Training Tips: 8-Minute Intervals

By June 25, 2020July 28th, 2020Training News

For all of us, if we had any racing or fondo aspirations this summer, that’s pretty much out the window. If you happen to be particularly goal oriented around specific events, it’s most  likely left you a little rudderless. Maybe you’ve been doing some Zwift. Maybe you’ve been doing a few outdoor rides for exercise and sanity. Chances are, you haven’t been “training” in the traditional sense.  For a few of you, current events have made you do a more general reevaluation of what your priorities are.

For these reasons, structure has gone by the wayside. Yet I think you can still have goals. You can still train to improve your fitness – increase your threshold power, lose some weight, make sure you don’t lose fitness.

With the extrinsic goals out of the picture right now, we have to redirect towards more intrinsic goals. For some of my clients, that’s the main motivator. For example, there was that question posed to George Mallory long ago.

“Why did you want to climb Mt. Everest?”

“Because it’s there.”

For my clients who tend to be more intrinsically motivated, something as simple as improving a number is enough of a carrot. Your power to weight ratio is your threshold power divided by your weight in kilograms. I’ve explained that to clients, told them what their current numbers are, and their eyes almost light up. They see possibilities.

“Hmmm. If my FTP number is X, and my weight is Y,  and my power to weight ratio is Z, if I increase my power to A, lose a little weight to get down to B, I can reach that nice round number C with my power to weight ratio.”

It is an arbitrary number, but they can be powerful.  What gets measured, gets improved.

Some of you go for weekly mileage goals. Maybe some of you go for consistency goals. We have one member who, when the pandemic started, made it a goal to ride every day. I think he’s up to …90? …and it shows. He’s the strongest I’ve ever seen him.

All great!  If you want to spice things up a little and add a little structure and best practices to your workout, because if you do the same thing your progress will plateau, there are some basics you can add to any training week.  The marginal gains come with the subtle manipulation of ingredients, but, like making soup, if you have key ingredients, you can make something good.

#1 Add at least one interval day each week.

A lot of us don’t like these. They aren’t pleasurable. They hurt. However, they make us fitter. They’re confusing, too. There is a limitless combination of duration an intensities. Best to keep it simple and not overthink things. Leave the overthinking to your coach.

Here’s one:

8 minute Intervals

These aren’t quite threshold, and not quite VO2 max specific, but somewhere in between, and you typically shoot for a power of about 110% of you FTP number. The first 2 minutes aren’t bad, the second 2 minutes you start to suffer, the third 2 minutes is a dark place, the 7th minute you’re hanging on, the last minute is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Recover for 3-5 minute and repeat 1-2 more times. As you get stronger you can add a rep, increase the power a bit, or some combination. Just be consistent with them.

So, it would read as 3×8 min @ 100-110% of threshold power / 3-5 min zone 1/2

Shoot for at least 4-6 riding days a week, at least one recovery day after a hard block, one longer zone 2 day, sleep well and eat the right foods to match the focus of your rides.

It’s a recipe. Good luck and have fun.