Hey! Hi! I’m Diane, obsessed with dogs, winter, wine and PELOTON. If you’re new here, welcome. I discovered Peloton in 2018 and have a lot to say about it. Maybe you’ve discovered the Peloton app recently or maybe you’ve been at it a while, but did you know there’s one type of cycling class that Peloton offers that is majorly underrated?
I’m talking about Peloton’s 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.”
Do they sound like a snore? 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 don’t let the description fool you.
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. If you want to take them as Peloton recovery rides, then stay at the very low end of the ranges or even scale back beyond what the instructor is saying to ensure you don’t push too hard.
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. 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 effort level — and the instructors give you cues so you can judge your effort — 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 what you accomplish on the bike.
Peloton low-impact rides are no joke and the endurance work can be really challenging if you aren’t used to it. Holding a moderate effort can be more challenging than pushing to your max and completely backing off. It’s just a different kind of work.
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What’s the difference between Peloton recovery rides and low-impact rides?
Recovery rides are basically extended cool downs and feel great, not like a workout. On an effort scale of 1 to 10, you’re at a 1 to 3 max and stay at a low effort level the entire time. You aren’t supposed to get breathless or feel like you’re working at all. Recovery rides are all about moving your body, staying in the saddle, but not pushing yourself or doing anything strenuous.
On the other hand, low-impact rides are coached more like endurance rides where you hold different effort levels for several minutes. While they aren’t all-out max efforts, they can be challenging and you work through intervals. Usually the intervals are low to moderate or moderate plus in terms of effort level and it’s all in the saddle. Some instructors give you 10 seconds here or there to stand up out of the saddle.
Different Peloton instructors will coach their low impact classes at different intensities though so they aren’t all the same.
When should you take a Peloton low-impact ride?
There are so many reasons to do a low-impact ride including on days when you still want to sweat but don’t want to go all out, if you’re recovering from an injury that makes it hard to get out of the saddle, and so many more.
On days when I still want a great workout but don’t want to be in the red zone, I take a Peloton low impact ride. They are not recovery rides. That’s a separate category of rides and also beneficial. You can scale up or down to how you are feeling and make it a Peloton recovery ride or work at a slightly lower intensity than usual and still get in a great, sweaty workout.
Remember, not all low-impact rides are the same intensity, so try a few of them out. More on that below.
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My biggest mistake was NOT taking Peloton 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. I didn’t realize what the benefits 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 with 1 being sitting on the couch and 10 being the hardest you can possibly work, 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 once I get going.
Low-impact rides will keep you in the 3-8 effort 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. You control the effort. Yes, I said 3-8 range and that’s because the max resistance of 50 matched with the max cadence of 100 will shoot your heart rate up there and have you working hard. My heart rate gets up there in the classes where instructors push to the max low impact efforts. There’s nothing easy about that.
While there are no standing pushes or all-out sprints, holding a moderately hard level of resistance for several minutes with pushes on cadence and/or resistance woven in can be just as beneficial and fun as crazy max effort classes. You’re just working in a different way and focusing on endurance.
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 Peloton low-impact class picks below.
Not all low-impact rides are the same!
Every instructor is going to coach their low-impact classes differently so some may be “easier” or less active than others. I can’t stress this enough. Some might be more of a Peloton recovery ride, 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 Leanne, Christine, Jenn, and Jess King. Also FYI, I wrote an entire post on the best Peloton instructors here.
Hannah C.’s low-impact classes tend to be on the easier side. Christine’s are often coached as rolling hills where you’ll hold a certain effort level/output for the duration of the song. Jenn Sherman and Leanne’s low-impact classes tend to have pushes where you’ll play with the resistance and/or cadence, sometimes taking it to 50 resistance at 100 cadence (the max in low-impact classes). That combo will definitely be challenging.
Because the classes are in the saddle, some instructors get a little boring or monotonous so not all Peloton 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. They were way harder than I’d thought they’d be and the right instructor vibe and music keep me going.
P.S. If you’re new to Peloton, you do NOT need the bike to take their classes. The app is fantastic on its own!
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 nor is it a recovery ride. The mental aspect of holding what she’s asking for is an exercise in and of itself.
Let me admit that Jess King was 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… for about two years. 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.
Another instructor I love for Peloton low-impact rides is Leanne Hainsby, one of the UK instructors. She keeps it moving and doesn’t let her class get boring. Leanne’s low-impact rides are HARD and she’ll cue max efforts of 50 resistance and 100 cadence as I said above.
There’s nothing low-intensity about that! Normally she’ll start with lower resistance with cadence pushes and work her way up to holding a cadence and doing resistance pushes and then putting it all together with 50 resistance and 100 cadence.
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) effort 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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If you want more of my Peloton content, read these posts:
Peloton app: A cheaper way to bike at home
Peloton vs. Les Mills app: Which fitness app wins?
Why the Peloton app is about so much more than exercise
Why I’m in love with the Peloton app
Best Peloton instructors and my thoughts after 200 rides
How to stay motivated to exercise
Check out these fun Etsy shops (and here and here) with all kinds of Peloton clothing inspired by our favorite instructors.
- Peace Love Cycle tee
- Coffee Pelo Wine tank
- Life Happens tank
- Peloton Mom tank
David Guy says
Great post and important information! I don’t use Peleton but I’ve been a serious cyclist for decades and I raced (as an amateur) for 10 years. I’ve been coached by professionals, too. In other words, I have a lot of experience training. These low impact rides should be what you do most of the time! HIIT is great, but if you do that type of training too much you’ll at best burn yourself out and at worst get injured.
Aussie Jo says
Never heard of Peloton but still an interesting post
Hi! I am new to Peloton (7 weeks, it just launched here in Australia) and I found your website while googling for recommended rides. Do you have any recommended recovery rides? Thank you!