkers will tend to hinge forward on the hills so be sure to monitor posture. Runners will tend to tighten their upper body as they fatigue, and often need to be reminded to contact the treadmill with as little impact as possible. Brush up on your gait analyses and check your group for excessive pronation and supination. Watch impact and joint stability. Remember, this is a great opportunity to evaluate your clients’ form and posture. And it provided a segue to offer additional personal training services.
Lastly, be sure to take your time with the warm up and the cool down. Ending with appropriate stretching for the glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads, periformis and hip flexors is important and most participants need to be reminded not to leave the class until the stretch is over.