How to Use Your Peloton to Achieve Your Fitness Goals
It's all about switching up your workouts — on and off the bike.
So you finally bit the bullet and invested in a Peloton bike or treadmill. (Or maybe you bought a cheaper Amazon alternative and have a subscription to the app!) But if you don't already consider yourself a hardcore exerciser, chances are you might not know what's supposed to happen next. If you're like most beginners, you probably just go with whatever class you feel like taking based on your mood.
While that's not a terrible strategy, it pays to be somewhat strategic about how you structure your workouts each week, experts say. That means you want to vary the types of workouts you're doing across both modalities (cycling, strength training, yoga) and class types (Tabata, climb, Power Zone). This is true even if you've invested in a major piece of equipment or you're obsessed with a specific Peloton instructor. (We've been known to stan Cody Rigsby.)
Why? Well, there are a few main reasons why switching up your Peloton workouts is a good idea.
#1: There's more than one element to your health.
And no single class type can hit on all of 'em. "Cardiovascular health, muscular strength, and mental health are three major reasons why we move," says Jess Sims, a Peloton Instructor. If you don't vary your workouts at all, you might be missing out on a key component of health, she adds. "In order to be well-rounded movers, we need different types of classes." And hey, that's probably one of the reasons Peloton offers such a dizzying number of classes.
For aerobic capacity or endurance, you might opt for a Power Zone ride, for example. To build anaerobic capacity — or the ability to move at a high intensity — you might go for a Tabata ride, according to Sims. To build strength, you might take a climb ride using heavy resistance. "Lastly, for mental health, someone might choose their favorite artist series or a 20-minute hip hop ride," Sims says.
#2: Lack of variety can lead to injury.
You don't want to overdo it with one type of workout simply because it increases your risk of injury. "Cycling and running are very repetitive movements that work in one plane of motion," Sims explains. So doing five cycling or running workouts in a week without doing any other types of exercise to balance them out may mean you eventually get sidelined. "By adding in strength training, we can both complement the movements that we see in cyclists and runners, and also focus on strength training in other planes of motion and with other muscle groups that are not often utilized in cycling and running."
#3: Workout burnout is real.
Lastly, there's the element of being able to stay consistent with your workouts. Focusing too much on one type of exercise can lead to burnout and lack of progress, and even make it harder to reach goals, says Esther Avant, a certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist.
If you're wondering how to set up the ideal week of Peloton workouts, we've got you covered. Here's what to focus on each week, depending on your fitness goals.
If you want to get stronger…
Sims recommends 20, 30, or 45-minute full-body strength classes if your goal is to gain strength. In these classes, the focus is primarily on building muscle using dumbbells, body weight, and resistance bands.
"On the bike, I recommend climb rides because of the heavy resistance," Sims says. Bootcamp classes, which combine running or cycling with strength exercises, are also a good pick. Overall, you want to strength train about three times a week, Sims says. Then, you can use other days for classes more focused on cardio, or other types of training like yoga and Pilates.
If you're looking for a little more direction and a set schedule, Avant recommends Andy Speer's Total Strength program, especially if you're new or want a refresher on proper form that you'll build on over four weeks. "I really like this program because it uses the principle of progressive overload which says in order to build muscle and get stronger, your body needs to adapt to demands beyond what it's used to," Avant explains. Basically, that means you need to keep challenging yourself strength-wise in order to see benefits.
For those who want to choose their own classes, Avant suggests selecting a few strength workouts on the platform that you like and repeating them each week for about a month. "Build in your own progressions like using heavier weights, doing extra reps or sets, resting less, or even slowing down the movements so your muscles are spending more time under tension," she says. "Make sure to take notes during your workouts so you know how you'll progress each time."
If you want to build endurance…
To be able to go longer, aim to ride or run four or five times a week, Sims says. "I recommend Power Zone Endurance classes, music-themed cycling and running classes, and interval runs on the Tread," she adds. "These classes are about time on your feet (for running) and time pedaling (for cycling) at very doable speeds and cadences for longer periods of time, which builds aerobic capacity."
Pro tip: Joining a Power Zone challenge is a great way to basically put your cardio training on autopilot, Avant says.
If you just want to get started with fitness…
It's anything goes if this is your goal, according to Sims. The important thing is just to go ahead and get started. "My recommendation is to start easy. We want consistency over intensity at first so that you can fall in love with the process!" she adds.
If you're looking for numbers, Sims suggests sticking to shorter 20-minute classes two to three times a week, working toward five times a week. And it's totally fine to start on the lower end of that range. "Most people are much more successful by setting small, attainable goals at first, building momentum by accomplishing them, and then gradually increasing over time," Avant notes.
For cycling, Sims suggests opting for low impact rides. You might want to try some beginner full -body strength classes, as well. "For yoga, I recommend my favorites: music-themed flows and sleep meditations! Don't forget to work out your mind as much as your body."
If you want to feel less achy and tired…
Attention desk jockeys: A little bit of daily movement is what you need to feel fewer of those creaky aches and pains, Sims says. You definitely want to get in on those yoga and stretching classes, stat. "We have so many classes ranging from body-part specific to full body, so check them out! Resistance band training is also great for easing into strength training, which can fire up sleepy muscles."
Also, if you're contemplating a ride right after a day at work, you're probably going to feel tight and inflexible, points out Craig Salmon, certified personal trainer and master tutor at Premier Global NASM. "You might also feel mentally fatigued and have some stiffness from sitting all day. This isn't the ideal state to go right into a high-intensity workout. Instead, warm up with at least five minutes of easy cycling to get some blood flowing around the body and gradually start increasing your heart rate, Salmon recommends. Luckily, Peloton has plenty of warm-up rides to choose from.
The bottom line:
"Keep in mind that there is no one perfect workout schedule," Avant says. "What you enjoy and have time for will change with your goals, the seasons of the year, and your season of life." The most important thing: That you're moving your body in a way that supports your health and happiness long-term.
Two other things to keep in mind are the importance of rest days and being active in your everyday life. "Rest days are when our bodies recover and maximize the benefits of our workouts," Avant explains. Make sure to take at least one a week. As for getting your daily non-exercise activity in, there's no magic number of steps you need to walk each day. But according to Avant, keeping track and trying to increase a bit by bit until you're consistently over ~6,000 per day is a great way to counter all the sitting most of us do.