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Wintertime Intensity

How about a little anaerobic work to go with your sweet spot base training? At FasCat in the wintertime we like to caress and nurture our athlete's anaerobic system. One training myth we’d like to dispel is to only do base training for 2-3 months. Why not do both simultaneously, in the right amounts. We’ve long been fans of fast fun wintertime group rides for the short 10 - 20 second forays above threshold we see in athlete’s power data. While not a ton of time is spent above threshold there is value and benefit to including anaerobic work to your base training. After all, isn’t this how the sport of cyclocross was invented?

This year a number of athletes are missing group rides not only for the social aspect but also for the training. And not only the base miles training and TSS but the anaerobic component that makes these group rides so beneficial. Doing a group ride on Zwift (not a race) over variable terrain with mixed high and low power output is OK but not quite the same as these 5 workouts we are presenting below.

First, what is ‘Wintertime Intensity’? Wintertime Intensity is 2 - 4 cumulative minutes of zone 6 work per hour. Two to four minutes is not a lot considering a one hour criterium or cyclocross race has more than half or 30 minutes spent in one’s zone 6. Wintertime Intensity as you would guess is prescribed in the second half to final third of one’s aerobic endurance phase or CTL build. As in our sweet spot part 3 plan or our new wintertime intensity plan.

These variable power wintertime intervals mimic the power demands* of road, mountain bike, gravel, fondo, cyclocross and even punchy time trials. In this training tip, we’ll describe the how, what, where, and why of wintertime intervals and give you five progressive workout examples plus a link to our WinterTime Intensity Training Plan that includes these 5 workouts** in an easy to follow, simple and affordable training solution.

*surges in the peloton, steep pitches up climbs, switchbacks, and technical singletrack, cyclocross accelerations

** compatible with Zwift and others 3rd party riding app.

The Wintertime Intervals are what we call variable power workouts and they have 5 main benefits:

  1. Specificity of real world conditions
  2. Help the time pass quicker during indoor training sessions!
  3. Concise short high quality 1 hour workouts (designed for indoors and ERG mode) but just as easily performed outside with longer zone 2 warm up and cool downs.
  4. Nurtures your Anaerobic System
  5. Provides an introductory amount of intensity to one’s base training before the high intensity interval training phase

Wintertime intervals are structured over under or criss cross style workouts with short 10 - 20 second efforts at the beginning and/or the end of the interval. For example 10 seconds @ 150% on FTP followed by 2 minutes and 40 seconds at Sweet Spot wattages and/or heart rates followed by 10 more seconds @ 150-200% of one’s FTP before a 1:1 work to rest ratio 3 minute recovery. Then repeat.

That's a 3 minute variable power sweet spot effort with 20 seconds total (10 second before and 10 second afters on zone 6 work of zone 6 work. One can do 6 of these in a one hour workout for 18 minutes of ‘wintertime intensity’ split 88 % sweet spot and 12 % anaerobic zone 6. Or 16 minutes of sweet spot work and 2 minutes of anaerobic work. That’s a perfect ratio for your wintertime base training Dec-Jan-Feb. Now the progression lies in spending more time in sweet spot and more time in zone 6 in the context of a one hour workout.

To get started with your wintertime intensity interval training we have the FasCat #1 Sweet Spot Cheetah Pounce” 4 x 6 minutes. We like to have a little fun with sports psychology and animal imagery in these workouts. And of course we are talking about the world’s fastest land mammal, the cheetah.

Carefully sweet spot stalk your prey (your prey being your training goals) at sweet spot wattages and/or heart rates for 5 minutes and 40 seconds and the “pounce!” on them for the final 20 seconds at a 115 - 150% FTP Zone 6+ effort. Pounce out of the saddle as if you were going for the win and and uphill sprint. Really give’er here because you have a 3 minute recovery interval after. Take a 2:1 work to rest ratio 2 minutes recovery and repeat 3 more times. If all goes well and you FtFP your power and heart rate data will look like this:

note the 'extra credit' watts for the last Pounce - we encourage this!

  In total this will be 24 minutes of WTI with 94% or 22.66 minutes being Sweet Spot and 6 % and 1.34 minutes being Zone 6 Anaerobic.

ERG mode is fantastic for these variable power workouts but toggle if OFF to be able to get 'EXTRA CREDIT" with more watts for the Pounce.

Pro Tip: Shift Down 3-4 seconds ahead of the pounce to be able to respond to to load

The FasCat #2 Sweet Spot “Cheetah Pounce: is 6 x 4 minutes broken up into 2 sets

Its a progression from the Cheetah Pounce # 1 Again visualize yourself as a cheetah stalking your prey, which is your A#1 training goal and sweet spot for 3 minutes and 40 seconds. Then just like #1 pounce out of the saddle for 20 seconds at a 115 - 150% FTP Zone 6+ effort. Again really get after the pound effort because you have a 2 minute recovery interval to catch your breath after.

Little known cheetah exercise physiology nugget: Cheetahs are all fast twitch and anaerobically gifted but at the expense of their endurance. A cheetah is wicked fast for 30 - 60 seconds but if the antelope can outrun the cheetah for longer than that cheetahs lose their speed quickly. Would make a terrible endurance athlete but a world class obviously kilo and pursuit rider! Cheetahs need more sweet spot training! … but I digress.

Continuing on with the Cheetah Imagery theme is the FasCat # 3 Sprint > Stalk > Kill: 2 sets of 3 x 3 minutes. The progression of # 3 come from added in a 10 second anaerobic out of the saddle sprint to the beginning of the effort like a traditional over under. The Sprint Stalk Kill Goes like this:

Sprint out of the saddle for the first 10 seconds of each interval @ 150% of FTP. Then settle back in the saddle to sweet spot stalk your prey (your goals) before going for the KILL with an out of the saddle > 150% FTP sprint!


Really visualize your goals here - it is a crit and cyclocross race and mountain bike course - think and see yourself in the crux moment of these races making this kind of power. Please pardon the KILL’ing reference but that’s how it is in the Serengeti and if you bring a killer mindset to your racing you’ll make Eddy Merckx (the cannibal proud).

the FasCat # 4 Sprint > Stalk > Kill: is 2 sets of 5 x 2 minutes and is a progression from # 3

Same deal, sprint out of the saddle at 150% of FTP settle back in the saddle to sweet spot stalk your goal before going in for the KILL at 200% of FTP for the final 10 seconds.

Visualize your Goals to Sprint FAST like a Cheetah! Accelerate, Settle In to your Sweet Spot and then go Full Gas for the KILL! I believe Duran Duran says it the best ‘Hungry like the Wolf”. To our knowledge no cheetah has made it into pop music culture .

The Sprint > Stalk Kill # 3 contains 18 total minutes of wintertime intensity with 88% and 16 minutes being sweet spot and 12 % and 2 minutes begin anaerobic.

The Sprint > Stalk Kill # 4 progresses to 20 minutes of WTI with 83.3% and 16.6 minutes of Sweet Spot and 16.7% and 3.4 min of anaerobic zone 6. The progression comes from a little bit less sweet spot and a little bit more anaerobic.

Finally! If you know us well you know we always include a ‘Diabolical’ workout version for all the young buck whippersnappers out there who can handle the load and want to get their cat 2 upgrade.

Now the FasCat # 5 Diabolical “Cheetah Pounce” is diabolical because you don’t have time to catch your prey with sweet spot - you need to stalk them faster at threshold watts! There's is no set break either in order to get 8 reps in an hour workout.

The FasCat # 5 Diabolical Cheetah Pounce goes like this: 8 x 3 minutes with 10 seconds zone 6 followed by 2 minutes and 40 seconds at zone 4 followed by 10 seconds at 200% of FTP. There’s a 1:1 work to rest ratio to enable you to complete the workout but the 8 reps add up - pace yourself especially for the first 2 or 3 because the last 2 reps, 7 & 8 will hurt!

compliments of Coach Isaiah taking a diabolical one for the team 💪

Caress and nurture your anaerobic system this winter with these 5 wintertime intensity workouts. Get on the bike, get down to work, get off, go win in the kitchen and go on about your day.

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About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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