Getting into RPM

Since starting at the University of Edinburgh, I’ve joined the gym and have been trying to make the most of it. My membership includes over 100 weekly classes, so I’ve inevitably given a few a go. The one I keep going back to is RPM, which I’ll be telling you all about in this post.

What exactly is RPM?

RPM is a Les Mills cycling class which stands for “Raw Power in Motion”. The idea behind it is to try to cycle to the beat of the music, which is meant to give you a psychological boost and encourage you to go faster. Each session is 45 minutes and contains a number of different tracks, including a warm-up and cool-down one. Your instructor tells you what to do within each track, as well as what it targets. In a typical session, you might do intervals, climbs, racing and much more. If you want more information, head over to Les Mills website (the company behind it).

how did i get into it?

As I’ve previously mentioned, the classes are included within my membership. I’d never done a spin class for a variety of reasons, including the fact that I dislike intense cycling, especially on a stationary bike. Nevertheless, Monday used to be my cross-training day back at home, and I decided to change it up. This is where RPM came in; a 45 minute rather than a 1 hour session seemed more accessible, and I liked the idea of pedalling to the beat of the music. There’s a first time for everything and all that, so I just signed myself up in a convenient time slot and turned up.

first time experience

I’m going to be honest with you, the first time I rocked up I felt completely clueless. And I was definitely terrified! That might sound like an exaggeration, but I really didn’t know what to expect. Nor did I want to make a fool of myself… Thankfully, because the class was at 1:15pm, it wasn’t too busy which meant I felt less intimidated. At the start of the class (and she does this every week), the instructor asked if there were any newbies. I put my hand up and she came over to explain a bit about how the class functions, showed me how to adjust the saddle/ handlebars height and how to change the gears. This helped me feel a lot less useless, so even if your instructor doesn’t ask, I’d recommend asking for advice on your first go.

getting into it

I’m not going to lie, I really hated it at first. I found it hard to determine what gears I should use for each discipline, and had no idea what “ride easy”, “racing gear” and “power climb” meant. I was drenched in sweat, my legs and bum were on fire and the time seemed to be dragging on forever. Eventually, I did make it to the end of the session, at which point I told myself I would never do it again. I’d given it a go, it wasn’t for me, end of.

Given the title of this post, I’m sure you can guess that this wasn’t the case

recycling the experience

(Sorry for the awful pun, I couldn’t resist). So in the end, I went back the next Monday. And the Monday after, and so on, until it became part of my weekly routine. My experience fluctuates, and sometimes I feel as though I were back at square one, whilst other times I really notice my improvements. After some playing around with the gears, I’m starting to find out what works for me depending on the track and task we’re completing. I’ve also discovered a love for mixed terrain and power climbing (aka cycling with a very steep gradient to mimic a mountain). I’m still not so keen on racing or intervals though… baby steps!


Since being in Edi, my running has definitely (to quote my Dad), “taken off”. Now I’m not saying I’ve suddenly become some sort of elite Olympian, but I’ve noticed some steady and consistent improvements in all my training and racing. I don’t want to jinx it either, so am just putting it out there that I still regularly have “off” days too where I can’t motivate myself as much. That’s completely natural! But what I’m trying to say is, two of the key things I’ve changed have been my running training (terrain, distance, group etc) and my taking up of RPM. I can’t directly attribute any progress to RPM, but I’m convinced it’s helped me become a more well-rounded athlete, with the added benefit of being zero-impact (my shins are thanking me).

tips for first-timers

I think I’d have liked to hear this advice before my first session, so here are my “kernels of wisdom”. Take what you will from them!

  1. Go with a friend! It makes it easier when you know you’re both suffering  getting stronger together.
  2. Don’t be distracted by what other people are doing – it may be a class, but at the end of the day you can only improve your own fitness.
  3. Realise that the gears only go up to 24. I thought they went up to 100, so when I was on gear 12 felt really weak…
  4. Try not to compare your abilities to others’. They might have been regular RPMers for years, or pro cyclists.
  5. Bring a flannel (you sweat A LOT), and wear padded shorts (or at least not nike pros… let’s just say I was bruised for a week).
  6. Take a narrow water bottle. If it’s too wide, you’ll knock it off several times, which is a) embarrassing and b) impractical.
  7. Give it a second (and a third) chance. One try isn’t enough to get into it!
  8. Finally, have fun with it! After all, whilst it is an exercise class, no one is forcing you to go. Feel the beat of the music and pedal to the rhythm – it really does give you that extra spurt of energy, especially towards the end.

I hope you’ve found this post insightful, and if you do give RPM a go I’d love to hear what you think! If you’re a regular, please feel free to share any further tips with me, too.

Emma ♥♥