Coaching vs. Choreography

Last year we got a Peloton bike for our house. My wife was excited for an exercise option she enjoyed at home. I was excited to have an alternative form of exercise I could do for myself and with clients who had bikes. It’s been beneficial for both of us. 

This type of exercise is totally different from my typical group CrossFit workouts I do at our gym, but it’s been an interesting experience. The workouts are led by a coach who cues you when to adjust the settings on the bike. Cadence (how fast you pedal) and Resistance (resistance against your pedals) are the two main adjustments that occur in a workout. The workout is set to varying songs that typically align with the cadence and resistance set. The coach motivates and encourages the riders through workouts ranging from 20-90 minutes in length typically. 

What I enjoy about these workouts is that it’s just me, the bike, some music, and someone I don’t know telling me what to do. I can honestly just zone out and follow the directions. Some workouts are a little easier and others are fairly grueling. Either way, I very seldom come off the bike disappointed.

Obviously, these single exercise “cardio” based workouts differ from the constantly varied high intensity strength training I typically do by shear style, but it’s really the difference in coaching that I want to highlight in this article.

The peloton workouts are what I consider choreographed coaching. The coach guides you through the parameters of the workout as they do it with you. But there’s no specific coaching to the rider on the other side of the screen. Not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just different.

In the group workouts we do at our gym, the parameters of the workout are only a small part of the coaching process. Our coaches are working with each individual in the class to teach, see, and correct movement for the prescribed workout that day. They also have a “live” social exchange with each client gaining insight to where that client is that day mentally and emotionally. 

Their coaching adjusts to what that client needs that day. If they’re stressed at work maybe they don’t need to move as fast as they normally would. If they have a sore knee maybe the coach will adjust the movement they’re doing that day to one that doesn’t exacerbate the issue. Or if they’re riding high on a new promotion maybe they’ll give them a hug or a high five. 

While our class plans are systemized, our coaching cannot be choreographed because it must adapt to the clients in front of us. That adaptation only comes through in person (or even live zoom) engagement between coach and client. This is the primary difference between coaching and choreography. 

Choreography can be effective in certain settings and for certain individuals, and I think the coaches at Peloton are some of the best at it. But there will be limits to it in personalization for the client. This is where I believe a live coach makes a greater impact for someone. It’s not in the workout, the encouragement, or the class plan — it’s in the personalization. 

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