Focus On: Les Mills RPM™


I get asked a lot of questions about the spin class I go to, so I thought I’d share a little bit about it in today’s blog. I took my first Lesmills RPM class exactly 10 years ago, in 2008. At first I found it incredibly intimidating, and I had to stop periodically to catch my breath, but it’s the kind of exercise that if you persist with it, it becomes easier over time.

An RPM class is typically about 50 minutes. Track 1 is a warm up track where you’ll do a few short, light races seated in the bike to gently raise your heart-rate. Track 2 is a pace track, where you do a bunch of seated race work to really ramp up your heart-rate. At this point you’ll be itching to get out of the saddle, and track 3 allows you to do just that. You’ll do some seated *and* standing climbs, and use the resistance knob to challenge yourself and make the bike heavy. Track 4 is a race track, where you’ll once again be seated on the bike doing a series of very fast races. Track 5 consists of very challenging interval training, where you’ll be at peak cardio intensity, both in and out of the saddle. Track 6 is another race track, and track 7 is a hill track, mostly out of the saddle. Tracks 8 and 9 are cool down and stretching. This may all sound daunting, but I can assure you the 45-50 minutes FLY by. Instructors recommend that you only do about half the class when you take it for the first time, but most newbies stay the entire time and live to tell the tale.

Sample tracklist:


(Photo Source)

RPM differs from some of the more freestyle spin classes out there, in that it’s extremely prescribed and the moves are choreographed to a setlist that can’t be altered. The new releases get progressively more challenging, but the music is infectious, as is the atmosphere in the studio. For me personally, there are several reasons why it’s an incredible workout:

  1. Less knee strain than other forms of cardio, like running and the StairMaster. My joints are in rough shape because I’m old af, and I can’t run much anymore. Spin is a more gentle alternative.
  2. The aforementioned infectious music and atmosphere. I’ve really never felt anything like it. The endorphin rush is addictive, and I’m actually able to practice mindfulness during this time, because I’m totally present, feeling the sensations in my body, hearing the sounds blaring from the speakers, etc. I leave feeling calm, centered, and blissful.
  3. The calorie burn. I often wear my Polar heart-rate monitor in class, which is a chest strap and very accurate, and I tend to burn between 400 and 450 calories in 45-50 minutes. This is more than any other form of cardio I do.
  4. The singing, hooting, and hollering. I’m here for all. of. it.

Tips and modifications:

  1. If you think RPM is something you can see yourself doing often, I 100% recommend investing in cycling shoes. I got mine for about $100, and I could never go back to putting regular running shoes in the top part of the pedals. The cycling shoes give you a sense of security, as you’re clipped in, and they really intensify the workout. You have to engage your quads more to pedal, and the resistance feels more difficult. Some people also like to invest in padded shorts because sometimes the bike seat feels a little..err..chafe-y, but they’re not necessary imo.
  2. If you have a bad back, raise the handle bars to match the height of your seat. Back strain from spin is no bueno.
  3. You control your workout. If you’re feeling strong, ramp up the resistance. If you just want to get a feel for the class, leave the resistance light. Pace your speedwork. Sometimes I go a little too hard in the warmup, and my heart-rate accelerates too quickly, so I burn out fast. Always go at a pace that’s comfortable for you.

Aaaaaand if you’ve made it all the way to this point in my post, 1. kudos for reading a novel, and also 2. I should probably mention I’m not a trained professional…yet. So please use caution if you do attempt to take a class, or better yet, wait until I’m accredited and employed and take mine!

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