RPM + Resistance= Sweat x 10

Working out seems to be one of those things you can’t avoid in your late 20’s. It’s at this point that your metabolism says BYE FELICIA and you’re screwed. You can either learn to love it or grin and bear it but working out must occur because…well…you’ve learned the hard way *sigh*. As it seems, you CANNOT eat your way through Manhattan unless you are also confident enough to get on the subway after a glorious binge to 5’11”, 17-year-old models who look like Twiggy and Angelina Jolie had a love child.

So we’ve gotta do it….also because in your late 20’s you start doing things that are good for you as you realize that you are not, in fact, invincible.

Thanks to something here in New York called ClassPass and having prepared for my wedding day not long ago, I feel that at this point, I can tell you, I have tried EVERYTHING. ClassPass is essentially a membership that allows you access to tons of different classes around the city for a super-reasonable price (More here: http://blog.classpass.com/faq/)

I can motivate myself to go to the gym and do a little here and there but the ugly truth is, I can’t even come close to pushing myself like I’m pushed with an instructor. So I take classes. Spinning mostly.

My favorite over the past year has been SoulCyle. It’s freakin fun, the instructors are all quite interesting, provide amazing prompts and feedback and are pretty beautiful to look at too. The music is fantastic and often feels more like a night out dancing than a workout- which I LOVE. That said, even though the instructors push you and entertain you, the calorie burn is ultimately up to you and how the class is run. The variability in calorie output is pretty huge from class to class and this is NOT so cool for $34/class.

Thanks to my shift into ClassPass, I have seen technology and innovation (and Behavior Analysis whether on purpose or not) come together to create quite a cool alternative. Peloton.


What makes this class fantastic is that it incorporates a feeling similar to that of SoulCyle. It is set to great music and the energy level is high but what sets it apart is the immediate feedback system.

There is a gamification aspect to each class. There are scores that you want to hit and other “players” that you want to beat. The instructor leads you through class by “suggesting” (telling you) target resistance levels and RPM's to strive for at different parts of the class, to achieve different kinds of outcomes (race, hill climb etc).

Now, I’ve ridden at 4 different studios (companies) in the city and 3 of those had bikes with immediate feedback systems. Here is what they each offer:

SoulCyle gives you zero stats (but as I mentioned before, is SUPER fun, engaging and challenging if you can afford the price tag).

At Flywheel you get your RPM, resistance #s and a “score” that indicates a total energy output throughout class as well as a ranking that comes up on a big screen for a short period of time, typically between songs, showing your score. Following class you can also access RPM's, resistance, speed, power, distance and estimated calories via an online dashboard.

At The Monster Cycle you get your RPM for short periods (5 seconds) by pushing a button. Calorie and heart rate can also be provided if you have a heart rate monitor hooked up.

At Peloton you can see your RPM, resistance, wattage output, time remaining in the class (LOVE this) and finally a ranking of the first 6 riders in the class. Also, every few minutes your own place within the class ranking will flash on the screen if you aren’t one of the top 6 on the leaderboard. OH and you get your calorie burn. This sounds like a lot but the system has been created with a beautiful user interface. See below.

And for anyone who hates the whole idea of getting dressed and competing with the fashion show that is Spin, or who perhaps might be intimidated by other students or what an instructor might say to you (for the record, I’ve only experienced highly reinforcing and motivating instructors at Peloton), you can actually purchase the bike + system. You can then remote in to any live class you want or take an on-demand class. The system from home looks like this:

So what are the benefits of this immediate feedback system?

From a behavioral science perspective, there are several:

  • Feedback is a consequences.

It can act as reinforcement if you are meeting your goals or as punishment (and a prompt) for not meeting your goals. Then you can change your own behavior appropriately.


  • Immediacy is a tenant of successful feedback.

Feedback is a kind of consequences. The more delayed a consequence (in relation to the target behavior), the less power that consequence will have over the behavior.


  • Target beating is highly reinforcing for most people (against norms, yourself or others)


  • If you don’t know your numbers, how will you ever know if you are improving, making progress or at the right place for yourself?

You don’t. Anything else is just a guessing game and why would you want to do that to your health or your pocket?

I spoke with one instructor after class at Peloton who believes that seeing the numbers can actually hinder the ride for some people. This is probably true. Everyone has different motivators. What might be reinforcing for me might be extremely punishing for you. Perhaps numbers provide you with anxiety and therefore hinder your performance. I agree that this may make it more distracting for people who just want to “have fun” and need/want only that reinforcement to get them to show up. The good news for these folks is that, at Peloton, all it takes is a quick double tap to the screen and away goes your data.

In my personal experience, I am looking to constantly be improving. I would argue that this is the case for most people. So for most people, seeing your performance in the moment will give you the information you need to either work harder, or keep moving in the direction you are going.

On Thursday of last week I experienced this first hand. I was doing ok. I ranked 10th in the class of about 20 so I was right in the center of the pack. I was hitting each target that was “suggested” by the instructor and I was working hard. All of a sudden, I saw that my ranking was switching between 9th and 10th…I was beating someone! So I pushed it. I cranked up my resistance because I knew I could do it and I wanted to pull ahead. It was hard…but I loved it. It really amped up the endorphin levels for me and I ended class in 9th…not to mention that I beat all of my previous calorie burn totals at the end of the ride! This was what I needed to change my behavior in the moment and push to a place where I could feel truly accomplished and achieve the results I was after. See gross me after that class below:

Weight management and maintaining a healthy lifestyle contain some of the most difficult behavioral problems to solve because the behaviors that are need are hard- really hard- and the consequences that maintain these difficult behaviors are incredibly delayed and occur in very small increments. A great solve is to supplement with other reinforcers that are more immediate (like hitting targets in class and beating other people to the finish line!). Peloton seems to be working out ways to solve for these behavioral challenges in some pretty innovate and interesting ways.