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RPM 64 Review

rpm64-booklet

General Thoughts

RPM 64 is the 2014 Q4 release. You may also want to check out my comments on just the music.

Release

  • The two biggest changes were in the Pace track (no climbs, no resistance changes) and the Mixed Terrain track (Tabata-style sprints).
  • It seems like more care was placed on interval training, helping riders feel the difference between recovery and work through cadence changes.
  • Just as in the last release, there’s focus on training the Type I and Type II fibers and making sure the heart rate gets high to take advantage of anaerobic training.
  • This is the second release that’s been shorter (through the combination of Ride Home and Stretch tracks). Some of my club’s members prefer to ride the entire time given to the class slot. My response is to explain that the release is crafted by fitness experts to get you the results in 45 minutes; if you need more time, you’re not challenging yourself as hard as you could. After giving the option for longer tracks and soliciting feedback, no one has complained so far or opted for a longer ride.

Masterclass

  • Sarah Ostergard (co-program director) provided an excellent intro to the class: It covered bike setup and some options for those newer to the program (i.e., reduce load, slow the legs, or just sit up).
  • Glen Ostergard (program director) was not present.
  • Lee Smith (one of my favorite presenters) coached the Mixed Terrain and Mountain Climb tracks.
  • Mirko Pröehle (from Germany) sounded like his English was a bit weak; most of his cues were technical (i.e., body position, “pressure in the muscles”) instead of motivational.

Track-by-track Breakdown

Pack Ride — Just Say Yes

  • Very similar to the last release (RPM 63), this warm-up track uses half-pace more frequently, which helps riders feel the difference in speed
  • Also from RPM 63, there are two rounds that start with heavy climbing load to engage the Type II muscle fibers to accelerate the warm-up
  • Several good lyric cues to tap into: “There’s nothing holding you back”, “It’s all I want…just say yes.”

Pace — Take Me Home

  • Two innovations in this release:
    • Resistance stays at Racing for the entire track; the only variable is the cadence (half-pace, medium pace, building pace, on-beat)
    • There are no climbing segments
  • Having the resistance stay at Racing lets members find the right setting for the gear and focus on form and speed
  • For the past two releases, the masterclass coaches have been mentioning sprinting as beneficial for “everything we do in RPM,” which is maybe why the climbing segments were omitted. From the notes:

Most of us function efficiently during aerobic exercise. Sprint training forces the muscles out of their comfort zone stimulating changes that bring fast results.

Hills — Get Ready

  • Interesting choreography to Power Climb when the beat comes in rather than doing Standing Climb
  • There are two high-performance options to accelerate above the beat for two 15-second segments
  • Something different is that there are no gear additions once the heavy work starts; unfortunately the masterclass presenter failed to cue that the last gear we add should be big enough to challenge you to the end of the block

Mixed Terrain — Hurricane

  • This track brings something new to RPM: Tabata-style sprints (i.e., all-out sprint followed by a short recovery); the cadence is 129 bpm
  • Six sprints in total: 7, 15, 15, 15, 30, 30 (seconds)
  • Two climbs at the end pre-fatigue the muscles so that Type II fibers are recruited for the longer sprint phases

Intervals — Alone Together

  • The choreography is pretty standard for an Intervals track (jumps between Racing and Attack positions)
  • Alternations between short and long blocks give riders a chance to recover a bit
  • There are two options in the longer blocks to accelerate above the beat

Anywhere between 85 and 95 rpm is considered an optimal cadence for riding, recruiting the right ratio of muscle fibers; fast vs. slow twitch. Not too slow that you will tire the legs and not too fast that you are spinning and going nowhere. Each stroke producing the most amount of power through the pedal.

Speed Work — Face to Face

  • The last release we had a focus of speed endurance was in RPM 60; this track has two 75-second phases at 129 rpm
  • One of my standards for a good release is solid music for the last three working tracks, and Les Mills delivered; an uplifting EDM/house song with a good driving beat
  • (Aside: Les Mills has a program called Les Mills Virtual where essentially gyms play the masterclass video and members “take the class” as the video plays. RPM is one such class, so I wonder how the lyrics “technology cannot replace face to face” will be received. I actually use that as a motivational hook in my coaching.)
  • The longer sprint phases challenges me to coach better; 75 seconds is a lot to ask, and you have to give your riders something to focus on (i.e., think about how there’s no tension in your upper body, connect with your breathing) so they don’t give up

Most riders will begin their speed efforts with a high cadence then start to slow as they fatigue. Encouraging them to maintain speed at this point requires extra neural activation, bringing more muscle fibers into play. This is speed endurance training — a great way to transform your fitness.

Mountain Climb — Black Velvet

  • From the music perspective, I wish the remix would have sampled the original performing artist (Alannah Myles); this version is a little nasal
  • Choreography is pretty standard; lots of little gears to slowly add tension; position changes between Standing Climb, Power Climb, and Standing Attack
  • The tempo change allows riders to recover a bit in the first block, and then get up to tempo in the last two blocks

Ride Home / Stretch — Peace

  • This is the second release where the two tracks have been combined
  • Common stretches missing from the choreography: hip flexor, hamstring, calf, side release
  • I’m ambivalent on the combined track format. Having the entire class fit in 45 minutes is convenient (plus RPM has previously billed itself as a 45-minute class, but usually clocks in at about 50 minutes). Perhaps the exercise science folks at Les Mills have determined we don’t need quite as much recovery or stretching to recover effectively.

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