How To Enjoy RPM If You Are An All Terrain Athlete

Some road, triathlon and mountain bike riders don’t take RPM classes because they don’t like them. I used to be one of these people. Our biggest concern with RPM is that there are a lot of times when you are not working very hard. We’re working on our cardio base by holding a steady heart rate and the RPM class has the participants HR going up and down over and over again. We don’t see it as valuable training for us because we need to ride flat road for hours.

Even though I teach RPM, I still understand this concern and it is legitimate. As an athlete you have workout parameters that need to be followed in order for your training to progress. Unless you have an idea of what the instructor is going to ask you to do next, you cannot adjust your workout on the fly to satisfy these parameters. The outcome is a lost workout and a bad taste for RPM.

This article will outline what RPM is so you training athletes can plan a cycling workout accordingly.

RPM is different from the other group cycling classes in that it is standardized and it follows a formula.

LMI standard:
All of the RPM instructors teach the same choreography and music, RPM 33 at Milton will sound and feel very similar to RPM at South Common or any club that teaches it.
There are a finite number of songs that you will ever hear at an RPM class so you will hear some tracks a number of times. Each time you do a track, you will get better at it.
Once you get good at riding each track you will be able to focus on your form and your effort level making you more successful.

RPM consists of 9 working sections of varying intensities and is regarded as an interval training program.

The participants are encouraged to work with three levels of physical exertion in mind, comfortable, uncomfortable and breathless. These are subjective and determined by the participant.

Songs are 5-6 minutes long. Track length remains fairly consistent between releases.

The Les Mills RPM classes are choreographed using the following formula (each track position serves the same training function on each release):

  • Track 1 Pack Ride – it’s a warm-up
  • Track 2 Pace Track – continuing to warm up and find your top pace
  • Track 3 Hills – seated and standing climbing – first cardio peak
  • Track 4 Mixed Terrain – speed and hill climbing – recover from track 3
  • Track 5 Intervals – quick peddle speed with seated and standing attacks – second cardio peak
  • Track 6 Speed work – series of races to top speed – slight recovery from track 5
  • Track 7 Mountain climb – seated and standing climbing with heavy resistance – third cardio peak
  • Track 8 Ride home – cool down
  • Track 9 Stretching

You are working to the same perceived exertion level for each track position on each release:

  • Track 1 Comfortable
  • Track 2 Almost breathless
  • Track 3 Breathless
  • Track 4 Comfortable
  • Track 5 Breathless
  • Track 6 Uncomfortable
  • Track 7 Breathless
  • Track 8 Comfortable
  • Track 9 Comfortable

There will be some recovery between tracks as songs fade out and new ones buil

Key aspects of the profile are:
Your heart rate should peak three times during the class, track 3, 5 and 7.

Your heart rate should recover almost completely during track 4 and somewhat during track 6.

Expectation of RPM riders:

You work as hard as you need to achieve the recommended level of exertion, recovering or increasing resistance as needed.

How to adjust your workout to make the most of an RPM class (assuming you are there for training and not just the fitness class):
Class lasts about 50 minutes and the last 7-8 minutes of that are cool down and stretching. Arrive early enough to make sure you get the time on the bike that you are hoping for before track 8. Your workout is over at track 8.

  • Track 1 – you will be peddling a lot slower because everyone else will be warming up. Use a lot of tension and treat track one as a seated hill. Make sure your legs are well warmed up. Hold the effort through the break between songs.
  • Track 2 – group peddling speed will be higher during this track. Adjust tension to find training HR. Carry effort to next song.
  • Track 3 – a beat matched track; riders should try and find push point to the beat. There will also be a couple of recovery period throughout the track and seated climb usually follows standing recovery. The best option is to seated climb thought recovery sections and adjust tension as needed to hold your training effort.
  • Track 4 – this is racing and standing climb at your pace, make it whatever you need it to be.
  • Track 5 – faster paced seated and standing attack. I think you should do this track, use it to spike your heart rate. I offer no suggestion for other options but it’s a high energy song so you could probably get away with staying seated the whole time.
  • Track 6 – this is racing at your pace, make it whatever you need it to be.
  • Track 7 – seated and standing climb, beat matched track. Seated climb through the standing recovery sections and adjust tension as needed to hold your training effort.
  • Track 8 – end of workout.

If you have any questions concerning how to modify your workout to better fit with the RPM format, just leave the questions below and I will address them or come to one of my classes and ask me directly.

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