Short and sweet fitness saviours

All hope for productive training—and bike fitness—needn’t be lost this holiday season

As the holiday season approaches, many athletes are concerned that circumstances beyond their control will rob them of their hard-earned fitness. The office parties, visiting, snow days and sledding trips tend to reduce everyone’s training hours in November and December. But instead of trying to cram more training into an already packed schedule, try boosting the impact of a couple short workouts.

Cutting back on training time during the holidays doesn’t have to harm your performance. Research shows that fitness can be maintained with a reduction of training frequency of 20 percent to 30 percent. If you were training six days a week, drop down to four. However, if you were training four days a week, you shouldn’t go below three.

Intensity is the key to maintaining fitness with fewer training hours. Given the proper intensity, your power at lactate threshold can be maintained or even improved during this period. The workouts that follow provide the intensity needed to maximize the fitness bang for your training buck.

Workout 1: The first workout is designed to increase your maximum sustainable power output. Alternate between two intensities, tempo and steady state, during the course of one long interval. After warming up for 10 minutes (including 3 x 1-minute high-cadence intervals with one minute of active recovery after each), go right into a five-minute tempo interval. This interval is a moderately hard effort (seven on a scale of 10, or 81-85 percent of your average time-trial power output) with a lower than normal cadence of 70-75 RPM. After five minutes, pick up the pace to your steady-state intensity (eight on a 10-point scale or 86-90 percent of your average time-trial power) for 10 minutes. Think race pace for an Olympic-distance event and keep your cadence at 90-95 rpm. Next, return to tempo intensity for five minutes and then do one more 10-minute steady-state effort and one last five-minute tempo effort before cooling down. This workout is hard enough to produce plenty of lactic acid but not so much that your body can’t process it. As a result, you’ll accumulate 35 minutes of solid work that will help your body adapt to handle more lactic acid and produce more power for prolonged efforts.

Time

Description

RPE

RPM

0-10 min.

Warm up with 3 x 1-minute fast pedals with 1-minute recovery

5 or 6

90-110

10-15 min.

5-minute tempo

7

70-75

15-25 min.

10-minute steady state

8

90-100

25-30 min.

5-minute tempo

7

70-75

30-40 min.

10-minute steady state

8

90-100

40-45 min.

5-minute tempo

7

70-75

45-50 min.

Five-minute recovery

4

90-100

 

Workout 2: The second workout is aimed at maintaining your high-end power with repeated maximal efforts. High-intensity efforts bring up your overall aerobic capacity—which makes you better at all intensities—and they provide the biggest payoff for your time. After a similar warm-up to the one in Workout 1, jump right into the intervals. Alternate between three-minute and two-minute maximum efforts (recovery is equal to the work-interval duration). Round out the session by doing a few shorter efforts (as shown in the table) to finish on a high note. If your pace or power output falls dramatically as this workout progresses, stop doing the maximum-effort intervals and ride easy instead.

Time

Description

RPE

RPM

0-10 min.

Warm up with 3 x 1-minute fast pedals with 1-minute recovery

5 or 6

90-110

10-13 min.

3-minute VO2 max interval

10

95-110

13-16 min.

3-minute recovery

4

80-100

16-18 min.

2-minute VO2 max interval

10

95-110

18-20 min.

2-minute recovery

4

80-100

20-23 min.

3-minute VO2 max interval

10

95-110

23-26 min.

3-minute recovery

4

80-100

26-28 min.

2-minute VO2 max interval

10

95-110

28-30 min.

2-minute recovery

4

80-100

30-33 min.

3-minute VO2 max interval

10

95-110

33-36 min.

3-minute recovery

4

80-100

36-38 min.

2-minute VO2 max interval

10

95-110

38-39 min.

1-minute recovery

4

80-100

39-40 min.

1-minute VO2 max interval

10

95-110

40-50 min.

10-minute recovery

4

90-100


Here are a few options for fitting these power workouts into your normal training schedule.

 

Tuesday

Thursday

Saturday

Option 1

Workout 1

Workout 1

Workout 2

Option 2

Workout 1

Workout 2

Workout 1

Option 3

Workout 2

Workout 1

Workout 2


Take-home message

Rather than trying to cram more training into an already packed schedule, try boosting the impact of a couple short workouts.

Research shows that fitness can be maintained with a reduction of training frequency of up to 20 percent to 30 percent.

Intensity is the key to maintaining fitness with fewer training hours.

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