Friday, April 9, 2010

Shop ride Sundays: Intervals Follow-up

This past Sunday was the first “Interval Clinic” at the Sunday shop ride. The intermediate group, which started up this year, is focusing on improving skills and training level for those passionate about the sport of cycling and looking to take their game to the next level. While an understanding of group etiquette and strong handling skills are key to a well-rounded cyclist, and addressed in our other clinics, we also want to show you how to improve your fitness, strength, speed, and power! Enter the “Intervals Clinic”.

The word “interval” gets thrown around a lot, and purists will tell you that it’s not an interval unless it’s directed at improving your maximal oxygen capacity. Webster defines interval as “a space between things, points, limits, etc”. For our purposes here, ‘interval’ is simply meant as a period of time in which you are working on some specific aspects of your cycling fitness. There are multiple intervals that should be incorporated into your training over the season, and last Sunday we discussed and practiced three of them as follows…

1. “Muddy Buddies” – Best performed on a slight uphill or into a headwind, get into a gear that allows you to keep a strong 60-65 rpm cadence (imagine pedaling through mud), making conscious effort to keep equal tension all the way around the pedaling circle. Your bike should roll in a straight line as you are never letting up on either side. Hold this for 5 mins, recover and repeat multiple times to fatigue. Work up to 20 min intervals. Caution: NEVER push through joint pain!

Why am I doing this? - Muscles become stronger at the contraction velocity that you train them in. If you spend 90% of your ride spinning at 90 rpms, you’re going to be strongest at that cadence. That’s great until you hit a hill, run out of gears, and grind up it at 65-70 rpms, wondering why the pack is leaving you behind. One way to improve your climbing force, is to train your muscles to be strong at climbing cadence. Think of this as on-the-bike resistance training

2. “Scooby Doos” – Very high cadence intervals, lasting only 30-40 seconds, with 1.5 min recovery between, repeat up to 6 times. Any ‘Scooby Doo’ fans out there? When the scary monsters appear, Shaggy & Scooby run away, but before they take off, they always spinned in place, this is your visual for this interval. Think fast circles with your feet versus sprinting the bike forward. Ramp up your cadence until your butt starts to bounce out of the saddle, then back off just enough to eliminate the bouncing and hold it. As you become more fit, shorten the recovery time between efforts.

Why am I doing this? – Besides the short anaerobic hit, this ‘interval’ will result in the recruitment of more muscle fibers, and give you a smoother, more efficient pedal stroke.

3. VO2max intervals – 3-5 minute efforts at maximal cycling heart rate, with equal recovery. Goal is to attain 30 minutes per session, so work your way up to 6x5 minutes with 5 min recoveries. Find the minimal effort that gets you to maximum heart rate. For example, if I reach my max HR at 20mph on a certain stretch of road, that doesn’t mean I can’t go 22mph… but if I do, I may fatigue myself for future intervals, and won’t be getting any additional benefit.

Why am I doing this? – Increase maximal oxygen capacity. Since you are completing these intervals at HRmax, you are also at VO2max, thus increasing your cycling “horse power”.

All too often, cyclists get stuck in the rut of just riding long, and staying too close to their comfort zone. This type of training results in progress plateaus that frustrate many riders. Incorporate one or two of these interval sessions into your next ride, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your cycling fitness!

See you soon!

Coach Tammy Metzger

Tempo Multisport LLC


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