It’s a word that should incite the metallic taste of blood in your mouth. It’s the training day that gets a star next to it on the calendar. It’s the best way to become fast on your bike.
The vast majority of cyclists ride nearly the same pace all the time. This is one of the reasons that racing can be so difficult to get into. Races rarely cruise along at your tempo pace, rather the race slows, speeds up, surges, slows, surges, etc. It is a nearly constant change of pace. Something a recreational rider just won’t experience unless they are riding in group rides/race training rides. So when a new rider shows up for their first race, the rubber band snaps at the first pull and they end up riding alone for 40 miles. Not a great way to get into racing.
Intervals are critical in any bike training. Even if you are preparing for an MS 150 or the 50 mile fun ride, adding this type of training into your regiment will be extremely helpful. So what is an “interval”? Intervals are periods of higher intensity in your training based on metrics (perceived exertion, power, heart rate). There are endless interval options and ways of combining them in your training to increase endurance, maximum power output, and threshold power. For general training you need to incorporate a variety of intervals to create a balanced energy system that can respond to different types of requests during a race. A few examples of intervals everyone should have during training:
- 1 minute sprints. These help increase VO2 max, adjust the body to surges in racing, and increase maximum power output.
- 20 minute TT efforts. These adapt the body to pushing at a threshold power level for extended periods of time.
- High RPM. Pedaling at higher cadences creates a more efficient pedal stroke and allows your legs to rely on more muscles to create the power needed on the bike.
As I mentioned before, there are endless types of intervals and combinations of rest/work all under the heading of an “interval workout”. A good coach should vary the types of intervals, recovery and total work load to create a plan that addresses your current fitness, short term and long term goals, and type of racer.