To move your fitness forward, both your aerobic capacity as well as strengthening your muscles you might want to think about adding cycling interval training to your weekly bike workouts. This is a great way to increase your fitness, also one of the best ways to lose fat as well. (always a bonus right?)
What is Interval Training?
Interval training is quite simply making your body work hard for a bit and then letting it work not so hard for a bit. I first learned about interval training a few years ago when I was doing Body For Life.
Bill Phillips teaches this almost INSANE 20 minute cardio workout ~ but it works like a CHARM. I have since learned there are plenty more ways to do it than just the way Bill teaches. Intervals can be done in many different ways and what’s really cool is you can do them for just about anything!! You can do intervals walking, on the elliptical machine, a bike trainer, swimming, and of course you can do them outside on your bike.
What’s Hard Enough When it Comes to Intervals?
The point of intervals is to increase your heart rate during the “hard” interval, as well as your muscle capacity. So how hard is hard when it comes to doing intervals? There are a number of ways you can measure your difficulty level, including figuring out your resting heart rate and then working your intervals based on your heart rate. We’re going to keep it simple here.
We’re going to use “perceived exertion”. This is based on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 is you lounging on the couch, maybe getting up to get a bag of chips. 10 is when you feel like if you exert any more effort you’re going to DIE.
What kind of interval training you are doing will tell you how hard you should be exerting yourself at any given time.
Let’s take a look at some possible cycling interval training workouts.
Body for Life Interval Plan
As I said, this is the first interval plan I really worked with. It’s simple and really hard, but worth the effort.
It is a 20-minute workout and here’s what you do for each minute.
minute 1: PE 5 (PE = perceived effort from the 1 – 10 scale)
minute 2: PE 5
minute 3: PE 6
minute 4: PE 7
minute 5: PE 8
minute 6: PE 9
minute 7: PE 6
minute 8: PE 7
minute 9: PE 8
minute 10: PE 9
minute 11: PE 6
minute 12: PE 7
minute 13: PE 8
minute 14: PE 9
minute 15: PE 6
minute 16: PE 7
minute 17: PE 8
minute 18: PE 9
minute 19: PE 10
minute 20: PE 5
I highly recommend you do at least 10 or 15 minutes of warm and cool down when you do this plan, you will definitely need it.
Like I said there are many other cycling interval training workouts available, let’s look at some others.
4X Interval Training
Bryan from Biking to Live incorporates a couple of different types of interval training in his training for a century ride.
He does 4X8 and 4X6 intervals.
The first number identifies the number of repetitions he does, and the second number identifies the number of minutes each interval will be. For 4X8 you would do 8 minutes of hard work and then another 8 minutes of lesser work also known as recovery. You would do each set 4 times, so you would have 8 hard sets and 8 easy sets.
When you do the shorter minutes it’s a good idea to ramp up your intensity even harder. So maybe for 4X8s, you are working at a PE of 7, for the 4X6s you might want to ramp it up to an 8 or a 9.
I’ve also been told that 4-minute intervals are quite effective for cycling. The main thing to remember is you have to push yourself beyond a level you usually do. It’s key to get yourself PAST where you usually work into the next level, doing this for a short period of time it makes it easier for your body to push past its current status.
Here’s a bicycle interval training workout you can do where you measure your time. For this interval training, you need to find a stretch of road, best if it’s relatively flat. You will need a stretch of road that has nice identifying marks for a mile, so maybe a sign at one end of the mile and a tree at the other. You also want to have a good 500 feet on both ends of your mile.
Here’s what you do.
1. Warm-up for a bit to loosen up your legs.
2. Once warmed up use the 500 feet to get up to a good speed.
3. Drive the mile and time how long it takes you.
4. Once you know how long it takes to drive cut some time off your time and try to make the mile in that amount of time. As a beginner don’t push too hard, but it is interval training so you want to push yourself. I’ve read 80% is a good number to shoot for. So if you do the mile in 5 minutes shoot for doing it in 4 minutes the next time around.
5. Turn around and get up to speed in your 500 feet, and then time the mile again shooting for your faster number.
6. Repeat the intervals for the time you’ve set aside for your ride.
7. Cool down before calling it a day.
As you can see there are many different ways you can tackle cycling interval training workouts. If you’d like to know more and set up a good training schedule for yourself to your goals career are quite a few books available that will help you do that.
What goals you have will determine the books that will be right for you.
The Cyclist Training Bible is one of the best available training program books. It is a year-long program and can be very complicated. It is excellent for those who are very serious about becoming a great cyclist.
If you’re looking for something a little more low key ~ or just something to give you some variety to your bike riding workouts ~ including many interval options you might check out Fitness Cycling or 101 Cycling Workouts.