Hey! Hi! I’m Diane, obsessed with dogs, winter, wine and PELOTON. If you’re new here, welcome. If you’re a longtime reader, no this isn’t turning into a Peloton blog. 😉 So…. maybe you’ve discovered the Peloton app recently or maybe you’ve been using it and loving it for several years like me, but did you know there’s one type of cycling class that Peloton offers that is majorly underrated? I’m talking about low-impact rides, which often take a back seat as we gravitate toward HIIT, tabata, and climbs. Well, low-impact rides are NOT low sweat, low energy, low effort or easy. Let me tell you what a Peloton low-impact class is and why this often overlooked class is worth your time. Plus, I’ll share two of my favorite Peloton low-impact rides for you to bookmark.
What is a Peloton low-impact ride?
Peloton explains low-impact rides as “rides take place primarily in the saddle. The focus on this positioning helps to protect the rider’s joints, making it a more accessible class type.”
They sound like a snore, right? Who would want to stay in the saddle when there are so many more active Peloton classes? Yup, I feel you and that’s exactly what I thought too. But now, I’ve seen the light. Hold up though, we’ll get to that.
Hannah Marie Corbin says “riders can expect the perfect level of sweat, wrapped in a fat-burning blanket! This ride is easy on the joints and is entirely in the saddle. Unlike many rides where you’re in a constant state of breathless, trying to recover from an epic push, this ride will keep you in control of your breath and allow you to find a new level of power underneath your feet.”
Low-impact rides are beneficial for all levels and you’ll seriously sweat without putting pressure on your joints. What I love is that mentally, low-impact rides are manageable and on days when I don’t want to push to the max, I can still convince myself to get on the bike and get in a great workout because I know I can handle it. If I want to scale back, I don’t feel like I’m selling myself short.
In a nutshell, low-impact rides are in the saddle except some instructors will let you come up for 10 seconds once or twice to shake it out. Cadence usually tops out at 90-100 and the resistance max is 50, give or take, depending on the class. You’re not working to your max — and the instructors give you cues so you can judge the effort level — so you won’t be completely out of breath like in a Tabata or a HIIT class. But you can still work hard and be proud of your work.
On days when I still want a great workout but don’t want to be in the red zone, I take low impact. They are not recovery rides. You can scale up or down to how you are feeling and make it a recovery ride or work at a slightly lower intensity than usual and still get in a great, sweaty workout.
My biggest Peloton mistake was NOT taking low-impact classes for the first year. When I work out, I want to push myself and I thought low-impact classes would be easy and a waste of time. Like a leisurely stroll-through-the-park easy that would leave me daydreaming and wishing I took a HIIT ride instead. You know, a beginner class or for someone coming back after an injury or someone not very fit.
Well, I learned how wrong I was and how misguide my assumptions were. Now I really enjoy them and seek out low-impact rides on days when I want to get in a good workout but not be dead afterwards.
Low-impact rides are NOT low sweat, low energy, low effort or easy. Let me explain. Think of a HIIT or tabata ride as pushing you to your max or near-max effort level (depending on how you feel that day). So on an intensity scale of 1-10, HIIT and tabata will push you into the 8-10 range. Even if I tell myself before that I want to take it easy, those classes PUSH me. Low-impact rides will keep you in the 4-8 range. If I’m riding the class as a workout (not a recovery), I follow the instructor’s cues and ride the higher end of the range they give.
So while there are no standing pushes or all-out sprints, holding a moderately hard level of resistance for several minutes with pushes woven in can be just as beneficial and fun as crazy max effort classes. You’re just working in a different way. After a hard all-out HIIT interval, we majorly back off to recover and catch our breath until the next one. In a low-impact class, you may start at a moderate level, push into the hard zone, and then return to the moderate intensity level — NOT scaling all the way back to easy to recover. This is what we did in my top low-impact class pick below.
Now, that said, every instructor is going to coach their low-impact classes differently so some may be “easier” or less active than others, but remember, you are in control of your workout. Adjust your cadence or resistance if you’re just not feeling the instructor’s cues. The instructors I enjoy the most for low-impact are Emma and Olivia. Alex also brings crazy energy. Also FYI, I wrote an entire post on the best Peloton instructors here.
Because the classes are in the saddle, some instructors get a little boring or monotonous so not all low-impact classes have the same vibe. The music is a huge component so keep trying classes until you find one you like. Promise me you’ll try a few before you finalize your thoughts on them. 😉
The best Peloton low-impact rides
OK, I don’t say this lightly, but Emma Lovewell’s 45-minute low-impact class from February 17, 2019 is my favorite Peloton class. Not just my favorite low-impact but my favorite Peloton cycling class out of the 200+ I’ve taken. For me, music is half the battle and Emma’s musical vibe is always on point. I love indie/EDM beats on the bike and Emma delivers. The music alone will keep you vibing throughout this ride and her coaching cues are direct. I found the variety of the segments to be a dynamic breath of fresh air (cadence pushes keeping the resistance steady, then pushes where the cadence stays the same and resistance goes up, etc.). Oh, and there’s a 6-minute arms segment as well.
Jess King’s 45-minute low-impact class from March 2020 pictured above is also INCREDIBLE. I’ll call it a low-impact plus class because it’s no joke in terms of effort or sweat. If you ride this class the way Jess coaches it, you will be challenged and it’s not for beginners. Jess King is an instructor I didn’t feel like I vibed with after taking one class of hers right after discovering Peloton, so I’d find myself taking other instructors’ rides and wrote Jess off as not for me. Well, I underestimated her and am SO happy I gave her another shot.
The class above is in my top 10 all-time Peloton rides because her coaching, energy, and music all came together perfectly and pushed me while still allowing me to be in control. I felt capable but challenged and love her EDM (electronic dance music) because it let me get lost. The ride mimics her Sweat Steady classes which consist of long, sustained intervals in the saddle. In this class, you stay at a moderate level of difficulty or higher and don’t get any real rest until 25 minutes into the ride.
For me, endurance is hard. Sitting in your discomfort isn’t easy mentally and I feel like overcoming the mental challenge is what has me raving about this ride. Most of us can push through max efforts in HIIT rides knowing we have rest right after. But when you know you have a moderately hard to hard (not max effort) stretch that you have to literally sit in, it’s more of a mental challenge and I love it. I wanted to back off several times throughout this ride but she kept me going. I’ll be riding more with Jess King in the future.
If you take my two top picks, let me know what you think in the comments!
Have you tried Peloton’s low-impact classes? What’s your favorite low-impact class or cycling class in general? Talk to me in the comments!
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