8 Minutes of Fun

If you are into the latest trend of polarized training, then you will know that the it is thought that 8 minute intervals are the most effective for improving performance (Vo2 max and FTP). This is based on an experiment by Seiler that shows these intervals to be very effective compared to shorter and longer intervals. However these intervals are (1) really hard; (2) not very specific race specialization; and (3) really dull. So the question is how do we spice up the intervals and introduce some variation to make them race discipline specific and more engaging.

The Session

This session is a classic 4 x 8 minute interval session with two minute rests. However we designed this interval session for a group roller training session with a bunch of youth riders preparing for track racing. The design features were:

  • The riders used track bikes with restricted youth gears. This focused the efforts on leg speed rather than strength. This has the big advantage of promoting cardio-vascular development and leg speed. Leg speed being essential for endurance track racing, particularly for youths who ride restricted gears.
  • For the first two intervals we tried to simulate the elimination race. The riders were asked to ride at perceived race pace just above threshold. Every 1 min 30 seconds the riders put in a hard 30 second interval. This simulated the elimination lap of an elimination race, where riders have to lift the effort far above threshold and then return to race pace. The efforts are repeated multiple times in an elimination race.
  • The second two intervals were designed to simulate a scratch race. Again the riders were asked to maintain race pace. This time the coach introduced random intervals to simulate the varying pace of a scratch race. The riders were asked to visualize chasing a break down and/or attacking the bunch. The start and end of the hard efforts were signaled by the coach using a whistle. The riders had no idea when the efforts were coming, or how long the intervals would last. The element of surprise maintains interest for the riders.

The Result

This is a file from from the riders. A good ten minute warm-up followed by 2 x 8 minute intervals with 2 min rest. You can see that after the first two intervals the fatigue starts to set in and (leg) speed drops as there is little time for recovery. Leg speed is directly related to wheel speed as a track bike has a single fixed gear. The third interval is always a matter of survival. The final interval was set by the coach so that the first half was held at race pace, followed by series of short attacks. There was a long hard one minute effort at the end of the race that really finished the riders off.

Conclusion

If you believe the research, 8 minute intervals are really effective. With a bit of imagination you can spice up the intervals and tailor them to your event. Performing these intervals on rollers instead of the turbo develops leg speed, and with the right gearing high leg speed develops the cardio-vascular system.

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