A few weeks ago I posted a write up about Why Long Rides Don’t Make you Faster and I had a number of follow up questions about this so I thought I’d take a minute to clarify a few points about high intensity intervals within your bike training.
First, let me start by saying that if you have any sort of injury or unusual tightness in your legs or glutes, then I would save the higher intensity intervals until you are 100%. Secondly, I’m also assuming you have been through a proper bike fit. A poor bike fit + high intensity intervals = a good chance of injury.
Beginner Triathletes– If you are new to riding, then just about every ride you do will contribute to improving your fitness and speed. Your tendons, ligaments and muscles have not quite adjusted to the cycling specific motion and when placed under load, you have the potential to overdo it. When first starting out, keep hard intervals to a minimum, if at all.
If you are beyond the beginner stage, keep on reading.
Who can benefit? If you have been riding consistently for more than a year, these higher intensity intervals will definitely boost your performance. Start by adding short amounts of Threshold intervals. If you are new to intervals, I would keep this to about 40- 50 minutes for the entire week and never more than 30 minutes in a single session. Break up the interval in to small manageable chunks of time. Five to twelve minutes work well for most newbies. Allow anywhere from 2 minutes up to 5 minutes of recovery. Complete these early in your rides when you are fresh, both mentally and physically. Once they are done, continue on with your ride. Over time your body will adjust and your cruising pace will put your riding buddies in a world of hurt.
Who can REALLY benefit? If you have been riding for 3 or more years , and the thought of a 90 mile ride doesn’t leave you paralyzed with fear, your Ironman and half ironman bike times have been relatively stagnant for the last few years, and you are not a stranger to hard work, then these higher intensity intervals will rock your world. The first thing you need to do is shift your focus and accept that the training load of a ride is equal to both volume and intensity (Training Load = Volume + Intensity). Altering either of these variables can define how much work you are doing. Most people default to volume to define the meaning of a tough ride. The problem with placing too much emphasis on volume is that you are often caught in between a really hard effort and a moderate effort. Sending too much time in this dead zone for a long ride means extended recovery on top of the fact that your hard effort wasn’t really hard enough to bring about the changes you are looking for.
If you are training for an Ironman, I would suggest making your key ride for the week a 3-3.5 hour ride. Keep in mind, these are not just “go out and ride” kind of workouts. Every 4th or 5th weekend, you can mix in a longer distance ride at or just below your Ironman race pace. As you get close to your event, these focused rides will start to extend into the 4 hour range. After 4 hours most athletes start to lose steam. You can also really reap big gains by adding a second, less intense, ride the next day. Keep this to under 2 hours. For first time Ironman athletes, I would add more long rides. This is more for the psychological/mental benefit more than anything else. Most new Ironman athletes would flip if I only had them complete one or two really long rides in prep for their Ironman.
The purpose of this post is to expose you to the idea that your training doesn’t have to be all about volume. A little purposeful intensity goes a long way. This approach to training shapes our coaching philosophy as well as our how we write up our programs. We take your unique training background and combine it with a specific plan of attack to bring about the most gains for YOU.