Cycling Interval Training Example

Pro-cyclists can maintain speeds of 50KPH+ for 8 hours a day during a race, and hit more than 60KPH during a sprint.  They’re some of the fittest people on the planet in terms of their VO2 Max performance, and also in terms of their ability to recover from really strenuous exercise.

Of course, they don’t hit those levels of performance without sacrifice and hard work.  It’s easy to ride a bike, but it’s hard to ride a bike fast, and even harder to ride a bike fast all day.  If you’re trying your hand at cycling – either during an evening time trial series, or a triathlon, boosting speed can be hard to achieve.  Cycling is like running, once you’ve improved your endurance, you work on your speed, and the best way of doing this is through cycling interval training.

Cycling Interval Training preparation

Interval training on a bike isn’t so much about the speed you ride at, but the power, so to train effectively, you need a heart rate monitor that tells you what power you are outputting.  The two things you need to know are:

  • Your peak power
  • The maximum time you can sustain peak power

You find your peak power output by riding at increasing power levels until you become unable to turn the cranks.  That can take a full training session to achieve – you need to warm up at a light intensity for about 10 minutes before hitting a 100watt power level and increasing by 10watts every minute until you fail.  Make sure you warm down afterwards to avoid injury.

Post recovery, you need to identify your maximum time at peak power.  Again, this will require some effort.  After a good warm up, you need to hit your peak power and then stay there as long as possible.  Most people will manage a minute or two.

Once you know your peak power and the maximum time you can sustain it, cycling interval training becomes possible.

Cycling Interval Training Schedule

You will either want to do this ride using a turbo trainer, or on a safe road with no other traffic because your pace will vary, which might make you a risk to other road users.

Warm Up Phase

Start with a 20 minute warm-up ride to increase heart rate and warm up your muscles

Intervals Phase – repeat 5 times

Ride at peak power for half of your maximum sustained time

Ride at recovery pace for 2x your time at peak

Recovery Phase

Have a warm down ride for 20 minutes.

Notes:

The level of intensity that you ride at during interval training on a bike is far higher than the level you hit running, and many people find it uncomfortable.  in the cycling interval training schedule above, we’ve suggested 5 interval sessions.  At first you may struggle to achieve this, however once you can, you might want to increase it to 10 gradually.

Don’t forget, the purpose of cycling interval training is to boost maximum power levels and the time you can sustain them, so regularly review these KPIs to maintain training intensity.

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