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Jennifer Sage on three bad trends in indoor cycling

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Jennifer Sage, founder of the Indoor Cycling Association, has devoted her career to educating instructors: It’s their job to make sure students continue on the path to better health, stronger muscles and improved endurance. And they don’t always do the best job of leading the way.

For D.C. instructors in need of a tuneup, Sage and colleague Tom Scotto are coming to town to offer a weekend conference at Off Road Indoor Cycling (905 U St. NW, It starts Friday night with a 90-minute ride that’s open to all ($25). Saturday and Sunday are packed with various sessions ($69-$109 each, or $299 for all) that delve into technique, technology and training methodology.

Sage, who has been teaching indoor cycling for nearly two decades, hopes the course will help put the brakes on some of the more troubling trends she says are common in classes around the country recently. Here are three:

Too Much, Too Fast
“High intensity is all the rage,” Sage says, but it’s only effective as a training strategy if the instructor understands heart rate and knows what constitutes aerobic activity versus anaerobic. Even when high intensity is done well, it can be overdone, Sage says: “It’s like going to the gym and only doing bicep curls. There’s so much else you can tap into.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum: the instructor who tries to toss a little bit of everything into a single workout. “When you do that, everything is watered down, and nothing gets the attention it deserves,” Sage says.

Not Keeping It Real
One popular add-on in cycling classes are the light weights that students can lift while riding. Sage sees this as a waste of time (“You can’t target many muscles that way,” she says) and even dangerous.

Instructors already don’t pay enough attention to bike set-up, she says. Forcing a student to sit in an unnatural position for these weight-training segments — or for pushups or crunches — interferes with proper pedaling mechanics. And that limits the benefits of a ride, Sage says.

She preaches that you should treat an indoor bike the way you would an outdoor one. And no one would consider doing bent-over rows while riding on a trail.

Wrong Notes
Some instructors pick the songs they’ll play in class before they decide what they’re teaching. This is a big no-no, says Sage, who always DJs with a particular goal in mind.

She finds tunes that match her objectives, both in terms of beats per minute and emotional content.

“I think of the music as sound-track to a movie,” she says. “You have to create a screenplay first.”