Cycling Interval Training
There is something beautiful about the simplicity of cycling interval training. Cyclists are renowned for their love of big mileage and long days in the saddle, I should know I am a cyclist! But, do long training sessions really give maximum bang for your buck?
Long sessions fatigue the body and can lead to overtraining whereas shorter, more intense interval training provides many of the fitness benefits with a lesser risk of overtraining and overuse injuries.
Cycling interval training is a great way to train efficiently. Most high intensity interval training sessions last less than one hour and for any busy cyclist that means more regular training.
I like to use my bike on an indoor stationary trainer although I regularly use the spin bikes at the gym. Cycling interval training can be done outside on the road but it is much easier to control the intensity indoors away from the wind, rolling roads and traffic lights.
As with all interval training, cycling interval training can take many forms but the ones below will help you develop a well-rounded cycling program.
Cycling Interval Training Programs
Equipment required – Bicycle on a trainer or a spin bike, watch, heart rate monitor (necessary for lactate threshold training only).
Time Required – 30 – 90 minutes depending upon the session.
Difficulty – 7/10
Please warm-up adequately prior to all sessions, an example would be 10 minutes of gradual, increasing intensity cycling.
Cycling Interval Training – Threshold Training
3 x (8 – 20 min intervals @ 85 – 90% max heart rate with half time for recovery)
Threshold training enhances the body’s ability to cope with high lactate levels. By training at threshold level (exercising with a heart rate between 85 and 90% max, mine is 195 bpm x 0.85 = 165 bpm and 195 bpm x 0.90 = 175 bpm) the body develops the physiological adaptations needed to cope with high levels of lactate. In simple terms, the muscles can work harder for longer.
Start with 8 minute intervals and 4 minutes rest, over time increase interval length up to 20 minutes with 10 minutes rest.
Completing this workout once or twice a week will greatly increase your ability to hold a high pace for an extended period and is excellent when training for triathlons, time trials or mountainous rides.
Cycling Interval Training – Tabata Training
8 x (20 secs maximum effort / 10 secs easy)
Tabata takes only 4 minutes and enhances aerobic and anaerobic capacity. Tabata can be performed on its own multiple times a week however I also like to use it as a high-intensity ‘finisher’ at the end of a weights session.
Only complete a Tabata session if you feel you can give 100%. Tabata sessions are effective because they are completed at the very fastest pace you are capable of. If you are feeling fatigued choose a different type of training.
Cycling Interval Training – Surge Training
8 x (20secs medium/20secs hard/20secs maximum then 1 min rest)
Surge training is much more difficult than it looks. The last 20 seconds seem to last forever but they help train the muscles to step up a gear when it is needed. Use a gear that allows for a high cadence but offers some resistance.
This is a hard aerobic workout that helps develop top end speed.
Cycling Interval Training – 30 Seconds of Hell
8 x (30 secs absolute maximum effort with 2 1/2 mins rest)
What can I say, this session is nasty but it works. Let’s get anaerobic! You need to push at the maximum you have, nothing can be held back. Try this session once a week to increase your sprinting ability and anaerobic capacity. This session is very tiring so be careful not to do it too close to race day.
I like to stand on the pedals and get out of the saddle for the entire 30 seconds as it peaks my heart rate. To train the gluteal muscles (your bottom) rather than the quads (your thighs) stay seated and just spin as fast as you can. Again choose a medium gear that allows a high cadence but also provides some resistance.
Jens Voigt said it best:
“Every time I race, I will race so fiercely my legs cry” – Jens Voigt
With that thought, train hard and never quit.
For more information about interval training see my ‘what is interval training‘ page. If you need to drop some pounds to get up those mountains quicker read my ‘high intensity interval training‘ program.
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