For Instructors

The Stretch Assignment

Chatting with my husband this morning about a management concept called The Stretch Assignment, I pondered about its application to the Spinning studio. The idea is that as the chief of operations of unicef here in cambodia it is both his personal and professional mission to seek opportunities for people who work under him to stretch themselves professionally. If one person is away from the office for any length of time, rather than hire from outside, he looks to see if anyone in the office might be able to step up their responsibilities and grow as a professional, and awesome show of dedication to career development where professional and educational opportunities are limited. Pulling that over into the Spinning studio, I venture to guess that much of coaching is looking for "Stretch Assignments," but rather than doing it simply intuitively, I think it is worthwhile putting some thought into it. By and large the group before you is there, doing their thing and they already have a good habit established. So how do you know that someone is ready for a Stretch Assignment? My feeling is that i lies at the extreme opposites of their communication - whether they are noting something positive or negative. The person who says Spinning (especially endurance) is boring - totally ripe for a Stretch Assignment. Someone who is excited to announce that they just signed up for a Spring fun triathlon...ready. In some way, your clients will indicate that they need a little bit more from you. Take the bait. Take it. What you do is fine, but how cool is it to tease a little be more out of someone? In order to give a good stretch assignment it is imperative to know what the clients' strengths and weaknesses are. Your goal is to help them focus on their weakness, whatever it is. Give them one thing to focus on at a time. If you say, I will work with you to make you concentrate more, release more, adhere to hand positions more faithfully, generate more power in each pedal stroke and speed up the cadence while keeping their breath and heart rate low....wow....you'll blow them out of the water. Pick one. Breath is a great place to start, if the person is not wearing a heart rate monitor (and fine too if they are). Concentration is a hard thing to convey, but if you put your mind to it and give them space, they'll develop their ability to concentrate with a respectable gear on, keeping form stretching their fitness along the way. Tap in to Yoga's drishdi if you want, or give them something physical to focus on. I have even had the rider use the handlebars as the shape of a trail or track and they keep their eyes progressing slowly around the course - lends itself to great concentration. Consider your riders...don't go an make a project out of everyone, but if you're available to tap into someone, and if it is received well, and is appropriate in the setting of your class (not favoritism) overseeing a Stretch Assignment can be very rewarding for you - especially if they meet their performance goal! Don't be stuck on the athletic ones in your class...many people of all shapes and sizes, experiences and ability harbor a secret desire to improve beyond the blanket coverage you offer the class.
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