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Cycling Interval Training: A Quick Guide to Improve Your Cycling Performance

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So you have decided to conquer that 100-mile century race or your local trail. You have bought a new bike for that or maybe got your old bike out from the storage, lubed the chain and pumped up the tires. You might have even taken to it out for a ride so as to ensure that the bike is in perfectly fine condition. But, what about your fitness level? If it was just for the bike, honestly anyone could have won. However, it is not so. Your fitness level and the kind of training that you indulge in is what determines your success. You might devote yourself completely to low-intensity workouts for say maybe a month, but if you think that’s going to help you win, you are wrong. Understand the fact that we do not mean that low-intensity workout is something that you shouldn’t indulge in. We just mean that it would help you to burn fat and maybe add on a few miles. If you have limited time in hand, cycling interval training might just be the perfect option for you.

Cycling Interval Training is the kind of workout routine that pushes your body to adapt and become stronger in a shorter period of time. This, along with the fact that it burns off calories pretty quickly, makes it a favourite among cyclists.

What Is Interval Training

cycling interval training meaning
Worth it in the End

Okay so cycling interval training might seem uncomfortable but the only reason why it is favourable is because of the fact that it works and has innumerable benefits. This might, in fact, be beneficial for the people who do not have much time to prepare for a race. With this kind of training, you are pushing your body harder than what it can actually bear or sustain for shorter periods of time. This forces the body to quickly adapt and thereby grow stronger.

This kind of workout targets the energy system along with the various pathways because of which your body becomes capable of producing the energy required by the muscles. With the short interval road cycling workouts, you would be able to improve your body’s anaerobic capacity, endurance, power and your speed. If you indulge in doing this workout on a regular basis, it would benefit you greatly.

Benefits of Cycling Interval Workout

cycling interval training benefits
The Benefits are Countless

There are several ways by which the short intervals cycling can benefit for you. Listed below are a few of them.

  • Improves the neuro-muscular efficiency and boosts your overall endurance
  • Increases the stroke volume which is basically the amount of blood that is ejected with each heart beat.
  • Increases the VO2 max
  • Is time-efficient
  • Reduces the levels of blood lactate
  • Enhances the fatigue-resistance
  • Increases the peak power by approximately 6% in just about 4 weeks
  • Calories would be burnt during the workout and also after the workout has ended

As can be seen, short-interval high-intensity training is definitely a powerful package. These are the perfect workout when you need to make every second count.

You would notice that most of the interval training for endurance cycling would ask you to use a power meter or a heart rate monitor. These gadgets can help you to keep a check on your workout but they aren’t necessary. If you have them, it’s great but if you don’t have it, it is fine. You do not all the fancy gadgets to workout. You can just get as fast and improve your performance if you put in the effort and are ready to bear the pain.

Interval Workouts You Need to Try to Improve Your Performance

Listed below are a few trail or stationary cycling workouts, or stationary bike workouts that you can try to enhance your performance for the race. If 6you do not have the time to go out in the open and ride your bike, you can still do this exercise on your trainer. Just remember to put in all your energy to get the favourable results.

The Breakaway

cycling interval training breakaway
Breakaway from an Unhealthy Life

Warm up for about 5-10 minutes before beginning. Once done, get on your bike and ride for approximately 2-3 minutes with all the effort and strength that you can put in. Follow this with five-minutes of recovery time. This workout would be best to do on either rolling hills or on a flat surface. You could also do this on your stationary trainer. Repeat this for about six times. However, do not attempt to do this more than two times a week.

This workout works great in improving your endurance and increasing your VO2 Max.

Time Trial Threshold

cycling interval training treshold
On the Threshold of Success

Indulge in a warm-up for approximately 10 minutes for this cycle interval training and then begin riding with about 2*10 minute of efforts. Make sure that you are resting for 5 minutes in between. Continue this for some time and as you become comfortable doing that, increase the workout to about 2*15 minute efforts.

Once you can increase this workout up to 2*20 minute workout, you have prepared your body for the race. However, remember to maintain even efforts throughout the workout. This workout would be best when done on a flat area or on a stationary trainer.

Hill Repeats

cycling interval training hill repeat
Succeed and Repeat

This hard and fast workout would be accompanied by a short burst of pain but would help you in building long-term power. For this cycle interval training, choose a moderate hill for this training and warm up for about 10 minutes. You can even do this workout on a stationary trainer by placing a riser block under the front wheels of the trainer.

Now, climb onto your bike and ride up for about 1-minute seated and then come down towards the bottom of the hill. Repeat the same for another minute, however, this time you should be standing. When going up, speed up and switch to larger gears. Put in all your effort and strength while you are riding but save enough so that you can complete the set.

Finish six intervals wherein 3 should be done sitting while the other 3 should be done while standing and perform two sets. This workout would improve your power and climbing speed.

Power Sprinting

cycling interval training power sprint
Power Up!

Warm up for about 10 minutes before beginning and choose a moderate terrain. Do not choose a steep climb or you might end up end up feeling exhausted just after the first set. Now, begin to sprint for approximately 30 seconds and follow it up with a high cadence easy spinning/pedalling for another 30 seconds. The gentle pedalling should be done for the recovery.

Repeat this for approximately 10 to 15 times and perform about 2 to 3 sets with an interval of 5 to 7 minutes in between. The interval that you take between the sets would be dependent on your level of fitness.

This exercise works excellently well in making the anabolic changes. This means that more protein would be synthesized by the muscles. This would aid in making the muscle stronger and thereby let you ride faster.

Shock Tactics

cycling interval training shock
Shocking Results!

The main aim of this workout is to shock your body into adaptation. With this, your body would be able to improve speed and your aerobic capacity would also get enhanced. Indulge in a warm up for adequate time and then begin to perform about 4 to 5 sets of the three-minute interval training at the maximum pace that you can bear. Remember that there should be about 3n minutes of recovery time in between.

This recovery time or interval would require you to pedal softly while you regain the control over your breathing.

Off the Bike Workout

When it comes to cycling interval training, off the bike workouts are also essential. Kettlebells and push-ups are considered as beneficial as they have the capability to increase your heart rate, improve the explosive and maximum power as well as burn calories. These workouts can produce an afterburn effect and therefore your metabolism would stay elevated for hours even after you are done with the workout.

The Swing and Push

cycling interval training swing and push
One Minute to Fitness (Source)

This one-minute, Tabata style workout includes military style push-ups along with high energy swings so as to hit every muscle present in your body. This workout would also increase your heart rate.

  • Kettle Bell Swing: For this workout, stand upright with your feet kept wide apart. Now, hold a kettlebell with both your hands while your arms are in front of you hanging down. Now keep your back straight and lean down to do a squat. Your hips must be pressed backward and the kettlebell would this way be swinging between your legs and behind your hips. Once you have done that, get back up and press your hips in a forward direction and swing the kettlebell up to the level of your chest.
  • Push-Ups: Get down on the floor and lie down in the position of a plank. Your arms and legs must be extended; your hands should be right beneath your shoulders and your feet should be kept approximately hip width apart. Now slowly bend your elbows and begin to lower your torso downwards towards the floor so that your shoulders are in perfect alignment with your elbows. Get back up to the starting position.

Tips To Remember When Doing the Swing and Push

Warming-up is absolutely necessary before you begin the workout

  • The kettlebell swing should be done for 30 seconds. Once done that, rest for 15 seconds and then do push-ups for about 30 seconds. Rest for another 15 seconds.
  • Repeat this approximately 4 times.

Snatch, Pull and Press and Push Plank

cycling interval training snatch
Stronger Muscles Coming Your Way! (Source)

This combination focuses on all your major cycling muscles along with the supporting smaller muscles and makes them stronger.

  • Snatch, Pull and Press: Begin by standing upright and keeping your feet at about shoulder width apart. Your toes must be turned at about 45 degrees while you are holding a kettlebell in both your hands. Bend down into a squat and then place the kettlebell between your feet on the floor. Stand upright and then lift the weight with your hands to the height of your chest. Grab the handle’s side and then push the kettlebell directly above your head. Lower it back to your chest level and hold it back as you were holding it before and then return back to the starting position.
  • Push Plank: Get down on the floor and lie down in the position of a plank. Your arms and legs must be extended; your hands should be right beneath your shoulders and your feet should be kept approximately hip width apart. Now bend your elbows and your chest should be lowered towards the floor until both your elbows and shoulders are in a perfect line. Get back to the starting position and then roll towards your right. With your left hand reach towards the sky so that your body is in the position of a side plank. Get back up to the position of a push-up and repeat the same on the left. Keep alternating throughout.

Tips To Remember When Doing the Snatch, Pull and Press and Push Plank

  • Warming-up is absolutely necessary before you begin the workout
  • Do the snatch, pull & presses for about 30 seconds and then rest for 15 seconds. Now, perform the push planks for 30 seconds and rest for another 15 seconds.
  • The workout should be repeated for about four times.

Cycling Interval Training for Beginners

Okay so, if you aren’t too much into workouts, you can still succeed the race that you have been wanting to. With proper cycling interval training, you would be able to make your body capable of performing way better than what it usually does now.

Interval Workout #1: Build Endurance

cycling interval training endurance
Enduring Your Fears

This workout would help you in building your endurance which is very important when it comes to cycling for a long distance. This workout would build your aerobic endurance combined with long intervals that are performed below the lactate threshold.

  • Begin to spin slowly for approximately 5 to 10 minutes so as to warm up your body.
  • Once, you have done that; slowly shift to a larger gear and begin pedaling at a slow cadence.
  • In between opt for intervals of 15 minutes that would be broken by seven minutes of easy spinning.
  • Remember to give your body adequate rest in between by say about 5-10 minutes of easy spinning.

Interval Workout #2: Increase Lactate Threshold

cycling interval training lactic acid
Listening to Your Breath

With this cycling interval training, there would be quashed lactic acid build-up. This workout would need to be performed at a slightly lower lactate threshold. You could use a heart rate monitor if you have one or just simply listen to your breath. Whatever you do, just be honest with it. In this workout, the deep and laboured workout would work fine.

  • Begin with about 5-10 minutes of warming up by spinning and then perform three 8-minute intervals that would be separated by a recovery spinning of four minutes.
  • You could increase the duration of the intervals as your work capacity increases. Cool your body down with about 5 to 10 minutes of easy pedalling.

Summing Up

cycling interval training ending
Get Cycling!

Whether you want to get rid of the unwanted fat or wish to improve your athletic performance, high-intensity interval training is the way to go. Many cyclists have claimed that cycling interval training has helped them to enhance their performance on the track. Before starting out, make a routine and ensure that you are following that. Also, how frequently you indulge in this workout depends on your goals and what other types are included in your routine.

Remember to not go way over than what you can sustain. Say about 1.5 to 2 hours of high-intensity interval training per week would work fine if you want to improve your performance within a limited amount of time.

What’s your take on the cycling interval training? Have you ever tried it before? Do you have any other tips that you wish to share with us? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below.

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