Many things go into finding a workout that is right for you. The type, intensity, complexity, availability, fun-ability (a new word: it’s able to be fun), and effectiveness among other qualities. Workouts are as unique as the person performing them so let’s define the topic of this post a little bit more.
Today, I want to talk to you all about a scientifically proven effective cardio workout that is geared toward anyone wanting to improve their cardiovascular endurance, burn calories, build strength and improve overall fitness. The best thing about this workout is that it is achievable for even the most novice exerciser to the avid athlete specifically because the workout can be tailored to your needs on that day.
I’m talking about Les Mills RPM which is a 45 minute cycle workout that uses the principle of cardio peak training (which I’ll explain in a bit) to achieve all of those things above. I’ve been riding RPM for about 9 years now, and teaching it for about 2 years. I was first attracted to this workout as a cardio alternative when it was raining outside and I couldn’t go for a run (I hate running on the treadmill). I had taken cycle or spin classes before at other clubs. However, I love the consistency and predictability of the ride in RPM.
RPM uses a specific sequence of terrain for each workout: you will ride through combinations of sprints and hills with an anaerobic peak about midway through the class then the ride finishes with speed training and finally climbing a mountain. This type of sequence provides familiarity yet each song varies a bit to prevent your body from “getting comfortable.”
I mentioned above that RPM uses cardio peak training but what is that? It’s a combination of steady state cardio with high intensity interval training (HIIT). Endurance runners train using steady state, lower intensity for prolonged amounts of time usually around 50-60% of maximum heart rate. A purely HIIT workout will reach peaks of 90-95% of max heart rate for a short amount of time with recovery in between.
In RPM, we rely on steady state as the base of the workout with short high intensity blocks or peaks. So, you get the best of both worlds: improvement in cardiovascular system through steady state training and the fat and calorie burning of HIIT. We never completely recover during the ride. You’ll find yourself recovering at about 60% of your aerobic base. During the highest anaerobic peak, your effort will be close to a max effort. It’s one hell of a ride!
Let’s talk about the science behind the workout. Les Mills is always on the cutting edge of research when it comes to their programs. As an instructor, this is really important to me as I can be confident that the workout they have designed is effective and just as importantly, safe. Check out their research page to read about the current findings for all their workouts.
A recent study followed novice exercisers that were chosen for their sedentary lifestyle. The subjects were required to participate in 3 RPM classes per week and change nothing else about their daily life. They were not asked to change anything about their diet or add any other forms of exercise. Just take 3 RPM classes per week for eight weeks.
The researchers were interested in many markers of overall fitness including VO2max (an indication of cardiovascular health), body composition, glucose tolerance, blood pressure and cholesterol.
It’s not surprising that overall fitness improved in the test subject as they were going from previously sedentary to now physically active. They displayed an average of 11.8% increase in VO2max. Similarly, body fat percentage dropped 13.8% with a 3% reduction in waist circumference. Cholesterol decreased by 3% as well. Reference here and here.
What’s great about RPM is that it is a hybrid between steady state cardio training and HIIT without the impact to the joints as it’s performed on a stationary bike. So those folks that have joint issues that can’t handle traditional weight bearing HIIT workouts can still achieve the same calorie burning, strength building style of workout. Short bursts of higher intensity intervals are known to elicit more changes in body composition (build lean muscle and trim fat) than steady state cardiovascular training alone. RPM is an effective ride providing numerous benefits.
Currently, I teach RPM 5 times a week! I’ve noticed a lot of improvement in both my muscular endurance and body composition. However, the most surprising improvement has been in my running. With my full teaching schedule, I’m lucky to get a run in at most 3 times a week which is a big change from when I was running 6 times a week. However, I’ve noticed my running fitness has not diminished despite a big reduction in the amount of time on my feet. I know this is from the strength and overall fitness I’ve gained through teaching RPM.
Check out this sizzler video of the most current RPM release.
And if you’re local to St. Louis and want to try my class, I can get you a pass to try it for free! Otherwise, check out find a class here to find an RPM class near you!