The use of imagery is one of those tools that, once you discover it, becomes impossible to do without. (like a microwave!) Imagery will up your coaching game, but I think a lot of people don't really understand how to do it. I was just reading from a book called "Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery" by Eric Franklin and I thought I would take his guidelines for imagery, found on page 61 and adapt them for Spinning®
1: "The image must be in the present moment, visualized as vividly as possible, involving as many of your senses as possible." If, for example, you wanted to construct the image of a difficult hill, rather than saying "crank on that gear..." you might suggest something like this - This is the kind of steepness that would make you lean into your horse's neck to help him get up. We focus on driving our knees up and forward, rather than our feet down and back. With the sun bearing down on our shoulders, the tar is soft, making each pedal stroke thicker...let's feel that tackiness under our tires by adjusting the resistance knob....
2. "Although never static, the image must have precise location and direction inside the body." This sounds really specific to dance, but you can get specific in Spinning®. If, for example you want to correct a person's tendency to drop their head, you could say "Look out to where you're going..." or you could involve the person in their body. "Facilitating our breath, we can soften the elbows and retract through the shoulder blades, opening the chest. This allows us to ride with our heart leading the way. Let's lay our gaze out ahead of our bike where our heart is projecting....
3. "Do not evaluate the process as it is happening." You don't need to construct a novel worth of description, nor do you need to make corrections along the way. You set your image clearly in your own head and stick with it without convoluting it too much with jibber jabber. "Your competitor's front wheel is at your back wheel...how does that make you feel? What adjustments can you make to keep your lead?" "A fantastic set of surges, lets settle down for this 6 minutes of flat road riding. You're in luck today with the wind at your back, let's release the gear just enough so that you are still moving forward, retaining enough gear so that you don't feel light in the saddle..."
4. "Do not worry about feeling anything specific or be concerned about the correct way to feel while imaging." This is so important in Spinning® - Lots of people are so accustomed to yoga's approach to this - "hold the pose..." In Spinning we're more dynamic than that, constantly moving, but clients need space to just be revving. I remember classes where I was suddenly caught up watching sweat well up on my arms. I wasn't particularly fascinated by it, but I was, rather, lost in it. weird, I know. You do not have to check in with your clients. "Are you relaxed?" is a silly question. "See if you can release the stress of the day..." nonsense. It happens, you can't try then report on it. What people need is longer chunks of time, guided into the right "pose" - meaning cadence/resistance, then released to just be...just do.
5. "Look at every image as though you have never seen it before." Even if you just cycled up your famous "cardiac hill" ride two days ago, whether your clients have done this ride or not, be there and experience it fresh for the first time along side them. Don't force anything. Notice. Notice additional traffic that you'd like to stay ahead of. Navigate through the gravel, hearing the crunch under your tires - you may need to "run" through the gravel rather than climb through it. Maybe this time there is a cross wind or the smell of fresh jasmine in the valley.... Be new...every time. Imagery is not an intellectual thing. It is an emotional thing that translates into a physical experience.
6. "Use music and sound to enhance the image." In one of my music playlists I use a song called Polaris - I believe it was from a Jay Blanik stretch cd. It is not really music, it is sort of tonal explorations...It conveys a sense of unknown, quiet strength and power....I just love it. Rhythm is a tool, but sometimes it gets in the way....listen to your music not only for the speed (ie: cadence) but for the mood it conveys....capitalize on that...
7. "It is helpful to begin an imagery session by focusing on your breath." In Spinning® it isn't so great (imho) to control breathing. Focus is okay though and seeking fuller, relaxed yet tidal breath as a goal is okay to suggest. Just awareness. Spinning is different from other Aerobics because most encourage a tightness of the abs, but in cycling we relax more. Also we tend to feel our back expanding more than the chest and belly. Not everyone...it is just an image. . . a possibility.
It is a real skill to be able to coax someone's experience to be more tangible and emotional than just planting your butt in the saddle and riding nowhere. If any of the suggestions sound hokey or just down right not "you..." skip it. It isn't for every instructor - if you have to force it it will not sound genuine. If you have the opportunity to ride with someone who is skilled at delivering their classes through imagery, it is well worth the experience - a new dimension to an already great experience.
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