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RPM 35 - I Got The New Music Today

I got the new music today for RPM 35. I like it a lot. There are a couple of great songs (Only One Too - Lenny B. Club Mix - Jewel, Riding On The Wings - Motiv8 Airplay Extended Mix - Motiv8 ) and a few that I have heard a lot before (Paradise City - Guns N’ Roses, Sunchyme - Dario G and Crazy - Gnarls Barkley). All in all I think they’ve done a great job with track selection.

There are a couple of new things with this release when compared to other releases. First off, they’ve included times in the choreography notes. This isn’t really a big deal, but I’m happy about it because I always went through it and worked out the times myself. The other thing is to include heart rate percentages to the perceived exertion levels. Comfortable roughly equates to 60-70%, uncomfortable is 70-80% and breathless is 80-90%. This is great because it allows the instructor to bridge the gap between all terrain or road drills classes and RPM classes - while I don’t see much of a difference anymore, some people perceive RPM as a fitness only class vs. the high intensity interval training class that it is.

This is the third release that I’ll be learning since I took the training and the first since I got my certification. I won’t be the lead instructor for the release because that honor is going to Rachel; she wasn’t able to do it last time. I love team teaching with her because our styles are so different. Her voice carries throughout the gym and she loves the music really loud, my style is a little more introspective and coaxing, she makes demands, I make requests. There’s great chemistry between us and I think it adds a lot to the presentation. I’m really excited about it!

Given that this is my third release, I know what I’m in for when I receive the release package from LMI. Step one is to watch the video and look for new types of things in the class. Next I look over the choreo notes to see any changes and then I start to listen to the music over and over again. I’ll be teaching this release for every single class for 3 weeks once we release it so I’m going to need to know these tracks perfectly and they are going to become a big part of my life. I’ve found that by listening to the same set of songs over and over again, they come to take on a meaning that is based on what I’m doing at that particular moment in time - Afterglow from release 33 really gripped me and quickly captured the feelings of new love that started to develop in the weeks following the training, Take Me To The Clouds Above came to represent the pleasant escape and unity with another that this new love affords us and Smells Like Teen Spirit is such a hard working track that it came to represent the level of effort that one needs to put into anything to become their absolute best. For this reason more than anything I am looking forward to the next weeks.

The 9 songs that make up RPM 35 will come to mean something very important to me. Right now looking forward, I have little idea what that will be. That’s a big part of the fun of instructing. Music is primal and it is a great way to capture the essence of an experience in a way that allows us to recreated the feeling at will. In 10 years when my life has moved forward, I’ll be able to come back to the early summer 2007 by throwing in the release 35 CD. For better or worse, a moment in time will be captured and preserved forever.

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.

My First Pay Cheque

Recently I got my first pay cheque from my fitness instructor job. It was for $20 less tax, EI, and Canadian pension.

It was a happy moment for me. This is the first job that I actually had a passion for BEFORE I started doing it. That’s a wonderful thing. It’s also the first job that I have had that I thought that I couldn’t do. Instructing is a skill that I have never had before so it’s completely new to me. I have been a personal trainer, war canoe coach and manager before, but these things are unique and different from instructing.

The hardest part with instructing, at least for me, is modeling proper form on the bike. When I race, I tend to get into whatever position I need to to get the bike moving quickly. Sometimes the back is rounded, sometimes my knees are pointing in, sometimes my head is down looking only a few inches in front of my wheel. This form doesn’t cut it with instructing because when you are leading a class, you can count on some of the participants copying and exaggerating you positioning and habits. My bad habits become the things that injure participants and that isn’t good for anyone.

I also passed my video which means I’m almost a certified RPM instructor. There is some paper work to complete and then it is done. I’m really happy about this because the feedback I got from the reviewer was mostly positive. As far as positioning goes, the only bad tendency I had on the video was a little upper body bouncing on the seated climb; the video was taped at the end of April and I have been working on this flaw since I noticed it. She also mentioned that I need to connect with the participants more and modulate my voice during some of the tracks; both things I am aware of and have been trying to address.

The positive feedback addressed my physical strength on the bike, my high level of fitness and my knowledge of the choreography. I was very pleased with the choreography comment because this was the first time I had ever learned anything like this so I’m still able to learn new skills.

My class this Tuesday night was my best yet. The participants are getting used to my coaching style and they seem to follow the cues I give them. I heard a lot of gasping at the end of track 5 and 7, which is what the choreography calls for and there were a few smiles during tracks 4 and 6. It is a fantastic feeling when it all comes together.

I still need to work on connecting with the class a little more, but the fact that they are following my coaching and positional cuing means I’m getting some of it right. Is it the world class experience that they are hoping to get out of it? Yes for some, not yet for others. But given that it has been 4 months since I took the training, I’m really happy with the progress.

Oh, and the $20 less deductions went to gas for my car.

How I Learn My RPM Choreo

Once every 3 months I receive new music and choreography for LMI for the RPM Group Cycling program I teach. I have about 6 weeks to learn the release and be ready to teach it for the class. It’s a standardized program so I have to teach it a standardized way. That means there is a right and a wrong way to perform the release so it is very clear when I don’t get it right.

My challenge is to learn 9 songs in six weeks. If I do it, I get to lead successful classes and if I don’t, the class is more stressful and a lot less fun.

How do I do it?

1) Listen to the music over and over again so I know the songs inside and out. I need to be able to start hearing a song mid way thought and know exactly how people should be riding the bike. If I’m working too hard, my head can get a little spacey so it helps to know your way through the music. I listen to the music in the car, when I’m riding outside, when I’m working out in the gym and sometimes when I’m writing.

2) Know the profile of each track and of the class. The class profile is always the same so song 4 is always going to bring you the same sort of experience, although the timing of the hills and the racing sections is going to be different. There are patterns within the tracks and once you find them, the profile starts to make sense and becomes very easy to remember.

3) Learn the level of exertion that is required for each track. I only needed to learn this once because it is fairly stable between releases.

4) Practice the release with the music playing through speakers in front of a mirror and verbally cueing and coaching until it flows out of me. Perfect practice makes perfect. I can’t stress enough the impact of an elevated heart rate on ones ability to perform tasks that require thinking. Once it goes above 165, I’m pretty useless at novel tasks.

5) Continue to practice older releases as well because they reveal patterns for particular tracks. Also, it takes a lot to learn them and very little to keep remembering them.

6) Attend as many RPM classes as I can. I’ve noticed that other instructors add different things to the performance of a release, things that I may not have picked up on or things that I may never have been able to think of. Whenever one of these things presents itself to me, I usually remember it because it is so different from anything I’ve thought of.

Admittedly, learning the choreography for RPM isn’t as difficult as it would be for an LMI program like Body Jam or Body Flow, but when you’ve never had to learn choreography for anything before, it can be challenging. It comes down to understanding what you are supposed to do and knowing the music inside and out.

Become An RPM Fitness Instructor - Personal Account

I decided to become a group cycling instructor. I selected Les Mills International’s RPM program. The training consists of 2 8 hour days of practice and lessons. There were about 17 people in the group and we had 2 trainers. There were about 10 people who were already teaching another LMI discipline and there were a couple of cyclists in the class. It was an eclectic bunch of people, not quit random, but very nearly. The only thing we all shared in common was an enjoyment of cycling (indoor or outdoor). The weekend was amazing and I’ll write more about the specifics in another post.

After the training weekend, the real work began. I wasn’t a fitness instructor and before I would be able to teach I needed to find out why I was doing it, how I would know when I was successful, what I expect to get out of it, what I expected out of the participants, what I was trying to bring to the experience that was uniquely me and what was the biggest thing that I needed to work on.

Initially - before I taught a class

  • Why I was doing it? Since I think my purpose is to try and help others actualize some of their potential I thought that was a good reason because many of the participants aren’t as hooked on exercise as I am. When I’m in front of the group, I’m trying to lead them to a place were they find the strength within to work harder than they believed possible, were they move more efficiently than they did before and when they find enjoyment in the physical sensations of working hard were none existed before.
  • What I expected out of it? A free membership and permission to ride the bikes to practice.
  • What I expect out of the participants? To listen to what I say and try to work hard.
  • How do I know when I’ve been successful? I am successful if I deliver the participants to a place where they make the decision to work instead of stopping. I am successful EVEN if they decide to stop because they make the decision. My success is determined by my ability to get them to see that there is a decision.
  • What I bring to instructing that is uniquely me? By teaching with passion I will be giving permission for participants to be better. I have a belief that if people copy what I do in the gym, on the bike and if they eat like I do, they will enjoy the same level of energy and passion that I have. I try to model passion to let them know that there is nothing wrong being good at giving something your all.
  • What do I need to work on? The choreography and knowing the music.

But something happens when you actually do something, you realize what the experience is really like and your reasons for doing it will change. You may still hold on to some of the initially reasons and add to the list, but one thing is certain it will be different once you have lead a class.

Evolving reasons - 1-3 classes

  • Why I was doing it? Once I started doing it, I realized that it’s fun and it feels good because it’s exercise. There is a part of the experience that is immediately gratifying and that is something that I’m going after now. I maintain my initial reason to help people find success, it’s just fun as well.
  • What I expected out of it? To get a bit of a rush from performing and leading the class.
  • What I expect out of the participants? To give me feedback of things I was doing wrong and to fix their form when I coached them.
  • How do I know when I’ve been successful? If any of the participants took my coaching advice or if they were able to follow the flow of the class.
  • What I bring to instructing that is uniquely me? Hopefully someone will see me NOT feeling shame for trying to be better and will join in.
  • What do I need to work on? Voice qualities should match expected perceived exertion. I need to lower my effort because I am working way too hard.

As you gain more experience, you get better at it and can start to focus on improving certain parts of the process. As certain parts of it become automatic (the choreography or form on the bike) the liberated energy is directed to other areas.

Evolving reasons - 4-10 classes

  • Why I was doing it? I do it because it is fun and because it helps people, but now I want to get better at it for the sake of improving. I’m starting to get a feeling that if I pour myself into it with all of my passion I could become very good at it which will increase my chances to do it. The more I can do it, the more fun I’ll have and the greater the impact on other people. I want to be the best at it not to say that I am the best at it but to enjoy the rewards of being the best.
  • What I expected out of it? I’m focusing on delivery now - precuing and cuing and the performance aspects of instructing. I expect these things to improve with each class.
  • What I expect out of the participants? To learn what they view as success and work to achieve it. I’m delivering an experience template, they are filling in the work and determining their effort. I expect them to actually consider the workout in terms of what they can get out of it, how they need to behave to attain it and finding what they need to follow through on these predictions.
  • How do I know when I’ve been successful? I’m feeling comfortable with the template that I’m delivering to the participants so I feel successful when I see the results of their hard work (sweat, breathless states, eye contact and facial expressions that indicate a high level of engagement and effort) and when they give me feedback that indicates that they got something out of it. I will know that my performance is improving when the participants are doing the choreography the same way I am - the precuing and cuing are sufficient to help the participants find the flow of the class.
  • What I bring to instructing that is uniquely me? The understanding that I need to be seen as vulnerable by some of the participant. I had the realization that I am a lot fitter and better at RPM than 95% of the people who take the class, so a little dorkiness in the presentation is going to endure me as an instructor.
  • What do I need to work on? Lowering my effort level. I’m still working too hard. I’m very nervous before each class and have learned to direct that energy into working hard. It’s hurting my ability to connect and communicate with the participants.

What now? Well, I record and submit my video to get my certification. I start teaching my own class on Saturday mornings starting in April. I’ll try to create interest in group cycling at club so they offer more classes and I get to teach more. I’ll start to bring more of myself into the classes and try to create a community of cyclist at the club so I’ll have people to ride and train with this summer.

One thing that is certain, RPM is becoming part of my goals and it’s going to be interesting to see how they evolve as I actualize some my potential.

RPM Track Lists

RPM track lists