Based on the website WWW.CPTIPS.COM

This blog is based on the scientific content in the website Cycling Performance Tips. Idea about a new topic --forward it to the webmaster for CPTIPS.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Improving Your Performance - Intervals

You have done your prep work - 1) you have your base miles to minimize injuries as you push up the miles, 2) you have mapped out your personal  training program (based on a few principles we discussed in April), and 3) you have made a decision as to how you will track your level of training exertion (either a heart rate monitor or perceived exertion).

Now the final piece - intervals to provide that improvement in your cardiovascular performance.

An ideal training week should include one long ride at a reasonable pace and a rest day or two. Rest is important, and if you ignore it, thinking that 7 days of riding = optimal training, then you will fail to reach your personal best. But more about over training next time.

That leaves you with 3 more riding days during your training week. One (or perhaps two) are going to be interval days - and these will be the key to your performance improvement. Intervals are based on pushing your anaerobic threshold, and it is this "stress" on the cardiovascular system that leads to adaptation and improvement (just as weight training improves muscle strength).

Intervals are most effective when they are :
  • limited to twice a week during the peak training season
  • when the interval sessions are separated by at least 48 hours to allow adequate recovery. (For example, if your long ride is on the weekend, Tuesday and Thursday make good interval days.)
Short exercise intervals are generally 15 to 90 seconds and almost always anaerobic in intensity, while longer intervals may be up to 3 to 5 minutes duration. Once you decide on the duration for your interval training for that day, pace your effort to exercise at your maximum throughout that period (if you can't make it through the entire interval, you need to cut back your effort a bit and not the length of the interval). The goal should be a total of 10 to 20 minutes of hard pedaling during the intervals themselves (don't count warm up, recovery, or cool down). If you are just beginning an interval program, start with 5 minutes of peak effort per riding session (total interval time) and work up from there.

To get the maximum benefit from interval training, it is important to allow adequate recovery time between intervals. Subsequent intervals should start before your heart rate and oxygen uptake have returned entirely to normal. If you are using a heart rate monitor, wait for your heart rate to drop to 60 or 65% of your maximum heart rate. If you are using perceived exertion (i.e. how you feel) to decide, wait until your breathing has returned to it's normal depth and rate.

For those of you interested in more specifics and ideas, there is more information @
But just as rest days are important, setting reasonable interval training objectives is important as well. If you set the bar too high, burnout and training drop out rates rise.

1 comment:

  1. Hi - I really enjoy all these great ideas on how to improve one's cycling. I am getting back on my bike after a 20yr spell - when I used to road race. Since starting back, 2 years ago, I have been steadily improving my strength. I have joined a local club and am racing MTBs now - loads of fun!

    My core strength training involves a strategy of a 5, 3, and 2 hour rides 3 days a week (typically Mon, Weds and Friday - the 5 hr ride is broken up into a 3hr followed by a 2hr ride). All these rides are in the hills (max benefit - min time, for the time poor) - some pretty steep too - on the way to and from work.

    I switch to interval training in the summer for the shorter races. This involves riding about 6 short hills (1min sprint) as hard as I can with rest in between - 3 times a week. Total ride about 1.5hrs duration.

    Finally, all year round, I do some weight training on the upper body on the days I am not riding (crunches, pushups, pullups, tri-bicep with freeweights etc)

    I plan to start doing some squats - as I notice that my glutes are not as strong as they used to be in my youth.

    What I would like to know is if I should do squats with weights on the same days that I do interval training or on the rest days?

    Bests, Ted:)