Here is an example of one minute interval set. Twelve one minute intervals with 30 seconds rest between the intervals.
About the Athlete
The athlete is a 51 year old male, a lifetime athlete with a background in Triathlon and TimeTrial. A moderate ability time trialist with best 10 mile (16 km) time of 23:40 and a 25 mile (40 km) time of 1:00:40. The athlete no longer competes but wants to maintain fitness and would like to be able to compete in Online Zwift Races. The athlete had a peak FTP of 280 watts three years ago, but after a year of relatively low acclivity his FTP has fallen to 220 watts. The athlete’s racing weight is 72kg but he currently weighs 76kg.
Why This Session
The athlete is trying to build strength and power to improve FTP with a view to being more competitive in online Zwift races. He is also in the middle of a strength block, weight training twice a week, focused on squats and deadlifts The interval set is designed to convert strength built in the gym in to power on the bike. Power on the bike is achieved by using the strength built in the gym and applying cadence. The intervals are executed at moderately high cadence (100 rpm plus) to promote development of power through leg speed rather than muscular strength. Combining strong legs with high cadence is an efficient way of applying power. High cadence intervals also have the advantage of developing the cardio-vascular system and promoting efficient oxygen uptake. This session also mimics the type of racing encountered in Zwift, often characterised by with high power above threshold efforts with relatively little time for recovery,
Execution of the Interval Session
- The first part of the set is a 12 minute ramp-up with a gradual increase in cadence.
- The warm-up is followed by 5 minutes east spinning and then two 30 second intervals at the target power. These shorter intervals prime the legs and condition the mind for the main set to come. These primers are followed by another 5 minutes of easy pedalling.
- The main set is twelve 1 minute intervals with 30 secs rest in between. The target power was 130% of FTP. The athlete had not done intervals for a long period and after the primers felt that 130% of FTP would be difficult to achieve. Sensibly the athlete decided to reduce the power and increase the power during the set. The first four intervals were done at 90% of target, the second set of four intervals were done at 95% of target. The final set were done at 100% of target. The athlete was using a TrainingPeaks session loaded into Zwift workkouts. Zwift was used in ERG mode on a smart trainer, meaning that the power was automatically held at the target power regardless of cadence. All the intervals were executed at a cadence between 100 and 115.
- The main intervals set was followed by 5 minutes of east pedalling and a twelve minute ramp down.
Analysis of the Session
The athlete made a sensible choice starting cautiously and building through the set. By the end of the session the athlete was at maximal hear rate. You can see the heart rate ramps up nicely through the session, showing that the rest between intervals did not allow full recovery, which was the intention. You can also see that the cadence begins to fall off during the last few intervals showing the athlete was reaching his limits by the end of the session. Performance in this session suggests that in the next session the athlete should attempt starting the main set at 95% of target to progress.
The idea of these interval sessions, is to progress. Training apps like Zwift and Trainer Road have the ability to vary the session as a percentage of target power, both above and below target. Do not be afraid to use this feature. If you find the session is too easy tweek up the percentage to 105% or higher. If it is too hard, where you cannot complete the one minute interval, tweek the percentage down. If you find the sessions too easy you should think about revising your target powers and/or revising your FTP. If you are operating on heart-rate and the sessions feels too easy and you are not approaching your maximum heart-rate, increase the intensity of the session.
- A high intensity session that promotes development of speed during a strength block.
- Intervals mimic short sharp efforts required in crit racing or online Zwift racing.
- Offers opportunity for progression by ramping up the intensity.
- A session that is easy to recover from that will not create too much fatigue.
- Combined with high cadence, develops the cardio-vascular system.