Interval Training to Max Out Your Cycling Performance
Are you feeling a little disillusioned with your progress in your cycling endeavors? Have you got an important race coming up soon? Interval training could be just the thing to give you the boost you need.
What is Interval Training?
In simple terms, interval training means alternating short bursts of intense exertion with intervals of more subdued activity. The usual ratio is 30 seconds of exertion for every 3 to 4 minutes of less fervent activity, but it depends on what you’re trying to achieve with the exercise.
Sounds simple enough, right? Simple it may be, but easy it certainly isn’t. The thought of an interval training session is enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the most fitness-crazed cyclists.
Interval training is known for providing excellent results in a comparatively short time. However, as with most training endeavors, the hard work pays off – which makes it all worthwhile in the end.
The Benefits of Interval Training
According to sports scientist, Paul Laursen, just two weeks of interval training can enhance your results. These short sharp bursts of exertion have the following benefits:
- The harder and faster you go, the more kilojoules you burn. That means, even short bursts of exertion will increase your overall fat burning benefits.
- Since you’re burning more kilojoules over a shorter time period, you can spend less time exercising and get the same results.
- Interval training adds variety to your training program and combats boredom.
- You don’t need any special equipment to do interval training, you simply work with what you’ve got, but you just work harder.
Interval training also increases your VO2 max. This term refers to the amount of oxygen that your body can inhale and absorb. This is important for exercise because oxygen is what makes the magic happen when you’re exercising. It breaks down the carbohydrates, protein and fats in your body into fuel that your body needs when exerted. Too little oxygen slows down this metabolism, resulting in reduced performance.
Interval training crosses the disciplines
One of the most important benefits of interval training is that it can be used as a one-size-fits-all approach to prepare yourself for any cycling event to elicit a specific physical response from your body – be it mountain biking or a road race. Once you’ve given your body the training it needs to work at its best in competition, you’ll see an improvement whether you are in the mountains or out on the road.
While the different types of cycling are certainly varied and each require their own set of skills, the basic physical activity is the same. The real challenge comes with preparing your race strategy and getting in the right frame of mind to give it your all on race day. It’s worth noting that the very nature of a MTB session with rocks, roots and switchbacks has all the short bursts of activity interspersed throughout.
Knowing that you’ve got extra in the tank thanks to interval training goes a long way towards giving you that edge – both mentally and tactically.
Get Started with Interval Training
To get you started, you should introduce interval training to your training program a maximum of twice a week. Always start off with a 10 to 15-minute warm up session of easy pedaling and an appropriate cooling down session afterwards.
If you stick to this religiously, you’ll start to see and feel results in about 4 weeks. Let’s get started.
5 Interval Training Workouts to Get You on Track
Here are 5 simple, tried and tested interval training workouts to get your inspired.
- Flying 40s to Boost Muscular Endurance
This workout trains your body to recover quickly between exertions and helps to build power. It will give you the staying power to push forward and overtake your opponents at regular intervals during a race. Here’s what to do:
1. Go flat out for 40 seconds in a medium gear
2. Recover for 20 seconds
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 ten times.
4. Rest for 5 minutes
Steps 1 to 4 comprise one set. Perform 4 to 5 sets before cooling down and calling it a day.
- 10-Speed Intervals to Increase Pedaling Efficiency
This exercise uses super-fast intervals to encourage a rhythmic cadence and an efficient, fluid pedal stroke. Here’s the drill:
1. Pedal as hard as you can for 10 seconds in a medium gear (90 to 110 rpm)
2. Spin easy for 20 seconds
3. Repeat for 10 to 15 minutes
4. Rest for 5 minutes
Repeat steps 1 to 4, then cool down.
- Hill Charges
You don’t need a steep incline for this exercise, a gentle slope will do, as long as you can cycle in both directions safely.
- Once warmed up, take on the hill at full speed, while standing out of the saddle.
- Coast back to your starting point and race up the hill again, this time while seated.
- Continue for another 4 climbs, alternating between sitting and standing.
- Rest for 10 minutes then repeat the process.
Unsurprisingly, this one will give you the strength, endurance and courage to take on hills with confidence.
- Tabata Intervals for More Power
This intense workout helps to increase how much intensity you can sustain over an hour and help your body to use more muscle during exertion.
Here’s how to do it:
- Set off as fast as you can for 20 seconds
- Coast for 10 seconds and then sprint again
- Alternate going fast and slow like this for 6 to 8 repetitions
- Cool down afterwards
- Attack Intervals to Push the Limits
This exercise raises your threshold and helps you sustain bursts of speed for longer.
- Ride as hard as you can for 2 to 3 minutes
- Take it easy for 2 minutes
- Repeat these bursts of speed and recovery periods for 3 repetitions
- Cool down afterwards
Go Easy on Yourself
Interval training was never meant to be easy, but it shouldn’t be anything you can’t handle. It is important not to injure yourself in your enthusiasm to achieve results.
Before you attempt integrating interval training into your fitness regime, you should be reasonably fit. It’s not the kind of thing you should try in your first week; or even month of training.
Always consult with a fitness expert or your doctor if you are in any doubt about trying something new. You won’t achieve any benefit from injuring, straining, or demotivating yourself.
Keep reading our blog for more tips on how to lead your best fit life.