4 minute VO2 Power Data

How to Perform VO2 Max Intervals with your PowerMeter

By Frank Overton, Owner & Founder at FasCat Coaching  (originally  written for VeloNews)

When the hammer drops on your next group ride it is likely a VO2 effort. I see it all the time in reviewing my athlete power data: the crux of getting into the break, making the selection, or the race winning move lasts between 3 – 6 minutes.  This is raw VO2 power and requires that you ride full gas.  We can mimic the physiological demands of those moments in our training with VO2 Max Intervals.

Here is a simple VO2 workout to improve your explosive power and ability to deliver in those make or break moments in your group ride or race:

VO2 Max Intervals: Zone 5 (105 – 120% of Threshold Wattage): 2 sets of 2 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF; 8 min in-between sets.

  • Warm Up easy for 15 – 30 minutes
  • Perform these Intervals on a climb (if available)
  • Begin each interval by modulating your wattage between 105% and 120% of your FTP power

With an accurately set FTP, 105-120% should be as hard as you can go for 4 minutes (and any 3-6 minute VO2 interval).

  • Hold your wattage in Zone 5 for 4 minutes
  • After the first 4 minute interval turn around and coast back down the hill (or pedal in Zone 2 if on flat terrain).
  • Turn around again and reposition yourself to begin the next interval from the same spot after 4 minutes of recovery.
  • A properly paced interval should feel moderately hard at first, difficult in the middle and a max effort at the end.
  • Tip: use your PowerMeter’s readout as motivation to hold the effort between your Zone 5 wattages for the full four minutes.
  • Don’t let your wattage dip below your Zone 5 wattage!
  • Try to maintain your power output above 105% but not above 120% (that is too hard and physiologically unrealistic).
  • After two intervals, take an 8 minute set break to spin around, recover and prepare for the final set.
  • After you complete both sets ride around in zone 2 or cool down.
  • Upload your data to TrainingPeaks and analyze your average interval wattages!

Find the perfect six-week interval plan: Buy One Here!

Technique

“Make the power” any which way you can; it does not have to be pretty. Dance on the pedals out of the saddle or try spinning seated. Be aggressive, get after it! I recommend alternating between sitting and standing. Position your hands out on the hoods for maximum leverage to rock the bike back and forth as you pump up and down on the pedals. With the real time wattage feedback from your power meter, you’ll quickly see which climbing technique enables you to make the power.

Motivation

These are difficult intervals (some of the toughest) so come into the workout rested, motivated, fueled and ready to suffer. The payoff is that you will be a more powerful, faster bike rider. Imagine you are charging up the race’s climbs with the taste of blood in your mouth and the podium is within your grasp! If you have snot coming out of your nose, or drool coming out of your mouth at the end of the last few intervals you are doing them correctly. For the goal-oriented athlete, there can be a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the successful completion of such a difficult workout within the prescribed zone 5 wattages.

Power Data Analysis

The graph below is an athlete’s power data from the VO2 Intervals described above (Zone 5: 4 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF, FULL GAS. This particular athlete is training for a road race with 3 climbs that last approximately 4 minutes each. Not only is this VO2 workout great for his fitness and power output, but it is specific to the power demands of his race course.

Notice the distinct plateau shaped power vs. time graph for each interval and the relative steady wattage output.   Theses intervals were well paced with averages of 340, 331, 331 and 332 watts, respectively.

Pacing

Since you are motivated and hungry like the wolf, don’t go out too hard for the first 1-2 intervals.  You want your last interval to be as good as your first.  There’s the Right Way and the Wrong Way to perform intervals.   In other words don’t start each interval at 150% of your FTP only to struggle to hold 95% in the 2nd half.  Use your powermeter to also not go too hard.  By modulating your effort in real time with a powermeter, you can execute your intervals much better than you can by heart rate.  Use the display to pedal harder into your zone 5 but not above.  In that case back off so that the watts fall in your zone 5 wattage.  Not too hard, not too easy, just right like Goldilocks.

Pro Power Analysis Tip

Calculate your average 4 minute VO2 Interval power by adding up the average of each interval and divide by 4 (or # of intervals).  Use this number to measure improvement against future 4 minute VO2 workouts.  For example if you averaged 283 watts April 16th, 2014 for this VO2 workout, repeat the intervals in 2 weeks under the same rested conditions and analyze your average interval power to see if you eclipsed the 283 watts from April 16th.

Advanced VO2 Workout

If 2 sets of 2 intervals for 4 total VO2 intervals is not enough for you, try 2 sets of 3 [2 sets of 3 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF]. However, remember to focus on the quality and amplitude of the power first before moving onto the quantity. Finally, if 24 minutes of VO2 work is not enough for you, try the grand-daddy VO2 workout off all time: 2 sets of 3 x 5 min ON 5 min OFF with 10 minutes in-between each set!

Progression from introductory VO2 intervals to more advanced and more challenging interval workouts may be found in our six week $49 interval training plans.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Frank and the FasCat Coaches have been prescribing VO2 intervals to athletes for over 15 years.  To get VO2’s prescribed into your training, you can email frank@fascatcoaching.com , call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to schedule a Coaching Consultation.  Or you may buy one of FasCat’s six-week interval training plans for $49 here.  Either way, look forward to increasing your VO2 Max Power at crunch time!

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How to Complete Time Trial Intervals

How to Perform Time Trial Intervals

Time trial intervals are simple yet complicated at the same time.  The simple part is going as hard as you can. The complicated part is at what wattage? We coach athletes to do both simultaneously, with real time power data and post workout analysis. Thus, blending the art and science of how to perform time trial intervals properly. The keys to performing time trial intervals (and thus time trials) is to be motivated, to concentrate, and to use your powermeter.

Motivation

A time trial is called “the race of truth” for a reason. They’re hard. You are by yourself.  It is just you and the bike, paving the lonely road. You’ve got to really want it and be ready to suffer. Only you can push yourself to the limit and those that can concentrate mentally are the best time trialists. Books upon books have been written on motivation and the best coaches are motivators. From this training tip, simply know that you are your best motivator. Motivation comes from within. When you do these time trial intervals you are practicing for the real deal. Be motivated, go hard and ask yourself after the workout how your motivation affected your power output.

Concentration

It helps to have something to think about to stay focused when time trialing  For example, concentrate on keeping your cadence greater than 90 rpm’s, keeping your head in an aero tuck, or not letting your wattage drop below a certain number on your powermeter (that you know you can hold). For the more zen athlete practice visual imagery. Not surprisingly, when I was on the time trial circuit, I used to visualize myself as a cheetah chasing his next meal (thus the name of our three coaching plans: hunt > chase > kill). That meal was my 30 second or minute man, a carrot to chase, catch and try to catch the next one.  I’d also concentrate on my cadence  striving to pedal > 90 rpms. If my cadence dropped, no worries, I’d re-focus an concentrate on raising my cadence.

The more motivated you are for your time trial intervals and the more you concentrate during them, the stronger your mental game will be for the race of truth.

Head low, aero, full gas.

Pacing

The most important part of a time-trial, especially the longer ones is to make sure you don’t go out too hard and blow up. With a powermeter, discipline, and the knowledge of your functional threshold power you can prevent this from happening. We take data from athletes’ 10 and 20 minute TT threshold intervals and use that to give athletes their pacing wattages. We also teach that you should time trial by feel and because when you are peaking you are going to be making power that is higher than you’ve ever made before.

Go as Hard as You Can but know what that is from the Power Data Analysis

The graph below is an athlete’s power data from the time trial threshold workout: 3 x 8 minutes ON 1 minute OFF, FULL GAS. With the recent introduction of individualized zones in WKO4, we’ve been calling these “Fatigue Resistance Intervals” or FRC’s. The wattage of what an athlete can hit for 8 minutes with only 1 minute of recovery is much higher than what this athlete could achieve for 26 minutes (3 x 8 min + 2 minutes of recovery). That’s what makes these intervals such good training!  But how much higher? Well that is the experiment the athlete needs to bring to these workouts: go as hard as they can, concentrate, and feel the edge between what is as hard as they can go and not blowing up.  So the “iLevel zone” is ‘as hard as you can go’ aka Full Gas.

As far as pacing goes, that too is an experiment for athletes to find out during the first few workouts.  Again, the athletes ‘only’ have to go as hard as they can, be motivated and concentrate for each and every interval.  The post workout data will then answer the question of what wattages the athletes can hit and hold. Therefore, after the intervals have been performed and the data has been analyzed, coaches and athletes will have a scientific understanding of what wattage they can hold for the duration of the interval and thus the time trial.

In the power data graph below, notice the distinct plateau shape from each of the three 8 minute intervals.  These intervals were well paced because the athlete did not go too hard to start nor did the wattage drop off towards the end of the interval. Additionally the third interval was as good as the first (actually better). From start to finish, including the two 1 minute recovery intervals, the athlete achieved 349 watts normalized.  From talking with the athlete, they reported this was as hard as they could go (‘saw god’) an thus for this athlete’s upcoming ~24 minute short time trial the wattage to pace off of will be 350 watts.

 The Art of Pacing and Optimism:

By ‘pace off of’ we mean, for the first two minutes of the TT , the athlete will use the powermeter to go 350 watts, not harder and not easier.  However, after the first two minutes when the effort has risen and can be felt in the body, the athlete will goes as hard as they can by feel* with the occasional glance at their power during the effort to keep them in check because we are glass half full coaches and believe motivated athletes are good for some additional watts on race day. Plus if they are truly peaking they will be eclipsing prior seasonal power data.

*the athlete will also know (from power data analysis and learning) what is physiologically unrealistic and therefore too hard.  Therefore even though they are time trialing by feel they are still using the powermeter.

Putting it All Together during your Threshold Intervals
  • Warm Up easy in your Zone 2 for 20 – 30 minutes
  • Perform these intervals down in your aero position on terrain similar to your race course
  • Begin each interval by modulating your wattage between 100-108% of your FTP power*
  • After the first 2 minutes of the interval, check your effort level. Can you go harder, or is the pace just right? Find your edge.
  • Finish the interval pushing similar watts at the end as you did in the beginning
  • A properly paced interval should feel moderately hard at first, difficult in the middle and a max effort at the end
  •  Use your powermeter’s readout as motivation to hold the effort
  • Don’t let your wattage dip below what you averaged for previous intervals
  • Try to maintain your power output above 100% but not above 108% (that is too hard and physiologically unrealistic)
  • After you complete your intervals ride around in zone 2 and cool down
  • Upload your data to TrainingPeaks and analyze your average interval wattage!!
  • Use the data to determine what your full gas wattages were/are

*With an accurately set FTP, 100% should be as hard as you can go for 60 minutes. And thus 108% is how hard you can go for shorter 8 minute TT intervals.

In summary, time-trial intervals should be completed as hard as you can go for the duration of the effort!  You should concentrate during the interval and be motivated. Practice how you play! Use the data from the first interval workout to pace yourself for your next TT interval workout and then bring that data to your actual time trial race. Good luck and go fast!

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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To talk with a FasCat Coach about training for your next time trial and nailing  your Time Trial intervals, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Consultations include TrainingPeaks historical data reviews! Otherwise you may find our Time Trial Interval Training Program for $49 very helpful.

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4 minute VO2 Max Intervals

How to Perform Intervals Properly with a PowerMeter

by Frank Overton February 19, 2003!  revised February 2016

When I bought my first powermeter in 2001, one of the things I first learned is that intervals are performed so much better by power than by heart rate.  In this training tip I am going to describe how to perform intervals with a powermeter.  When you perform intervals with a powermeter you benefit so much greater than with heart rate or by feel.

Yes, that’s right, if there is one single thing you can do to become faster, it’s intervals. It is possible to evaluate an athlete’s interval ‘technique’ and show them visually how to perform intervals with a powermeter. Even if you don’t have a powermeter the graphical analysis below will help you conduct your intervals the “RIGHT WAY” by “feel”.

The Right Way:

In the graph below, one can see power, heart rate and elevation data.  This is the “RIGHT WAY” to perform intervals with a powermeter: consistent steady power output.  Notice how the last interval (av 414 watts) is close to the first interval (av 445 watts).  We call that proper interval pacing not only during the one interval but for all 4 intervals in the set.

During the interval, use the real time power data to adjust your effort based on your power readout and wattage zones.  Not too hard, not too easy, just right like Goldilocks.  A steady effort produces a nice consistent power output over the course of the interval as shown above. The bottom line is to go as hard as you can but gauge your effort so that you can finish the interval with as much effort or power as you started the interval. If you can do this your power output will look like the graph above and you are well on your way to improving and maybe winning some races.

The Wrong Way:

Starting off too hard at the beginning of an interval is a common mistake especially for cyclists going off of heart rate alone. Notice how the intervals below start with a huge surge followed by a drop in power for the remainder of the interval.  In other words the athlete “blew up” chasing a heart rate zone. Don’t make the mistake of going as hard as you can in order to get your HR up as soon as possible. Heart rate lags behind your power output and in the case of these intervals is not a true indicator of what’s going on.

There are two reasons why you want a consistent power output for your intervals:  First, there will be less pain and suffering!  Second, by pacing yourself you’ll actually be able to perform more intervals at the prescribed wattage.  In the “WRONG WAY” graph above the athlete’s average power for the first interval is too high/above his prescribed zone and then because it was too hard, the athlete really starts to suffer and limps thru the next 3 intervals with the last one below the prescribed wattage.  Thus the physiological adaptation is not achieved.   From a sports psych perspective this ‘performance’ is discouraging for athletes.  So the athlete went out too hard, underperformed, and limped home discouraged.  Not optimal.

In the “RIGHT WAY” graph, the athlete paced himself properly and all four intervals were between the prescribed wattage zone. Plus there was less suffering and a feeling of accomplishment.   By RPE the first interval wasn’t ‘that bad’, the second wasn’t either, the 3rd interval really ‘hurt’ (but the wattage was there) and the fourth interval was not only extremely hard but the athlete’s power dropped off ~ 30 watts. That’s a well paced and executed interval workout in my opinion and experience.

We have several six week training plans for $49, where you can perform intervals with a powermter

Here’s our motto of interval training: Go as hard as you can BUT only as hard as you can maintain for the duration of your entire interval workout.  You’ll be able to do more intervals, recover in-between each, and start to see a big difference in your training, racing, and cycling performance.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank wrote this training tip 14 years ago but still coaches athletes to this day on their intervals using this tip!  To talk with Frank about performing your interval properly, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise you can find him performing consistent intervals with his powermeter up one of the many climbs in and around Boulder, CO. Finally for those of you who know how to train but need a plan, check out the $49 Training Plans with the intervals described above  that Frank and the FasCat Coaches have designed!

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Tabata Intervals Power Data Graph

Tabata Intervals

In the cycling world, the ability to go extremely hard for a short period of time often determines the outcome of a race. From a 10 second finish line sprint at 60kph, to a 30 second, 10% steep climb; raw wattage wins races! When it comes to Anaerobic Capacity, there are countless options for improving your ability to produce top end power, but do they all have the same effect? Japanese exercise physiologist Izumi Tabata suggests that interval training workout is superior to all others.

All of our Interval Training Plans include Tabata Intervals designed in a proper training calendar

Find the perfect six-week interval plan: Click here to browse our $49 plans!

The Science:

Dr. Tabata determined that many athletes do well at improving their economy (Vo2 Max) or the ability to utilize available oxygen, but were not really tapping into their ability to improve anaerobic capacity. Anaerobic energy occurs when the body has no oxygen available to fuel the muscles, and at this point, the metabolite Phosphocreatine (PCr) is necessary to keep functioning. PCr is a finite resource, and takes time to “re-load”. Dr. Tabata found that most intervals didn’t stress this system enough to make sure physiological gains. Traditional anaerobic exercises of 30 seconds to 2 minutes were effective, but not intense enough and included too much rest to create proper adaptations. Through his laboratory research, Dr. Tabata found a protocol effective enough to achieve the anaerobic gains he was searching for.

The study conducted used cyclists and two forms of training. The 1st group used an aerobic method of training (70% of Vo2max), while the 2nd group did 4-min of high intensity work, consisting of 20 seconds @ 170% of Vo2Max and 10 seconds of easy recovery (Tabata, 1). The 2nd group improved their anaerobic capacity by 28% while the first group did not show significant improvement. Dr. Tabata concluded, that very short amount of work and decreased rest, prevented the body from obtaining oxygen to fuel energy, staying anaerobic, and truly adapting the body’s ability to utilize lactate and PCr for energy.

Training Application:

So, now that you are an expert on the science, what does it all mean? If you want to make headway in your ability to work at the anaerobic capacity and above, as well as recover quickly,Tabata intervals are a must to take your cycling to the next level!

These intervals should not be taken lightly, and need to be completed when the body is the most recovered, after a rest day or a couple easy days on the bike. In order for the intervals to be effective, cyclists should use the following guidelines:

  • Identify your FTP [Functional Threshold Power]
  • If no powermeter, these are completely Full Gas efforts, as hard as you can go efforts, Heart Rate will lag behind and not represent your effort.
  • Identify what value is 170% of your FTP**
  • Be well rested, fueled, motivated and hydrated for your workout
  • Find a quite / flat stretch of road that is free of stop signs / stop lights / or cross traffic.
  • Intervals are best done in the drops for optimal leverage and effort.
  • Go as hard as you can for these efforts! Don’t look at your powermeter until after your intervals, and if you went hard enough, the average power for your intervals should be correct.

**In the lab setting, many of Dr. Tabata’s subject couldn’t complete the full set of repetitions, or failed on the last (Tabata, 2).  From a training and coaching aspect, we want our athletes to get the most out of each workout and design them to be achievable, so we decrease the wattage requirement slightly so athletes may finish every rep.

The Tabata Interval Workout for Cycling:

3 sets of 8 x 20 seconds ON @ 170% FTP, 10 seconds easy, with 10 minutes of rest in-between sets.

This is only a 4 minute effort, but you should NEARLY be falling off your bike by the end!  One has to be tough as nails mentally to push thru the last 6th, 7th & 8th tabata of each set. As you see the power & heart rate data graph above, notice how the heart rate continues to rise even with 10 seconds of rest, and how it stayed higher for about a minute after the set was complete. This is the body truly in anaerobic capacity and working hard to receive oxygen.  The average power for all 20 second intervals was roughly 170% of this athlete’s FTP.

Pacing: 

You want to hold back a teensy-tiny bit on the first two – three 20 seconders so that you don’t crater for Tabatas 6, 7, & 8.  Remember 170% of FTP is difficult but doable.  Ideally the average power of the final tabata equals the average power of the first tabata. In other words you hit 170% of your FTP for each effort. Avoid being so pumped up mentally that your first efforts are significantly greater than the last.  For example 200% of your FTP then 125%.    If you start out at 170% and are going as hard as you can and then fail to hit 170% two consecutive Tabatas in a row, you have reached exhaustion and should cease and go home and begin recovering.

Summary:

Anaerobic capacity efforts are the bread and butter workout for being able to produce peak powers during and at the end of races. Tabata intervals are one of the most effective methods for increasing the body’s Anaerobic Capacity. These intervals should find their way into everyone’s training program at the appropriate times, and done when the athlete is fully rested. These efforts are extremely difficult and Full Gas! Tabatas produce massive performance gains with as little as 4 to 8 minutes of effort in a workout, making them a highly effective interval training workout!

References:

  1. Tabata, Izumi, et al. “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.” Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, vol. 28, no. 2, 1996, pp. 1337-1340.
  2. Tabata, Izumi, et al. “Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercise.” Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, vol. 29, no 3, 1997, pp. 390-395

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. To talk with Frank or a FasCat Coach about integrating tabata intervals into your training, please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation.You can also buy FasCat’s Interval Training Plan’s here which all have Tabata Intervals prescribed in an easy to follow calendar format. Otherwise go as hard as you can, 170% of FTP as described above!

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Power demands of the Nationals Mountain Bike Course

Race Specific Cycling Intervals

by Frank Overton, 2004, revised May 2016

Race specific cycling intervals: what are they, how and why you should do them. Smart training revolves around precisely understanding the power demands of your event and then designing workouts to simulate that power output in training. We’ll primarily focus on the power demands in terms of duration and order that which the demands occur in a race.  Then suggest and explain interval workouts specific to criteriums, road races, time trials and US Mountain Bike Nationals this year in Mammoth.

Criteriums: Short, Sharp Intervals (Zone 6 & Sprints)
If you race a road bike in the United States, chances are you might enter a criterium or two. Some of us even enjoy them. Accelerating out of corners, attacking, counter attacking, and of course sprinting for the “W” are all part of the dynamic power profile you’ll need to be successful. Therefore, criteriums can best be summed up as repeated short high powered efforts with minimal recovery. Intervals on the order of 5-20 s in length at high cadence and from a rolling start are specific to crits. Because of the short duration of the interval, really go for it with these intervals, all out full guns blazing!

If you are racing a 4 corner criterium for 1 hour and each lap takes 5 minutes, that’s 12 laps and 48 corners. You can replicate this effort by performing a workout with 24 x 10 s sprints. For example, this might be broken down to 4 sets of 6 x 10 s sprints from a rolling start, with 30 s off between reps and 5 min between sets. An industrial park during the evenings or weekends are perfect low-traffic sites for these workouts.

Further refinements to your training can be made based on the terrain. If the criterium course has a 30 second hill, incorporate 30 second intervals into your training. Training with purpose is all about specificity!

Example Sprint Workout: 4 sets of 4 x 15 secs ON 30 secs OFF Full Gas (as hard as you can) between > 160% of your threshold power

Example Anaerobic Workout: Zone 6: 2 sets of 3 x 1 min On 1 min OFF Full Gas (as hard as you can) between 121 – 160% of your threshold power

To read more about Criterium Training, read our “Criterium Racing: Watts UP?” training tip HERE.

Dissect the Race Course’s Power Data:
The power requirements of races vary widely and your training should too. From threshold efforts, VO2max intervals, anaerobic 1 minuters, to sprints, many races have it all in the same race. Optimize your intervals considering the course and terrain of your target race. Is there a rolling section where crosswinds promote echelons that shatter the field? Or is there a climb that lasts 10 minutes or more?

By analyzing power data from a race you can identify the length of intervals you need to focus on. Courses with short hills lasting 2-5 minutes would be best trained for by doing a number of 2-5 minute VO2 Max interval workouts.

For Example, here’s a VO2 workout:  Zone 5: 2 sets of 2 x 3 min On 3 min OFF Full Gas (as hard as you can) between 106 – 120% of your threshold power

One of my favorite all time race specific interval workouts actually has the athlete perform the intervals on the course they’ll be competing on, the Morgul Bismark Road Race.  This famous course has three climbs: the Hump, the Wall and the “Feed Zone Climb” – all 2-5 minutes in length depending on ability (and power to weight ratio!).  See the power graph below with the 3 climbs.

Racers that do 2 laps will have to do 6 VO2 climbs (tactics and race pace may require less but its better to prepare for them to be hard).  Ouch! But, like to say, “its better to cry in the dojo so you can laugh on the battlefield”. In other words,  replicate in training what you’ll face the race.  To make the workout specific to the Morgul course, I have athletes perform these VO2 intervals from the bottom to the top of each of the climbs in succession. Presto, just like the race.  So 1 lap = 3 VO2 intervals.  2 laps = 6 VO2 intervals which is similar to the standard VO2 workout above but here the athlete see and feel for themselves how hard each climb will be.

Time Trials: Enter the Pain Cave 
Time trials are so fundamentally simple: go as hard as you can for the entire distance. Due to the lengthy time frame you will gravitate to your maximal sustained power output. If you nailed down your Functional Threshold Power, this is where you can use it. Be careful not to go out too hard or start off too slow. Pacing yourself by perceived exertion or “feel” also works well with experience but this is really where powermeters are invaluable!

I recommend starting your threshold training gradually (as with all phases of your training) with a couple of 10 minute efforts, 2 x 10 min On 5 min Off. After ample recovery and adaptation up the ante to 15 minute efforts at the same workload, 2 x 15 min On 5 min Off. Increase the power output of the intervals as your fitness progresses and you’ll be ready for the infamous 2 x 20’s: 2 x 20 min On 5 min Off. That’s perfect training for a 40K time trial!

Example Time Trial Threshold Workouts: Zone 4: 2 x 20 min ON 5 min OFF Full Gas (as hard as you can) between 100 – 107% of your functional threshold power

Cross Country Mountain Biking:

Here are the power demands of the upcoming 2016 US National Mountain Bike Championships held at Mammoth MTN in California this July.  The race course is the same as last year so here is the critical climb:

An example race specific interval workout would be

Zone 4: 5.5 minutes then 2 minutes REST > Zone 5: 3 minutes then 3 minutes Rest then Zone 6: 1 minute into an 7.5 min Zone 4 interval with a 5 sec burst every minute.

In all total that’s a 22 minute effort broken up into the power demands from the race.  The athlete could work their way up to performing this effort the numbers of times they’ll have to race up it each time concentrating on maximal power output for the durations prescribed (Zones 4 , 5 & 6).

Attacks, Counterattacks, and Breakaways: the fun hard stuff!
We all agree it’s more fun to race up front. What’s even more fun is throwing in a well timed attack or leaving your arch rival with a “no answer” counter attack. A successful attack involves going well above your threshold and deeply into your anaerobic zone for a period of time until you’ve established your gap, and then being able to go directly from that effort into prolonged riding at your lactate threshold.

For attacking, I suggest working on your anaerobic capacity: intervals 1 minute in length in a 1 to 1 work to rest ratio. Try starting off with 5 x 1 min On 1 min Off and working your way up to a more advanced workout like 3 sets of 6 x 1 min On 1 min Off with 5 minutes in between sets. What you’re trying to replicate here is the initial burst to establish a small gap from the pack.

Now that you’ve attacked or counterattacked, make your effort count! Ensure the success of the breakaway by committing 100% for 3-6 minutes. You’ll need to sustain a power output greater than your threshold near your VO2max. Intervals of 3-6 min at as high a power output as you can sustain for the entire interval will force the physiological adaptations to help you sustain and repeat such high powered efforts.

Then put those two physiological adaptations together into an “Over/Under”: Zone 6 to start the effort followed by a VO2 max effort.   So z6 for 1 minute straight into z5 for 4 minutes, 5 minutes total.  Try 4 of those mid-week then attack and breakaway this weekend!

In summary, identify the power demands of your race and design interval workouts to mimic the course. Improve your race specific power for the most important part of the race. Best of luck and go FAST!

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  He is a full time professional USA cycling certified Elite level coach, former category 1 road racer and semi-pro mountain biker. FasCat prescribes race specific intervals for athletes all over North America and Europe. To talk with a FasCat Coach about  the interval training described above, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a coaching consultation.

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Cyclocross Interval Workout Power Data

Cyclocross Interval Workout for the Pre-Season

by Frank Overton, August 1, 2015

Here is an introductory cyclocross interval workout you can perform before the racing starts (in August) that’s just the right amount of cyclocross specificity and volume:

Zone 6, Over / Unders: 5 x 30 seconds ON, 1 minute OFF

Make these 30 second intervals cyclocross specific by ACCELERATING HARD at the beginning of the interval.  Practically a sprint pushing wattages > 200% of your FTP.   Ideally perform these as a standing start with one foot down to practice your cyclocross starts and hammer!  As you accelerate out of the saddle, smoothly shift down until you are up to speed.  This should take 10 -15 seconds at which point you should ‘settle’ into the interval by sitting down, pedaling hard > 150% of your FTP.  With 5-10 seconds ‘to go’ in the 30 second interval, kill it, by not slowing down and pushing hard out the saddle  – as hard as you can go.

Take 1 minute of recovery and repeat.

The total volume of intensity is 2.5 minutes (5 intervals x’s 30 seconds) which is not that much anaerobic volume.  I.e. introductory.   Perform this interval workout once a week working your way up to two sets (5 minutes) then 3 sets (7.5 minutes) and finally 4 sets (10 minutes) – with a 5 minute set break.  For example 2 sets would be:

Zone 6, Over / Unders: 2 sets of 5 x 30 seconds ON, 1 minute OFF; with 5 minutes RECOVERY in-between sets

Make this workout a ‘2 fer’ by also practicing your cyclocross race starts.  As mentioned, begin each interval at an imaginary start line with one foot down. Accelerate as hard and as fast as you can simultaneously working on clipping in smoothly.  Your first race of the season will thank you.

I recommend performing these on a shallow grade hill so that you can get more raw power out of your legs.  See the Strava file from this workout here.

These intervals only take ~ 7 minutes per set so you can still get a fun ride with your peeps and/or some TSS after you’ve completed the structured portion of the interval workout.  It’s the preseason after all and depending on where you are at with your training, more training (riding > miles > minutes > kiloJoules and best of all TSS) is encouraged.

Finally, in cyclocross  skills pay the bills so consider our Jeremy Powers Cyclocross SKILL Camp, August 25 – 27th, 2017 in sunny Boulder, CO.  Good luck (!)and holler back if you have any questions or experiences to share with this interval workout or similar training.

Can’t make it to Camp? Try one of our 6 Weeks Cyclocross Training Plans that includes the Over/Unders workouts described above + all the skills and off the bike training specific to cyclocross,  all laid out in a weekly calendar format for optimal recovery and performance.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Walking the walk and talking the talk (FasCat Core Value # 7), Frank and the cyclocross athletes he coaches, perform this workout once a month in the Summer before cyclocross season.  To begin your cyclocross training and coaching, you can email frank@fascatcoaching.com  or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.

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Ardennes Classic Training: VO2 Max Intervals to Improve Your Climbing

In mid April the cobbled classics are history and Ardennes week has arrived: Amstel Gold race Sunday, La Fleche Wallonne  Wednesday and Liege Bastogne Liege Sunday. These races feature narrow roads littered with numerous short, steep climbs, 30 seconds to 5 minutes in length. A race like the Fleche Wallonne is a completely different animal than the Tour of Flanders and as such favors a much different style of rider.

By short, steep climbs, we are talking about punchy 1-4 kilometer climbs with average grades between 5–12% and maximum gradients approaching 20%. These climbs are get-up-and-go out-of-the-saddle efforts, 100% power climbs. Whereas big powerful “roleurs” like Boonen, Sagan and Cancellera dominate on the cobbles, explosive power climbers like Dan Martin, Andrew Talansky, Valverde and Rodriguez stomp up these climbs for the finish line.

When the hammer drops up the Mur de Huy Wednesday and the Côte de Saint-Nicolas Sunday, the contenders will be producing in excess of 7 watts per kilogram in an all-out, full-gas effort while going for the “w”. Those kind of power-to-weight ratios earn them the big bucks and just aren’t attainable (for that long) by us mere mortals. However, we can mimic the physiological demands of those climbs in our training with VO2 Max Intervals. Because after all, everybody has a local climb where braggin’ rights are at stake.

The Ardenne climbs take the athletes anywhere from three to six minutes at 105–120 % of their threshold power. These durations are straight up VO2 efforts and very difficult. Here is a simple climbing workout to improve your explosive power climbing up your very own Mur de Huy or La Redoute:

VO2 Max Intervals: Zone 5 (105 – 120% of Threshold Wattage): 2 sets of 2 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF; 8 min in-between sets

  • Warm up easy for 15 – 30 minutes
  • Perform these intervals on a climb (if available)
  • Begin the each interval by modulating your wattage between 105% and 120% of your threshold power.

With an accurately set threshold wattage, 105-120% is pretty much as hard as one can go for 4 minutes

 

  • Hold your wattage in “zone 5” for 4 minutes.
  • After the first 4 minute interval turn around and coast back down the hill, turn around again and reposition yourself to begin the next interval from the same spot after 4 minutes of recovery.
  • A properly paced interval should feel moderately hard at first, difficult in the middle and like a maximal effort at the end
  • Tip: use your PowerMeters readout as motivation to hold the effort between your zone 5 wattages for the full four minutes. Don’t let your wattage dip below!
  • Use the real time feedback from your PowerMeter to go hard enough but not too hard. Try to maintain your power output above 105% but not above 120% (this is too hard and physiologically unrealistic)
  • After two intervals, take an 8 minute set break to spin around and recover.
  • After you complete both sets ride around in zone 2 or cool down.
  • Download your power file and see how many watts you were able to achieve for each interval!

Technique:

“Make the power” any which way you can; it does not have to be pretty. Dance on the pedals out of the saddle or try spinning seated. Be aggressive, get after it! I recommend alternating between sitting and standing. Position your hands out on the hoods for maximum leverage to rock the bike back and forth as you pump up and down on the pedals. With the real time wattage feedback from your PowerMeter you’ll quickly see which climbing technique enables you to make the power.

Motivation:

These are difficult intervals (some of the toughest) so come into the workout motivated and ready to suffer. The payoff is that you will be a more powerful, faster bike rider. Imagine you are the one racing up the Mur de Huy with the taste of blood in your mouth and the podium is within your grasp! If you have snot coming out of your nose, or drool coming out of your mouth at the end of the last few intervals you are doing them correctly. For the goal-oriented athlete, there can be a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the successful completion of such a difficult workout within the prescribed zone 5 wattages.

Power Data Analysis:

The graph below is an athlete’s power data from the Ardennes Classic VO2 Intervals described above (Zone 5: 2 sets of 2 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF with 8 minutes in-between each set). This particular athlete is training for a road race with 3 climbs that last approximately 4 minutes each. Not only is this VO2 workout great for his fitness and power output, but it is specific to the power demands of his race course.

Notice the distinct plateau shaped power vs. time graph for each interval and the relative steady wattage output. The first three intervals were very strong with averages of 319, 315, and 311 watts, respectively. For the fourth and final interval, the athlete started out strong but faded and only achieved an average of 282 watts.

 

Conclusions:

Since the athlete’s technique was good for the first three intervals, the decrease in power on the 4th interval tells me that he was fatigued and a fourth interval was one too much. Three successful intervals also provide a point of reference for how much VO2 work this athlete can handle in one workout or more importantly a race. Coincidentally this athlete’s A race has 3 four minute climbs so as it stands now, he can handle the power demands of the course. For future training we will continue to work on his endurance as well as his explosive VO2 climbing power.

 

Advanced VO2 workout: If 2 sets of 2 intervals for 4 total VO2 intervals is not enough for you, try 2 sets of 3 [2 sets of 3 x 4 min ON 4 min OFF]. However, remember to focus on the quality and amplitude of the power first before moving onto the quantity. Finally, if 24 minutes of VO2 work is not enough for you, try the grand-daddy VO2 workout off all time: 2 sets of 3 x 5 min ON 5 min OFF with 10 minutes in-between each set!

And if that is not enough for you (!) try racing 261 kilometers over 12 climbs that are between 1–4 kilometers long with average gradients between 6–11%! Oh yeah, and the finish line is at the top of one these climbs. Such is the course and power demands for this Sunday’s World Cup race: Liege-Bastogne-Liege. There’ll be 12 VO2 efforts at world class power to weight ratios providing more than enough evidence why the pros race their bikes for a livin’.

Frank Overton is the head coach and owner of FasCat Coaching, a cycling coaching company in Boulder, CO. Frank is an advocate of power based training for professional and amateur athletes. For more information about Frank, FasCat Coaching and their coaching services please email

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Expected Physiological Adaptations in Sweet Spot

Interval Training for Cycling

by Frank Overton, 2004

Let’s talk about getting faster! If there was a nutritional supplement out there guaranteed to make you a faster cyclist (there’s not), you’d take it right? Heck, if I thought writing “I will be a faster bike racer” on the blackboard and thousand bizzillion times I’d be all all over it. What I’d like to present to you here, today, is a way that will transform you into a supa’ fast cyclist!

Intervals are your ticket. Work hard on a consistent basis and intervals will be the cheapest most effective way for you to get the results you want. Forget the gizmazoo wheels, supplements, doo-hick this new-fangled that. Get out there, find you favorite hill and go up and down it as hard as you can! And suffer! Don’t just do it once, work at it on a consistent basis, every week. Custom tailor the types of intervals you perform based on the events you race and want to do well in.

So how do you get started? Gradually! How long and for what reasons? Well first let’s run down exercise intensity in order to rationalize this plan of attack. After all, these intervals are gonna hurt a little bit, it’d be nice to know they work! Uhummm, they do, guaranteed.

How do you set your zones? Well, that is a great question for another training tip! (See the FasCat preferred method, the Field Test) There are as many ways to find your threshold as there are definitions for threshold. If you have a powermeter you can identify virtually the same number a physiological laboratory would.

Back to the table, you can see there are more checks under some training zones than others. And the most check falls under the zone that (gulp!) is the hardest. But that’s not to say that aerobic endurance work is not important; it is! However, with the race season upon us, your training, presuming you have some aerobic work under “the hood”, would be best spent at intensities you will encounter in your races.

Now a further refinement: specializing your interval training to your types of events. Say you are a time trialist. Well then your “money” zone is going to be your threshold power. Therefore it would be prudent (insert Dana Carvey George Bush SNL imitation) to spend a lot of time working on raising your threshold power, i.e Zone 4 and Zone 5. Threshold intervals of 8-20 minutes in length or more and VO2MAX efforts of 3-6 minutes. Additionally, sweet spot workouts, as you can see from the table above force many of the same physiological adaptations as threshold workouts, and are therefore a nice alternative on days following threshold intervals or VO2 workouts.

Example Workouts:

Sweet Spot: 3 x 15 min ON 10 min OFF  – excellent for building aerobic endurance

Zone 4/ Threshold: 2 x 20 min ON (FULL GAS) 5 min OFF – specific for time trialing or hill climbing

Zone 5/ VO2: 2 sets of 2 x 4 min ON (FULL GAS) 4 min OFF; 8 min inbetween sets

Zone 6/ Anaerobic Capacity: 2 sets of 3 x 1 min ON (FULL GAS) 1 min OFF; 5 min inbetween sets

Conversely, say you are an ace sprinter and criteriums are your thing. The power dynamics of your race are much more variable and therefore should be addressed in your training. Lots of anaerobic capacity and neuromuscular work. Short sprint intervals 5-30 seconds in length and 60 second anaerobic capacity work. Additionally you’ll still need to throw in some VO2 work and advanced aerobic endurance work. After all, you gotta get in the break first before you can sprint for the win. Ahhh, lactic acid, your new best friend!

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

Frank is the owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  He is a full time professional USA cycling certified Elite level coach, former category 1 road racer and semi-pro mountain biker. FasCat prescribes intervals for athletes all over North America and Europe. To talk with a FasCat Coach about interval training described above, please call 720.406.7444, email frank@fascatcoaching.com or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire for a coaching consultation.

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