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I want to go faster -- question on intervals.(17 posts)

I want to go faster -- question on intervals.Delia
Jun 15, 2001 8:02 AM
Hey guys,

I've been riding for a few months and now that I have some sort of feel for it, I want to start increasing my speed. I've been talking to my friend who is a general trainer and he says that the key to increasing speed is a little weight lifting and a lot of intervals. What do you guys think? I know when I do running intervals it usually consists of burst sprints (up to 3 minutes of all out craziness) followed by recovery and then repeat. How does one go about doing interval workouts in cycling?
I'm trying to figure out the same thing myself, and I'm learningbill
Jun 15, 2001 8:39 AM
that there probably is not perfect answer. I think that the key is (after a good aerobic base) is to go long enough at max effort for it to have meaning but not so long as to leave you a little crumpled mess trying to hold up a bike. And I think that it varies for different people depending on overall conditioning and, well, being different people.
There are a number of books on the subject, including Smart Cycling by Arnie Baker, M.D. (which I began re-reading this a.m., coincidentally), Sally Edwards (don't know the name of her book(s), but I got a pamphlet with a HRM that's informative, and I know that she has books out), and Joel Friel's "Bible" on racing training, which is considered THE SOURCE for many racers.
I think that the concepts to start with are: you need to overload your muscles in order to increase their capacity for work; your muscles, for cycling in particular, have different characteristics that contribute to overall speed, including your cadence, your strength up hills and in sprints, and your endurance, each of which require specific and different overloading strategies; and you must acknowledge that your muscles are flesh and blood that require (a) energy to work (which leads into training your body to balance aerobic and anaerobic metabolism and developing lactic acid tolerance) and (b) time to recover. The last, time to recover, should not be an afterthought for wimps but is an essential element that the newly enthusiastic can overlook.
And, don't forget this one: if you want to go faster, go faster.
A Cycling Yogi Berra-ism:Greg Taylor
Jun 15, 2001 8:57 AM
"You won't go 30 mph if you don't go 30 mph..."
Berra was interviewed last week on NPR, and he was asked aboutbill
Jun 15, 2001 9:05 AM
his Berra-isms. He said, "You know, people ask me whether I make them up, but I don't."
The Guy Is A Treasure....(NM)Greg Taylor
Jun 15, 2001 9:07 AM
The Guy Is A Treasure....(NM)sidley
Jun 15, 2001 9:17 AM
It seems that one of my favorite Yogi-isms could be applied to this website: "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."
Classicmike mcmahon
Jun 15, 2001 9:14 PM
I heard that interview and had a smile on my face for at least an hour after. He said he'd be sitting around the dinner table with his family and one of his kids would let him know that he just came up with another Berra-ism. I also love when Bob Edwards asked him about the famous picture where he was right in the ump's face after Jackie Robinson stole home on him. Yogi interrupted with: "No, he stole home on Whitey." The guy's one of a kind. PBS also ran a great special on him last year.
haven't tried 'em, but L.S.D. has improved my speed (more)...Haiku d'état
Jun 15, 2001 8:42 AM
3 things (IMHO and YMMV):

LSD (long, steady distance). rides of 60+ miles at 80% effort and two days off afterward find me coming back much faster.

fast base rides. i can't vouch for intervals, but i've also found that my regular week-nightly 20-30 mile rides, normally done at 60-70 percent, cranked up to 85-90 percent of max effort (chasing the fast guys, not catching them, not giving up) do the same, provided i have some recovery time.

riding with strong people. i was the strongest of our little group, then this guy with tree-trunk legs shows up and blows me off his wheel. went from crusing along the flats at 18 to crusing along 'em at 22+, negligible or zero drafting. i've gone from ~15 mph average on the regular semi-hilly route (pushing it) to 18 mph average on the same route since 4/12/2001.

...and, it's gotten hotter and more humid...

good luck! and drink a ton of water!
do themDog
Jun 15, 2001 8:51 AM
Intervals are very painful, unpleasant, and just plain not fun; but, you need them to go fast.

I'd recommend speedwork (intervals) at least once a week, no matter what kind of riding you do. Even RAAM'ers do them.

The idea of the interval workout is to be able to push your body far beyond what you could for a longer period, recover, and do it again. Start out around 2-3 minutes, and going hard enough that you are spent in 3-5 repetitions. Go by heart rate, getting it up to around 95%, but recovering to 70% before repeating.

Intervals are not sprints. Sprints likely are much too short, and won't get your heart rate up high enough. I can only really sprint for about 200 yards.

My favorite way to do intervals is on hills. Find one that takes 2-3 minutes to climb, and climb in a gear that gets your hr up. If you are a flat-lander, just use some bigger gears, and ride into the wind or something. I like to do mine mostly out of the saddle, but you need to do some sitting ones, too.

As you progress, mix in some longer intervals, too, like 5-10 minutes. This will really help the time trialing.

Most recommend doing 1 less interval than you think you can do. I you feel totally blown up on the 4th one, then stop, and ride 5-10 miles at least to warm down.

Don't think I'd do more than one session per week, unless you are working with a coach. Remember, still, that cycling is primarily an endurance sport.

Get some books. They will help immensely.

Doug
re: I want to go faster -- question on intervals.jayz
Jun 15, 2001 8:57 AM
the best way to improve your speed is by...you guessed it...adding speed workouts to your diet !!
there are many different types of workouts, but typically either you are doing super high intensity sprints for very short duration, or lactate threshold workouts..

i have been told and read that training your lactate threshold is one of the easiest things to improve.

when you are doing this, you are cranking along at or just above your threshold. try to keep this at a consistant level and make sure you keep your heart rate in the desired zone. interval times and recovery times can vary...but start out a little mellow and see how it goes.

my typical LT workout is a 2-3 hour ride wiht 3 sets of 15 mins in zone 4, followed by 10 mins recovery. the rest of the ride is moderately paced (zone 2).

oddly enough, after 15 mins, i feel like dying...but during a race, i keep my HR a few clicks higher for the entire race !!!

maybe you could start with a couple sets of 8 mins...make sure you recover enough...probably the same amount as the interval...
if thats too easy, either you are not working at your Lactate threshold, or you could move up the interval time.

_________________________________________________

the sprint workouts dont really corrilate to your heart rate levels..they are just all out bursts..as hard as you can go for maybe 10-30 secs (?).

__________________________
as someone stated earlier, riding with fast people will make you fast. period. it will force your body to work at higher levels, for longer periods, similar to race efforts

hope that helps

-jz
re: I want to go faster -- question on intervals.Tom C
Jun 15, 2001 9:55 AM
I think to ease into speed and power workouts is the best way to approach it. To just start in with intervals either timed or distance if you've never done them is asking for injury and an extreme dislike of intervals. Most of my advice is grounded in the so called old school approach from racing in the 80's so it will most likely elicit cries of passe from the current ranks, but if you have done your base work start with a series of jumps. These can be done in relatively low gears 39x17, 39x16 depending on your individual strength.From a slow roll jump out of the saddle and try to bring your leg speed up and spin the gear out. Start with one leg then the other. You should be able to do quite a number of these. Move the gear up to perhaps 39x15. Maybe spinning it out is not possible, so try it a little downhill or with a tailwind. When getting your legspeed up becomes a feature of your normal riding i.e. jumping through the yellow light move to sprints which will utilize heavier gears. So now you are on the big ring. I do not agree with the fellow who said you cannot get your heart rate to max with sprints. That is exactly what you should be able to do with them.Intervals will take you somewhat below your maximum. That's why you hear the term redlining. Anyway, start in a gear which is heavy but one you think you won't be able to spin out such as 52 or 53x16 to start. Same as the lower gear jumps, jump from a faster roll perhaps 16, 17 miles per hour and get the leg speed up, sit and shift if you have to. Try and get 40 or 45 pedal revolutions per sprint. You will get your heart rate up to maximum. After about 3 or 4 weeks of one session per week, trying to work up about 6 or 7 sprints, you should be in fine shape to start intervals. I would start with timed intervals of minimum duration, such as 45 seconds. Use your computer and keep a log. Finally experiment with different intervals such as 1 mile, 1.5 mile, etc. always try to recover before the next interval and listen to what your body tells you. You can make progress but at your own pace. It probably take 3 to 5 years to make an acceptable athlete so don't rush. Enjoy!
3-5 year ruleMichelle
Jun 15, 2001 10:20 AM
This is kind of off the topic, but keep hearing the phrase Tom C just mentioned that "it takes 3-5 years to make an acceptable athlete". What does that mean and why? I've just come into cycling/racing with almost no background in any other sport and have heard this said time and time again, which is kind of a relief given this is only my 2nd year riding. Could someone elaborate?
Without YEARS of experience, I can give only my modestbill
Jun 15, 2001 10:29 AM
perspective. I got my road bike not quite three years ago. I can't count the first year. All I can say is that I didn't even know HOW to improve until relatively recently, and the strides made in the last 6 months have impressed me, if no one else. And I know that I'm still improving. So I know that I have a long way to go. Three years of serious work sounds about right.
Skills and conditioning take years. I'm just learning how to pedal, how to lean into a turn, etc. The paradox is that you don't know what you don't know until you start to know it (same goes for conditioning -- you not only have to develop your muscles, you have to train them. takes years, just like playing the violin).
Vicious, huh?
UGH, HEAD HURTHaiku d'état
Jun 15, 2001 12:16 PM
"you don't know what you don't know until you start to know it"

it's true, but...now i won't be able to do any math 'til monday.

good point.
3-5 year rule... less a rule, more an observed phenomenaTom C
Jun 15, 2001 10:50 AM
I think this is oft quoted because of empirical evidence i.e. what has been observed from practice not stated as theory rule. A strong kid is drafted out of high school at 18. He knocks the cover off the ball, but he has to learn to field his position,hit a major league curveball, run the bases with his head out of not in his ass etc. First season he's sent down to the minors, comes back up and things start to click at about 21 or 22. Mickey Mantle could be the person described or Greg Lemond in a cycling context of course, for that matter. It takes time to learn any craft.I certainly don't bodybuild but those here who have observed such undertaking could probably attest to the fact that you can't grow x pounds of muscle overnight. The body is a big part but you have to know what to do with your body. You may have tremendous power developed as a time trialist but your idiotic gear selection impedes your making progress in time trials. It's that sort of thing.
3-5 year rule: muscle memory ?dotkaye
Jun 15, 2001 5:42 PM
it applies to all sports with a significant technique component.. a lot of learning has to take place, and if you're thinking about how you do the sport, then you're being inefficient. Once the 'muscle memory' is established, and good technique becomes instinctive, then it becomes possible to reach your potential in the sport. I've found this to be true in cycling, swimming, whitewater canoeing, flycasting, etc etc. I came from a running background where I was good enough to win age-group awards in most races, very frustrating to be a back-of-the-packer in cycling. After 2 years of taking cycling seriously I'm starting to detect some miniscule improvements.. Lots of intervals, hillclimbing sessions, etc didn't help. Time in the saddle seems to be the first principle.
Thanks to all -- One of the things I'm learning is patience...Delia
Jun 15, 2001 10:24 AM
Thanks to all -- One of the things I'm learning is patience and it's not easy.

I usually get down on myself about speed even though I have been riding only a few months. It's just in my nature to be competitive and slightly impatient with myself. It doesn't help when all the fast riders in my Tuesday group LOVE to give me a hard time about my speed. I'll try the exercises suggested and have faith that given time I will get stronger and faster. Thanks again guys.