RPM Explained: the workout and the certification process

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My experience with the Les Mills RPM certification process and why I did the training even though I already taught cycle.

Many of you asked about the RPM certification after I did the training 2 weekends ago. This posts goes over what RPM is and how the training/certification process works, plus some of my thoughts on Les Mills and the RPM training itself. This is a pretty text-heavy post but I hope it helps those of you who were interested!

What is RPM?

RPM is the indoor cycle program developed by Les Mills. In RPM, you ride to the beat of the music and the workout is choreographed (like all Les Mills groups fitness classes), meaning it’s the same format every time. The music and specific choreography changes every 3 months with new “releases” but the overall format always remains the same – you’ll have a warm-up track, flat speedwork, mixed terrain, hills, mountains, cool down and stretching. You won’t necessarily have to listen to the same songs over and over for 3 months since instructors can mix in songs from old releases to keep things interesting. rpm49orgBecause the format stays the same, you can always know what to expect, can guage your progress and know that you’ll get a great workout, instead of dealing with hit and miss instructors, music, preparation, etc.

Wait, so what is Les Mills?

Les Mills is a New Zealand-based company that creates choreographed workouts, trains instructors through a rigorous certification process who then deliver the classes in gyms across the world. A gym has to be licensed with Les Mills to have the classes in their facility and a Les Mills certified instructor cannot teach at a gym that is not licensed. les_mills

The thing that makes Les Mills programs different than a regular group exercise class you’ll take is the research behind the programs; the entire company is devoted to creating effective workouts. They have medical professionals, fitness professionals, and a whole bunch of others at the top of their respective fields that help create the 8 programs that Les Mills offers (ranging from cycle to weight training to a yoga/pilates mix to martial arts). For example, some of the contributors to developing RPM are professional cyclists. Pretty cool.

Why did you want to get an RPM certification when you already teach cycle?

I started taking Body Pump (the Les Mills weight-training class) last February. I’ve always considered myself in pretty good shape from all the running I do and, at the time, was teaching a weight-lifting class at another gym. However, within just a month of doing Body Pump just 1-2 days a week, I noticed visible changes in my body. Within 3 months, I had definition in places I never had before, particularly my hamstrings and shoulders, which I loved. I was hooked. In addition to Body Pump, I started taking Body Flow and became a 100% believer in Les Mills programs. The Les Mills programs motivate me like no other group ex class has before and I always leave feeling like I got a great workout and I’ve developed many friendships from going to Body Pump so I especially looked forward to going.o_bp62

As I learned more about RPM from other instructors, the program sounded very similar to how I try to develop my cycle classes: music driven, challenging but accessible, and capable of delivering results. I have spent hours listening to music to determine the best part of the songs for climbing, for sprinting, for recovery based on the musicality and beats of the music. Oh hey, that’s very similar to the RPM program.

RPM uses the music to enhance workouts and motivate, not simply as background music. Les Mills also works with instructors to become GREAT instructors, and I was ready to step up my game as a instructor and really get to a place where I could help change peoples’ lives. RPM delivered on all aspects for me: music, coaching, connecting and results. And they even make it easier for me since I don’t have to spend hours and money on iTunes, building my own playlists.

How does the RPM certification process work?

First you have to have a gym to “sponsor” you; it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily pay for your training but they are the gym that is licensed with Les Mills and will (likely) hire you to teach. You can only sign up for the training if the gym you select on the website approves you to take the training. Les Mills does this to prevent their program quality from getting diluted. They want to know which gyms they are working with to know that everything is being delivered the way they intend.

Next, you’ll attend a 2-day training (8 hours each day) for RPM (it’s longer for some programs). On the 2nd day, you have to teach an entire track from memory (I was assigned the Mountain Climb). So,  you’ll spend the entire night after Day 1 memorizing your assigned track.

If you don’t pass the initial 2-day training, you may just have to work on certain aspects over the next month or so until you do pass. Passing is determined by a number of criteria, including the presentation of your assigned track. Or you may have to retake the entire 2 day training. You’ll know at the end of Day 2 which pass level you fall into. If you do pass the training, you’ll then work on memorizing the entire choreographed workout (typically 9 songs). Within 90 days, you must send in a DVD of you teaching the entire release and mail it to Les Mills, where they will evaluate your knowledge of choreography, technique, coaching, etc. If you pass, you’ll be ready to teach on your own!

Did you enjoy the training?

YES YES YES. It was incredible. We were lucky to have an RPM trainer who lives in Winston-Salem so many of us knew him beforehand. He is so inspiring. He made me want to be the type of instructor who makes workouts fly by, that are fun, that get people coming back and change lives. We all know those kind of instructors; but that doesn’t happen overnight. Our trainer was so encouraging and when giving feedback for improvement, he never made anyone feel bad or embarrassed (even when watching video of ourselves!). The program itself is great, but I feel our trainer made the weekend…dare I say…magical. 😉

Other notes if you are going to a training:

  • I took 3 changes of clothing each day. Having 4 would have been nice to change into dry clothes at the end of each day.
  • Pack a lunch – you only get 30 minutes to eat and you’ll want that time to study your assigned track.
  • Bring a small DVD player if you can. But it’s not necessary.
  • Bring snacks. You’ll want more food than a usual day because you work hard and you work all day.
  • Your butt willhurt. Nothing you can do about it.
  • Have a good attitude! Be friendly! Get to know the others in the training. It’ll be more fun that way.

Phew! Catch all that?

Does your gym have Les Mills programs? If so, what’s your favorite? If not, does it interest you or does the “repetitive”/choreographed nature turn you off?

*Note: This write up includes my personal  thoughts and explanation of Les Mills and RPM from my experience. I do not formally represent them and they are not paying me for this glowing endorsement.

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    38 responses to “RPM Explained: the workout and the certification process”

    1. I too LOVE Les Mills!! My favorite is Body Flow. I go twice a week, and will rearrange anything in my schedule to ensure that I can attend. Really loving the current Body Flow release, 51 I think?

    2. I teach Les Mill’s BodyPUMP and I LOVE Les Mills’ programs! Good for you for doing the hardcore training. I too have seen MAJOR changes in my body (I teach BP 3x+/week!!) and I love how hard, challenging, and motivating the classes are. Glad you got to have that awesome experience– and GREAT write-up of the formats/Les Mills/training weekend. and Yes, BodyPUMP was a 3 DAY training complete with 8 hours each day and doing the actual class 8 + times. I thought. I .was. going. to. die.!!

      • so cool that you teach Body Pump! I owuld love to someday! I was actually thinking during the RPM training, “hey, at least it’s not Body Pump! that must be brutal!”

      • Annette- i am taking BP initial training in two weeks. this will be my first instructor course. any words of advice? i’d appreciate any words of wisdom you can share to prepare me!!

    3. I beyond love Les Mills classes! When I signed up at my gym I didn’t really have any idea what their groupEx classes were, or even what Les Mills was (Canada only has one gym licensed to teach the classes, and they don’t advertise it, really). My first class was BodyFlow and I just fell in love, then BodyPump and recently BodyCombat.

      I take a class as often as possible, they’re so much fun. They have this ability to make me feel like I’m not “working out” but I’m still getting a good “workout”, if that makes sense.

      You’ve definitely encouraged me to try an RPM class.

      • yes, that makes perfect sense. it doesn’t feel like a workout but that you are just using your body’s abilities to get a great workout!

        you’ve got to try RPM. And i need to give Body Combat another chance. :/

    4. Teri, this sounds like a great program! Impressive that you are devoting so much time to the training when you’ve just started a new job as well. Props to you! Sounds like a fun class you’ll be teaching.

    5. I do the Les Mills Body Pump class 3 times a week and you are right, it makes a HUGE difference. Thanks for inspiring me to do it. I’ve been going strong for about 4 or 5 months now and without it I would be holding on to those last 7 pounds of baby fat. You rock! Wish I could come to one of your classes. Not a huge fan a spin class, but I think if you were my teacher that would be different. Miss ya! Oh yea, my first try at your moms bread…disaster. I need help!

    6. The Spin class I take is in the Les Miles format. Our instructor introduced a new song today, the techno/dance version of Proud Mary for the Mixed Terrain ride and damn, it kicked my butt more than the mountain ride did. Now with your review of Body Pump and your results I’m going to have to try it.

    7. Great post! I find it so hard to explain in words why I love Les Mills so much. I totally agree with everything you said! The results-oriented focus is huge, but I also think that the people who I’ve met through being a Les Mills instructor are some of the world’s best, most friendly, most supportive and encouraging people. I’m so delighted for you! I went through RPM training 4 years ago this month and I love reliving it through you!

    8. That workout/training sounds amazing! I did a spin class at my gym (not RPM) on Wednesday nights for several months but the the regular instructor changed and they changed the class to start earlier and go longer. My mom and I never went back.
      We had already been thinking about taking up spin again but after reading this post it makes me want to go to a class today!

    9. I am so interested in RPM. I love all of the Les Mills classes and just recently got into Spin so I think I would love RPM. I just need to suck it up and get to a class already. 🙂

    10. This program sounds awesome! I haven’t tried Body Pump yet, but I’d love to try that too. It’s really cool that RPM uses the music to enhance the workout, especially since I’ve had instructors that aren’t the greatest, and it seems like they just throw a bunch of their favorite songs together and go with it. I’d love to try this way of cycling!

    11. Ok you’ve not only made me really want to go to an RPM class, but to go to Body Pump. Why do they not have this awesome stuff at my gym?! And I want to come take your RPM class 😉

    12. How cool that you are doing this! My gym has Les Mills body pump and it’s pretty fantastic. I can totally imagine you doing rocking that spin class!

    13. As a fellow spin instructor, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the program. I definitely shape my classes around what the music motivates you to do on the bike. My friend regularly comes to my class and he HATES a lot of the songs I use (because he hates all things fun and top 40) but always compliments me on how well they fit my class and make him work harder. I have never seen an RPM class in the DC area but I would be very curious to try it out!

      I love the idea of how much time it would save you as an instructor with building your playlists, but I’m hesitant about the loss of creativity that might suffer from being forced to use the releases. I’ll be curious to hear how this goes for you!

    14. I have only tried one LesMills format and that was the BodyStep…it wasn’t for me, but that is only because I am an old school stepper. Part of what I enjoyed was difficult choreography, that you built on. The class I took was taught by a National Presenter, and as I added my own twist to things (as I would have done in any other step class), she would say “this isn’t a dance class!!”
      Now, I won’t walk away from LesMills because of her. I’m intrigued to try BodyPump. I’m an instructor myself, I teach TurboKick, and another kickbox format that I choreograph myself. I’m not a spinner, but I think the LM version would be something I might enjoy more than a normal spin class.
      thanks so much for all of your information 🙂

    15. I enjoyed this post, Teri, as I’ve been super curious about RPM. Since I go to YOUR gym, I hope YOU get to teach it. I filled out a comment card indicating such. 🙂

      I started BodyPump not quite a year ago and love it. I love that it’s a total body workout. I have been to a few Body Flow classes now and enjoy them. I enjoy Cycle so much (and am so excited they added an 8:15 class to Saturdays), I’m sure I’ll love RPM. I do like the concept of it being choreographed, I’ll know what’s coming and I’ll also be more easily able to identify improvements (and challenges) to my performance.

    16. I’m a member at my university’s gym, but I’m lucky enough to have a roommate that works at a gym with Les Mills classes so she sneaks me in. We have a Saturday morning routine of body pump followed by RPM and while it’s a tough morning, it might be my favorite one of the week! I’m so obsessed with body pump – I swear nothing works better!

    17. As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel waiting for tomorrow to come so I can go to my RPM training. I’m excited!! I love Les Mills so much. I’m a 2x a week Body Pump, 2x a week Body Flow and 1x a week RPM, so this is right up my alley. Thanks for writing this!

    18. I have moved 35 miles outside of town. I love Less Mills workouts, I have the pump home system but, I have a spin bike at home and can’t find any RPM DVDs that compare to Less Mills. Why do they not sale any type of home RPM workouts?

      • One of Les Mill’s most distinguishing factors is the ambiance and energy that’s created in class by highly-trained instructors who engage with individual participants, and the energy that a group brings to help participants encourage and push each other. I’m assuming they don’t offer at-home workouts because those key elements of their brand and workouts would be missing. But I’m not certain exactly why!

    19. Your review of the instructional process is insightful and helpful! Thank you!

    20. Hey Teri! I loved this post, I’m recently considering taking an RPM training class and teaching. My only thing is — if I’m only certified in RPM would that mean I’m eligible to teach regular spin class ANYWHERE then? (Obviously not RPM, but just a spin class in general)? Or would that mean I’d have to get certified in spin as well? Sorry if that is confusing. I was hoping to teach RPM eventually at the gym nearby, but also see that a gym (without les mills programs) needs a spin instructor. Didn’t know if my certification in RPM would suffice to teach a regular spin class at the other gym.

      • Hi Ann Marie –

        It really depends on the gym – you’d have to ask them. I would bet any gym would allow you to teach spin if you have an RPM certification – it’s highly respected and one of the best trainings around (way better than the generic spin classes I took). However, if the gym isn’t a Les Mills affiliated gym, you CAN’T teach RPM classes there – there are copyright issues. You’d have to come up with your own class, use different music, different format etc. Make sense?

        Good luck!

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