What's Cool In Road Cycling

Pro Shop – Intervals With The Pros

The last few weeks has seen Pez’s Toolbox crew give the readers of our articles great advice when it comes to planning the details of your training program through the use of intervals. It’s now time to ask some of our regular contributing professionals what types of intervals they use during the season. There is a common misconception that pros don’t do intervals. The general thinking is that professionals just ride their bikes all day – because they can and they achieve fitness by frequent racing. Although that may be the case with some pros, I think you will be pleasantly surprised that Mike Sayers, Scott Moninger and Mike Carter do some of the exact same things you do in your training program.

Pez: Do you use intervals and if so, what types and when do you use them?

Mike Sayers: Intervals for me fulfill different needs at different times of the season. Early on, and after plenty of base mileage, I like to work longer, 20 to 30 minutes at about 10 beats below threshold. This allows me to build strength and endurance. As I get some racing in my legs, I move those sessions to the threshold mark once again to build my strength and endurance. All this allows me to progress as the racing progresses. The key is not to do too much and waste your efforts in training. Once the season has really gotten under way, I like to try and work on my speed and recovery time. I have found that you can overcome a lot if you have a good turn of speed. I have two types of intervals to sharpen these areas; the first is a 45 second effort. This is an all out effort from a slow rolling start for 45 seconds. I wear a heart rate monitor and allow my HR to recover to about 100 bpm. I then do another and continue till I complete 5 to 10 efforts. The second type is a 30 second on 30 second off effort. I do these in blocks of 5 with 5 minuet rests. These are pretty basic; sprint all out for 30 seconds and coast for 30 seconds. These really help your jumps and your recovery. So that is about all the intervals I do. I race a lot so I limit these to the early parts of the week, but if I feel tired from racing I often skip the intervals in favor of intervals on my Play Station!

Scott Moninger: I do use intervals in my training, mostly in the period between “base training” and serious racing in the early season, as well as maintenance between long breaks in between races. I think the type of intervals you do should be specific to the type of rider you are and the type of event you’re preparing for. For example, if you’re preparing for a time trial: the shorter, more intense intervals (above LT, 2-5 min in duration.) are best. The idea is that at the end of the work out, you will have spent 20-30 minutes of time in the “red zone” without actually going out and doing an all out 20-30 minute time trial which would be more difficult to recover from than the shorter TT intervals. I personally do a lot of LT intervals. Because I am a climber and most of the events that I target are climbing events, I will do sometimes up to 90 minutes of LT’s on my interval day. I try to mix it up as much as possible. One session I might do 4×20 min. The next sessions might be 6x15min. For me the lactate threshold interval simulates a near race pace speed and effort but because they’re done at or below LT, the legs don’t “load-up” nearly as much as would during a sprint or TT interval.

Mike Carter: Intervals are a great for broadening the capabilities of any racer, whether they be a pro or a junior. There are a number of different types, and there are interval workouts that can address every aspect of racing.

Sustained, repeated attacks are short and intense. Those short, intense attacks are anaerobic, and produce a significant amount of lactic acid. The ability to tolerate an anaerobic state means that you need to be able to first tolerate the production of lactate, and second, to clear that lactate from the system as quickly as possible. Intervals that address this ability are up to three minutes in duration, high cadence and at heart rates that are purely anaerobic, so well above threshold.

Change-of-pace efforts in races can also result in entering into an anaerobic state, but often times this phenomenon results in going to a higher aerobic state, at or just below threshold. The intervals that can help develop this ability are longer than the lactic intervals, and are usually five to as much as ten minutes in duration, and are executed in the range of 5 beats below right up to threshold. Recovery is half the interval typically.

Longer intervals, 20 to as much as 60 minutes are great for improving break-away abilities, and also good for time trialing. The heart rates for these longer intervals are anywhere from 85% to 92% of threshold heart rates, and can be at high cadence (90+) or lower cadence, (65+). Recovery is half or even less than the interval.

Let’s summarize the important points:

Balance – Mike, Scott and Mike all use the intervals as one component of their training, mainly after base training and to keep sharp in between races.

Intervals should focus on the type of racing you want to have success. One of the most important experiences we gain by doing intervals is to familiarize both the mind and body with specific race situations. I can’t tell you how happy I am when my athletes come back to me after a race and says that an effort they experienced in the race was similar to the interval workouts we performed in training.

Races are priority – Don’t over extend yourself during the week doing too many interval effort. Make sure you are rested and ready to go on race day. Discuss the type and intensity with your coach.

• If you look at the amount of elapsed time we have been describing doing interval workouts, they are a great workout when you don’t have that much time, which seems to be the case pretty much all the time! However, you won’t maximize the benefit from intervals without a firm aerobic foundation.

• As you are doing intervals, it’s important to remember you are doing the first few to get to the last, more difficult repetitions of your workout. For example, let’s say you are doing 5 x 5 minutes at or just above your lactate threshold. Remember that the first three are much easier and anyone can complete them. Resist the temptation to make these initial ones so hard that you can’t complete the final intervals! You gain the majority of benefit from the last two. Those are the two that are similar to the end of the race and those are the two that you don’t want to do because they hurt so much more than the first three!

Yes, the pros do intervals! One of the incredible things about training for bike races is that we can really learn from the riders on different levels. What Mike, Scott and Mike do can be the exact things we actually do in our training.

What to do with your Maximal Aerobic Power

Determining your Maximal Aerobic Power

Part 1 of our Interval series

Spin vs Push: Interval Physiology 101

The importance of lactate threshold

Frank Overton discusses the right versus wrong way to do intervals

Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com

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