Music in a cycling class can make or break a class because the root of group fitness is music. This is why group fitness is referred to as “exercise to music.”
Indoor Cycling has gone through a wave of trends from high intensity music to yoga cycling to DJ’s in the Studios and back to the top 40’s playlist consumed with Pitbull and Flo Rida. Is there one right or wrong way to use music in a class? I believe the answer is yes there is a right way to create a playlist.
The key to music is to captivate your audience and use the music to guide the ride while creating an energy in the room.
Many instructors have sought out to “play it safe” in order to prevent the risk of offending people with their music, but that isn’t the answer either.
Imagine if within your playlist, you created a journey for your riders with each song you played? What if it included an old school 80’s hit that creates nostalgia, an upbeat energizing current song that people love, an imagery or “energy healing” song which is outside the norm that changes the feeling of the ride, and then you finish with a ride or die song that gets them to push through boundaries?
I titled this blog post “Using Music Outside the Norm” to share how to do it, but I wanted to hammer home that music is about variety and creating energy. Before you create your playlist, ask yourself, what kind of energy is the songs I am choosing going to create?
Nothing drives me more insane than being in a class when the music is background (even if the volume is pumped). Background music means you are throwing on a song to use with a drill versus using the music to create the drill. Music is full of hooks and choruses that beautifully intertwine with Cycling Drills and positions.
Here are 4 "Outside the Norm" Songs I Love to Use ...
1. Lets take a song like “Syria” by Unders. This song is 8 minutes long and has a cool vibe and beat. But if you played this kind of music throughout an entire cycling class, wow, would that be boring. However, insert this song half way through class, use the heavy tension and create power where the music allows for it and cue imagery and visuals and what a ride it can be! However, you cannot throw a song like this on and not cue throughout it. Your cueing with this kind of song will create more energy. Spotify Link to song. Youtube Link.
2. Let’s take another “outside the norm” song like “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson. Not a song I would put on the while driving in my truck or think to use in a class but if you give this song a listen, there are four distinct fast pieces in the song. Insert a power sprint (heavy tension and pushing the cadence) and voila - magic happens! Offer a recovery or flat between the sprints. Spotify Song Link. Youtube Song Link.
3. One of my favourite songs goes back to the 60’s with the ever so awesome Tina Turner. Her song “Proud Mary” is one of my loved finisher drills. It’s starts slow, allowing for a flat road or recovery ride (depending on what you did for the previous drill) then when the song kicks in, I turn it into a fast flat for 3 minutes until the song ends. Oh the endurance they are working on with this song is amazing. The song total is 5 minutes and what a way to finish a class on a Proud Mary note! Youtube Link. Spotify Link.
4. What about a song that evokes emotion? There are so many brilliant songs that create energy. Humans are constantly going through a series of emotions. What if one of the emotions you evoke is taking your power back? One song I love is Eminem's song "Not Afraid." You can play this song cueing a heavy hill climb transitioning from the saddle to standing throughout the song but to ride with their eyes closed and to visualize themselves overcoming challenges and being grateful for having the ability to take a stand like it says in the song. Youtube Link. Spotify Link.
We are so quick to go to the top 40’s when it comes to music or spend all our time in the land of Flo Rida and Pitbull (don’t get me wrong, I love their music in spin class) but we need to spend more time choosing songs then creating drills versus the other way around.
Now I know what people are going to say, “Rachel, I teach intervals and I am afraid to choreograph drills because I don’t have a music background. What can I do?” I am here to tell you that creating drills with music is so easy. Get on the bike, put a song that you think creates energy, and ask yourself, how would I ride to this song? I am willing to bet that it wouldn’t take long to find the changes in the music that creates the magic in a choreographed drill. The catch is - you must do the work. You must put in the time to play with drills on the bike on your own time, not pretend to ride while listening to a song or writing out drills just for the sake of writing out 1 minute this 20 seconds of that.
If you are new or need help, take advantage of the 121 drills I created to music. You don’t have to do it all yourself. There are resources out there for you to get you started, that’s why I wrote my ebooks - to help instructors find the magic in teaching cycling using choreographed drills.
I still do lots of intervals in class but I am very aware of the music I choose to create the ride. The beat must match the intensity of the drill. And pump up the music! Note, I didn’t say blast their ears, but use the volume of the music to match the energy of the ride :)
Lets create amazing drills and rides that people feel energized by and use songs “outside of the norm” because they work! Remember, you don’t need to have a DJ in your studio to create an awesome ride, you simply need to take the time to create drills and plan your playlists. If you are excited about teaching, they will feel your energy!