DID YOU KNOW??
James Allen Watrous, Ph.D.
is interval training? Is it right
for you? What can you expect from
interval training? Are there
different types? What are some good
interval training patterns?
training consists of 1) a good warm up, 2) a set of short and intense interval
workouts and 3) a good cool down. The
best format for maximum results uses a fixed time for each interval as opposed
to a fixed distance for each interval. Interval
training is best done on a Tuesday or Wednesday followed by a recovery ride on
the following day. Recovery rides
can be done on the road or on a trainer. Recovery
rides are as important as any intense workout and must be considered as part of
the fitness program. See recovery
ride description below.
training can be right for you, if you are a middle intermediate rider (or above)
and you are riding of a regular basis (riding frequency: 4 to 5 times per week).
For beginning riders and riders transitioning to intermediate levels, see
the one-legged training and the dynamics of turning the bicycle cranks before
considering interval training.
training is awesome and dangerous at the same time.
Interval training potentially can produce powerful results.
However, it is one of the more dangerous training methods in terms of
sports injury to the knees. Interval
training must not be done more than once per week.
Yes, you can blow your knees out just like runners, if done incorrectly
or too frequently. Hill intervals
are not recommended because of the excess strain to the knees.
Hill intervals should not be confused with occasional hill sprints.
For best results, interval training should be done on flat roads with
minimal traffic and no cross street intersections.
A one and half mile straight street with no cross streets is useful for
back and forth circuit type interval training.
A two and a half to three mile street in a giant oval with only one or
two cross streets is another example of street configuration that is useful for
interval training. In either of
these examples, a relatively flat road and low traffic volume is essential for
good safety and maximum results.
three to four weeks, you can expect that your average speed will increase in
small steps during the following weeks of training.
How much your average speed will increase depends on the goals you set
and the amount riding you do. One
aspect of interval training is the improvement of your cardiovascular system.
If you use the interval training patterns recommended below, you will
improve your recovery ability, average speed, your hill climbing speed and your
a day of interval training, the next day needs to be a recovery ride.
Recovery rides are perhaps the hardest type of ride for most all
bicyclists. A recovery ride
is a 10 to 12 mile flat road ride at 10 to 12 MPH in a low gear.
(No sprints, no hills, no speed and rpm’s in the 85 to 95 range)
The purpose of the recovery ride is to have some motion and circulation
without stressing the muscles. A
recovery ride can be done on a trainer for about one hour at 85 to 95 rpm’s in
a low gear. If you do this ride on
the road, ignore all other passing riders. When
doing recovery rides, you must stick to the pattern.
The benefits from recovery rides help’s cement the gains of the
interval training. The day after a
recovery ride can be a rest day or at most a moderate ride level.
By the way, any time you have an intense ride or event, the following day
should be a recovery ride. I like to
refer to recovery rides as the “BS – Bagel” ride with a friend or consider
riding with a beginner for an hour. You
may find that recovery rides take a lot of concentration to maintain the low
speed (and low muscle stress) during the ride time.
However, the benefits of the recovery ride extend well into the following
are many types of interval training patterns.
Intervals to exhaustion are one that I do not recommend, since the
recovery time can be too long. I
also do not recommend interval patterns that include changing the gears to
higher and higher levels until exhaustion occurs.
Again, recovery time is too long.
recovery times are associated with muscle atrophy, which partially undoes the
interval training or intense training benefits.
The balance is to create a benefit without long recovery times.
Gain without pain. Even the
patterns I suggest below take recovery times into account on a miniature basis.
And, in fact, these patterns take several different aspects into account,
which will be discussed at each part.
I first starting experimenting with intervals in 1985, I tried every pattern I
had ever heard or read about. I
wanted to know if the interval pattern worked, how well and why.
If it did not work well, then why did it not work well?
(It is my physicist background that has the need to know how and why.)
I also started trying different combinations to see what the results
would be. By the middle of 1988, I
found that the pattern below work the best and took into account the most number
of aspects one could get out a training session.
My concern was how can I train effectively with the time I had and get
do a good moderate warm up ride to a suitable road location for interval
training. Second, do two to ten
interval sets depending on your starting goals and current fitness level.
Each interval set consist of three “ON” – “OFF” intervals of
equal duration and three “OFF” intervals at the same time duration for one and two
minute interval patterns. If you are doing
one minute intervals, then each set takes nine minutes.
For two minute intervals, each set takes eighteen (18) minutes.
For five minute intervals, each set takes forty two (42) minutes.
All intervals are done in a gear selection of 52/18 or 53/19 only.
No higher gear combinations are used.
The reasons for this gear combination are to develop high spin (high
rpm’s) and power.
should be done on the road or specifically on a wind trainer that mimics air
flow speed to loading. Magnetic
trainers and fluid trainers do not have the property to scale loading with
speed, even though fluid and magnetic trainers do have different resistance
settings. When you ride through air
(no wind), the faster you ride the greater the resistance from the air.
However, the air resistance does not scale linearly.
(Linear scaling means that if you double your speed, you double the air
resistance loading.) In fact, air
resistance quadruples (4 times) when you double (2 times) your speed.
Wind trainers approximate this air resistance to motion through it.
Even though I recommend wind trainers, they are not all equal to the air
loading that you will see on the road. Some
wind trainers will have less loading while others will have more loading than
you will experience on the road. However,
wind trainers scale the loading (resistance) similarly to the way motion through
air scales the loading (resistance). This
is the primary benefit of wind trainers over other trainers.
The only negative part about wind trainers is the noise factor when you
get up to speed. By the way, one of
the reasons wind trainers may seem easier or harder than you experience on the
road is do to the body profile (body size) and whether you are in an upright
position, aerodynamic position or somewhere in between.
gearing: 52/18 or 53/19 during the entire interval set on nearly flat roads.
Interval Set Consist of –
out of saddle to get up to speed and then set down to maintain it for the
entire interval at 80 to 90% level. One
of the main elements is to put out an effort at a speed that you can just
maintain for the entire interval. The
last 5 to 10 seconds are the hardest to do.
As your average speed of the interval increases, your rpm’s will
increase since the gear remains the same.
The higher the average speed, then the greater the air resistance
(loading). You are developing
greater power and higher rpm’s at the same time as you improve your
average interval speed.
into a coast mode slowly turning your cranks for the first twenty to
thirty seconds. Then slowly
bring your rpm’s up to what ever speed you have slowed to.
Do not try to maintain a middle speed.
This is one of the biggest mistakes riders make.
Your goal is to recover quickly (rest) before the next interval.
Regardless of your genetics, you can train yourself to recover
quicker after an intense interval.
the first ON
the first OFF
the first ON
into a coast mode slowly turning your cranks for the first thirty to forty
seconds. Then keep the rpm’s
low and allow the speed to slow down to about 10 MPH.
this low level to create a mini rest period.
bring speed up to 12 or 14 MPH. Drink
bring speed up to 16 or so MPH.
start interval training, try two or three interval sets at one minute duration.
As the weeks progress, add another interval set to the group of sets up
to your goal level. The maximum
number of sets must not exceed 10 sets. Recognize
that 10 sets of one minute intervals equal 30 one-minute intervals that will
take 90 minutes to complete in addition to the warm up and cool down times.
Ten interval sets is easily a two hour workout.
level and the number of interval sets are: 1)
sets at the
intermediate level, 2)
sets at the advance level, 3) five to eight sets at the
upper amateur racing level and 4) six to ten sets at the pro level.
level and one minute interval speed: 1) between 23 and 25 MPH at intermediate
level, 2) between 25 and 28 MPH at advance levels, 3) between 27 and 32 MPH at
upper amateur racing level, and 4) between 30 and 35 MPH at the pro level.
My best for ten interval sets was an average of 33 MPH for each interval.
By the way, my best time trail was 75 miles long at an average of 26.7
MPH in the first part of the RAAM Open West (1987) qualifier.
– No matter how many interval sets you have planned to do, when your speed
begins to fade in any given set, then the interval session ends, you do your
coal down ride and that is it for the day. You
may find that some weeks you are a monster, while other weeks you are a wimp.
This is very normal part of development.
You must always be aware of the physical signs the body signals, so that
you can adjust that day’s activity accordingly.
Remember, your goal is to train smart with efficiency and proper stress
followed by proper rest. Read and
review the article on “Body Bio-Signals”.
note that the two minute interval pattern in the chart above follows the same
pattern as the one minute interval pattern.
The two minute pattern is primarily for upper level advanced and above
five minute interval pattern was developed to help time-trial riders.
Note that the “ON” – “OFF” patterns are of equal time duration.
However, the last three “OFFs” have different and shorter time
durations. It must also be noted
that the “ON” portion of the five minute interval pattern, is done at a
slightly lower average speed than the one or two minute interval patterns.
are other shorter interval patterns that are designed for specific and targeted
training. See the article on
One-Legged training. Another
interval pattern that can be done more than once per week targets your crossover
between anaerobic and aerobic threshold. The
pattern uses four one-minute intervals done back to back.
Each of these one minute intervals contains an intense effort followed by
a rest period in the same minute. At
the beginning of each of the four minutes, start a strong sprint; hold it almost
to the threshold, and then set down to rest for the remainder of the minute.
Repeat the process for each of the remaining three minutes.
It may take several tries to find your present threshold, that is, how
many seconds to the threshold. Once
you have established the number of seconds to the threshold, subtract two
seconds from that number for your time to just before the threshold.
Suppose your threshold is at 20 seconds.
Subtracting 2 seconds from the 20 seconds leaves 18 seconds that
represents the time duration to just before the onset of the threshold
crossover. So, sprint for 18 seconds
and then set down to rest for 42 seconds. During
the rest period do not try to maintain speed.
Instead, slowly turn the pedals to generate a quick recovery.
Repeat this sequence three more consecutive times.
Every 2 to 4 days, repeat this four minute set.
Each time you do this set, try to slightly increase the sprint time and
decrease the rest time by the same amount you increased the print time.
The sprint time and rest time must add up to one minute.
Over a period of weeks you will find that you can increase your anaerobic
duration in a sprint. Keep in mind
that there is an upper limit based on your current fitness level and genetics.
you start to sprint, you are using energy produced by anaerobic mechanisms.
At some point the heart rate and respiration rate increase greatly to
produce energy by aerobic mechanisms. The
process of changing from anaerobic to aerobic forms of energy output has a
threshold that is a function of training, current fitness level, and genetics.
This pattern is designed to help you stay in the anaerobic form of energy
output for a longer period. Clearly,
there is an upper limit for all individuals based on current fitness and
trust that this information helps you train smarter and more efficiently with
the time you have available.
Copyright, 2017, 1985 to 2017. Watrous' Cycling Enterprises