Archive for the 'Speed Workout' category

Cycling Intervals Using a Power Meter

March 27, 2016 4:58 pm

Why is it those things that are the least fun, often the most beneficial?  So it is doing intervals, both running and cycling.  For the past couple of years I have avoid them and although I have been able to keep things reasonably fast, I  know that as I get ready to race, I need to go back to speed work.  Running intervals is a much easier thing in terms of measuring your improvement because you are basically looking at pace.  When you bike, speed is no longer a reliable indicator because the terrain and the wind have such a big effect.  This is where a power meter comes in, where you can measure your average power for each interval.

Since we moved the last time I subjected myself to this torture, I have to use a different route than in the past, and nothing here is very flat.  But with a power meter I can still make a comparison.  I also changed my approach.  Instead of doing 4 intervals of 7 minutes, with a 3.5 minute recovery, I changed to do 3 minute intervals, 9 times.  I did a 2 minute recovery between intervals, except to break things up into 3 sets of 3 intervals, I had double recovery between sets.  This is how I did.

Power Intervals

So not up to the peak I reached 3 years ago, I am not in too bad of shape.  As I am now training for a big race, I will plot things to see how they improve.

If I didn’t have a power meter, and plotted speed. the chart would have looked like this.  It would appear that I had lost a lot of conditioning, but the power meter tells me that is not the case.

Intervals-Speed

 

Cycling Ultimate Interval Training

May 29, 2013 7:49 am
Cycling Ultimate Interval Training

Since there was not nearly as much study on interval training for the bike as there has been with running, I adapted my running training over to the bike.  For marathon training I found mile repeats and half mile repeats to be a good workout, while doing 400 meter repeats for a short race.  So on the bike I used 7 minute or 3.5 minute intervals followed by half that time for a rest interval, and would repeat 4 times.   Many cyclists use a much short interval length.  Of course the length of the interval, it’s intensity, and the rest interval, will all be a factor on what aspect you are trying to improve.  Some research suggests an Ultimate Interval length based off your T-Max.

Before I get into the details, let me first make a case of why you should have a power meter to do this, although at the end I do offer some suggestions for those who do not have a power meter.

Use a Power Meter

With running, it is easy to see your progress by watching your pace for the interval splits.  But with a bike, your speed is dependent on much more than just how much effort your are putting in.  I tried to use a repeatable, mostly circular course to cancel out the effects of wind and incline.  I figured if I averaged my speed during all the intervals that would be an indication of my fitness.  However since I started to train with a power meter, I see that my prior approach is not sufficient.  Take a look at this graph of four workouts done this year, the last few using a Power Meter.  If I based my estimate only on speed I would have thought I had declined during the last interval workout, but I actually improved by looking at the average power of the intervals.

Intervals2013-05-28

The Ultimate Interval

Now that I have the advantage of using a Power Meter, I can change the interval approach and not try to just do the same course and interval length.  Some studies point to what is referred to as T-Max interval as the basis for the ultimate interval.  See this article in Bicycling Magazine.

Find Your T-Max

1. First you need to determine your Peak Power Output (PPO) by starting out cycling at 100 watts, increasing your power by 30 watts every minute until you reach exhaustion.  You can go by your own feeling on what that point is, or some use a benchmark as when your cadence drops below 60 rpm.

2. Rest for one or two days, then after a warmup, start your timer and ride at your previously determined PPO until you can no longer sustain that power level.   The amount of time you were able to hold your PPO is your T-Max.  For most people that is around four to six minutes.

3. For the Ultimate Interval, use 60% of your T-Max for the interval length and twice that for the rest interval.  So if you were able to hold your PPO for 6 minutes, you would use an interval length of 3.5 minutes followed by a rest interval of 7 minutes.  This is the opposite of what I have been doing.

4. When doing the intervals take your power to your PPO and hold it there for the interval length (60% of your T-Max), then rest for twice the length, letting your heart rate decline down to about 60% of your maximum heart rate.

5. Start out with two to three intervals, doing two sessions a week.  Try to build up to six to eight sets twice a week, with at least two days of spinning or rest between.

 No Power Meter?

Without a Power Meter you will need to just use a nominal interval length, in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 minutes and a rest interval twice as long.   When doing the intervals take your heart rate to 95-100 percent of your maximum heart rate.  The recovery period should be at 60% of your maximum heart rate.  My maximum heart rate is 176 so for the interval I would try to get over 167 bpm and for the rest interval I would be at 105 bpm, which is pretty much how I have been doing intervals.

 

Intervals with Power Meter

May 20, 2013 11:05 am

I have been doing intervals on the bike periodically.  I usually a a series of 4 repeats of 7 minutes followed by about a 3.5 minute cool-down.  Before I acquired a power meter it was difficult to see if I was really improving.  With running you can pretty much see your improvement with your pace for each interval, on a bike there are a lot of things that affect your speed besides what you are putting out.  So I picked a relatively flat course that included a couple miles of warm-up from our house and then a straight shot, with no need for stop signs or traffic lights during each of the 7 minute intervals. The blue sections on the map are the intervals done at speed and the red sections the recovery portions.  By using a circular course I tried to average out the affect of wind.

I have data from 15 workouts, the first in March 2008 and the 15th today but this workout was the first one using a Power Meter and it reveals some information I did not realize before.  I have been plotting out my average speed for the intervals, along with my average heart rate and maximum heart rate.  With the new information I have added Normalized Power average for the lap.  Since I only have power for this one workout, I used the Strava estimated power for the past couple of interval workouts so I can kind of see how things are changing.  Since Strava estimates are not that good, once I do more interval workouts with a power meter I can remove those Strava estimates.

Intervals2013-05-20

When you look at overall averages of all 4 intervals, there is a relatively good correlation between speed and heart rate, except in the period 2010-2011 when I was on a beta blocker.  Power also seems to somewhat follow the same pattern.  What I did learn, however, was that there much less correlation between the individual intervals of a workout.  Typically the 4th segment is done at the fastest speed, but that has more to do with the prevailing winds and topography than with my actual effort.  Today for that 4th interval segment I averaged my best speed of 22 mph, but my normalized power dropped from 219 watts for the first interval to only 142 watts.

I also learned that I can not put out the same type of power level when I am riding flat compared with climbing, even though my heart rate is high.  When I am with a fast group on the flats I have a hard time keeping  up until we hit the hill where I can go ahead.  I just thought that was because I was a light weight guy, but now I realize that I am not generating as many watts while riding flat, for the same perceived effort, as when climbing.  Last week I was able to average 235 watts for 20 minutes while climbing Henry Coe.  But today my best interval of 7 minutes was only 219 watts and the rest of the intervals were below 200 watts.  This is not a matter of aerodynamics because I am looking a power, not just speed.  It has to do with my riding style and not putting as much power to the pedal on the flats as I do while climbing, where I often stand a lot.

It is clear that training with a Power Meter is a great aid and it has helped me to see some things I did not realize before when I was just looking at speed and heart rate.

Getting My Mojo Back

July 9, 2012 4:27 pm

With the Hoodoo 500 race coming up I have switched from doing speedwork running, to do intervals on the bike. Mojo is a magical charm back used in African-American folk belief called hoodoo, so it is quite appropriate that I feel I am finally getting my Mojo back as I get ready for the Hoodoo 500.

Periodically I measure myself on the same course where I do four intervals for 7 minutes followed by a 3 to four minute recovery.  It is a relatively flat course that included a couple miles of warm-up from our house and then a straight shot, with no need for stop signs or traffic lights during each of the 7 minute intervals. The blue sections on the map are the intervals done at speed and the red sections the recovery portions.

Using a circular course allows me to average the 4 segments so as to somewhat cancel the effect of the wind. This allows a comparison between different dates. I have data from twelve workouts, the first in March 2008 and the 12h today. In late 2010 and 2011, my speed was done while on a beta blocker and you can see the significant reduction in average heart rate and average speed. Luckily I have been off the beta blocker for a year now and you can see the big improvement in speed as my heart rate was now able to get back up, although not back to 2008 levels (and not sure I ever will).

 

 

Hill Intervals – Small Improvement

August 1, 2011 9:07 pm

This afternoon I headed out for a climb up Squaw Peak with the plan of doing some interval training during the climb. It has been about 2 weeks since I did intervals up this hill.  In the past I did an interval for 400 feet of climbing and then a recovery for 200 feet.  I decided to reduce the recovery to closer to 100 feet of climbing since I was stopping to take my blood pressure, which added to the recovery period.  This way I could get in a 3.5 intervals rather than just 3.

I feel with all the climbing I have done I should see a good improvement from July 18th.  After I analyzed all the data, I did get a small improvement, but not as much as I had thought I was going to achieve.  My vertical speed (measured in meters per hour) averaged a little more and my average heart rate during the intervals was a bit less so both of these factors were in the direction of an improvement.

After each interval I took my blood pressure, which showed even lower than last time.  To get the reading I used a wrist blood pressure monitor and came a complete stop before taking the reading, otherwise the monitor would show an error.  I am not quite sure if the blood pressure is accurate, but even if it is close, it does mean that I am not getting abnormally high blood pressures when I take my heart rate up high and on the contrary, my blood pressure is dropping.  I believe during the ramp-up, as with the stress test, my blood pressure does go up, but holding a high heart rate over a period of time, causes the blood pressure to drop. 

The temperature was not excessively high, but it was much more humid than I have experienced in Utah before (turns out the most humid on records) due to all the rain storms).  My jersey was totally soaked by the time I reached the summit, so I know I was pushing hard.    I just am not able to achieve the vertical climbing speeds that I was able to achieve 3 years ago.  Anne reminds me I am getting older.

After reaching back down to the highway, I headed up to climb South Fork.  My plan was take it easy for this since I was very tired from the hill intervals.  Just before I reached Vivian Park, some guy came buzzing by me on his bike, but he stopped at the park.  I went past him and started to climb up South Fork, taking it easy as I planned.  Soon he came up from behind me and seemed try to pass me at a faster speed than he could maintain.  Even with tired legs it was too much of a challenge to resist so I picked up the speed to match his, then as he slowed I started to close the gap, but kept behind him until we were half way up.  When we reached one of the sharper pitches I kicked in and went past him.  He started to dig deeper and increased his speed, but the failure to close the gap quickly showed me that he could not keep up.  The gap kept increasing, although I was taking my heart rate up to 170 bpm near the end, a bit higher than I took it during any of the intervals.  When I reached the end, I quickly stopped and took my blood pressure and had a reading of 101/71 with a pulse rate of 162.

Overall I think I got in a good workout.

Cycling Intervals

June 14, 2011 6:35 pm

I previously talked about getting back to doing interval training on the bike.  Today I did another set of intervals, abotu 7 minutes hard and 3 minute recover, with four repeats. It is a relatively flat course that included a couple miles of warm-up from our house and then a straight shot, with no need for stop signs or traffic lights during each of the 7 minute intervals. The blue sections on the map are the intervals done at speed and the red sections the recovery portions.

Using a circular course allows me to average the 4 segments so as to somewhat cancel the effect of the wind. This allows a comparison between different dates. I have data from eleven workouts, the first in March 2008 and the 11th today. The last three were done while on a beta blocker and you can see the significant reduction in average heart rate and average speed.  Overall I am happy because I have my average speed back up to 20.5 mph, the same as a year ago.  What is interesting is that to achieve this speed, my average heart rate during the intervals segments was 143 bpm, while a year ago, for the same average speed, my heart rate averaged 155 bpm.

 

So although I am not going to be as fast, I need to get back to doing some speed workouts to improve my conditioning. Next up will be some hill repeats.

Intervals after Running

March 30, 2010 10:07 pm

After a few days of wonderful weather, the temperatures had turned to the cooler side and there was some threat of rain.  So this morning we decided to go for a run instead of bike.  The original plan was to go 6 miles, but after 4 miles into the run, Anne thought she might want to do 8, so that is what we did.  I still felt like I needed some more exercise.  Since the weather was now a bit warmer and no rain yet, it sounded like a good chance to do my interval training.

When I would train for marathons, I liked to do weekly speed work, either a tempo run or intervals.  While I might do quarter mile repeats when getting ready for a 10K distance race, for the marathon I found mile repeats worked well for me.  I could only do about 4 of them, since that meant 4 miles running well over my lactate threshold.

For cycling I patterned a similar workout.  Since it took me about 6:45 to 7:00 minutes to run the mile repeats, I duplicated that with 7 minutes flat out on the bike, followed by an easy 4 minutes.  I choose a relatively flat course that included a couple miles of warm-up from our house and then a straight shot, with no need for stop signs or traffic lights during each of the 7 minute intervals.  The blue sections on the map are the intervals done at speed and the red sections the recovery portions.  From the map it would as if I could fit in a 5th interval at the end, but there are too many stop lights and I am way too tired to try a 5th one.  It seems as if all I can do is ride the 4.5 miles back home.

You can see the four intervals, followed by the recovery period from this heart rate curve.  I tried to get into Zone 5 on each interval (for myself that means 167 bpm or higher), sometime I was able to do except for the 4th interval where the 8 mile run and the prior 3 intervals were finally taking their toll.  At some point your legs and can’t push the heart as much as the heart can deliver.   I have my Garmin Edge 500 setup to show the heart rate zone I am in, which works well for this type of workout.

Using a circular course allows me to average the 4 segments so as to somewhat cancel the effect of the wind.  This allows a comparison between different dates.  I have kept this table at the bottom to show those.  With the 8 mile run before, I was not able to quite do the same average speed.  There was also a strong headwind on some sections, a penalty you never quite get back on the other sections.   Since this is for training, the actual speed is not as important as getting my heart rate up sufficient to exceed my lactate threshold, with a short recovery and then a repeat.  This is the best way to improve one’s lactate threshold.

Cycling Interval Training History

Flat Loop Hecker Pass, Watsonville Road, Santa Terresa.
7 minute fast, then 3.5 minutes easy
Lap
Time
Dist
MPH
Max HR
Avg HR
3/30/10 No Aerobars Windy After 8 mile run
1 7:01 2.10 17.9 171 159
2 7:02 2.38 20.3 169 162
3 6:44 2.58 23.0 167 160
4 7:16 2.60 21.5 166 159
Total 28:03 9.66 20.7 168 160
2/16/10 Tandem
1 7:00 2.598 22.2 168 160
2 7:00 2.008 18.6 171 164
3 7:00 2.548 21.9 169 163
4 6:30 2.843 26.2 167 160
Total 27:30 9.997 22.2 172 162
7/14/09 No Aerobars
1 7:01 2.537 21.7 168 161
2 7:00 2.555 21.9 174 166
3 6:58 2.548 21.9 173 166
4 7:00 2.728 23.3 171 165
Total 27:59 10.368 22.2 172 165
2/23/2009
1 7:01 2.117 18.1
2 7:01 2.328 19.9
3 6:26 2.583 24.1
4 7:31 2.734 21.8
Total 27:59 9.762 20.9
4/4/2008
1
7:01
2.507
21.4
162
155
2
7:00
2.449
21.0
159
153
3
7:00
2.406
20.6
156
151
4
6:44
3.011
26.8
153
150
Total 27:45 10.373 22.4 158 152
3/13/08
1
7:01
2.277
19.5
161
155
2
7:02
2.528
21.6
159
154
3
6:46
2.361
20.9
158
152
4
7:02
2.733
23.3
158
151
Total 27:51 9.899 21.4 159 153

Intervals on the Tandem

February 16, 2010 11:23 pm
Intervals on the Tandem

I have a course where I do interval training on the bike and have kept track of some of the past training. We were headed out on the tandem for a ride today and Anne said she could not be gone too long. That was the clue to do a speed workout so we rode the tandem and did the same interval training I have done before on my single bike. I was anxious to see how the times would be on the tandem. The intervals consist of four segments of 7 minutes, at maximum speed, followed by about 3.5 minutes of recovery.

It turns out we did very well, averaging 22.2 mph for the 4 sections and I was able to get my heart rate up to 167-171 on each of the legs.  Anne took her heart rate up to 154.   We were back home in no time and still had a good workout.

Cycling Interval Training

Flat Loop Hecker Pass, Watsonville Road, Santa Terres.
7 minute fast, then 3.5 minutes easy
Lap
Time
Dist
MPH
Max HR
Avg HR
2/16/10 Tandem
1 7:00 2.598 22.2 168 160
2 7:00 2.008 18.6 171 164
3 7:00 2.548 21.9 169 163
4 6:30 2.843 26.2 167 160
Total 27:30 9.997 22.2 169 163
7/14/09 No Aerobars
1 7:01 2.537 21.7 168 161
2 7:00 2.555 21.9 174 166
3 6:58 2.548 21.9 173 166
4 7:00 2.728 23.3 171 165
Total 27:59 10.368 22.2 172 165
2/23/2009
1 7:01 2.117 18.1
2 7:01 2.328 19.9
3 6:26 2.583 24.1
4 7:31 2.734 21.8
Total 27:59 9.762 20.9
4/4/2008
1
7:01
2.507
21.4
162
155
2
7:00
2.449
21.0
159
153
3
7:00
2.406
20.6
156
151
4
6:44
3.011
26.8
153
150
Total 27:45 10.373 22.4 158 152
3/13/08
1
7:01
2.277
19.5
161
155
2
7:02
2.528
21.6
159
154
3
6:46
2.361
20.9
158
152
4
7:02
2.733
23.3
158
151
Total 27:51 9.899 21.4 159 153

New Squaw Peak PR

August 31, 2009 8:11 pm

After I finished putting the mountain bike gearing on Anne’s bike, I headed out on my bike with the new compact crank I installed yesterday to climb Squaw Peak.  That is a hill of about 1,700 feet of climbing that is less than 5 miles from our Utah home.  With a total of 4.3 miles distance, the grade is not too bad, except at the top, where it gets well in excess of 10%.  I was able to set a new PR.  The compact crank was not really a factor during most of the climb since I had a couple of gears left, but at the top I went to the lowest gear and was able to keep up the cadence to a reasonable level compared with my double crank where this portion was a “grind it out” job.  I kept my heart rate in the 158-162 range for most of the climb, but let it go into the 170’s during the last half mile.

Squaw Peak Climb

Distance: 4.3 miles, Climb: 1,700 feet, Avg Grade: 7.4%
Date
Who
Bike
Time
Weight
Max HR
Avg HR
Ft/Min
8/31/09 Franz Single 31:18 139
7/28/09 Anne Single 42:58
8/11/08
Franz and Anne
Tandem
38:47
138
168
158
43.9
8/10/08
Franz
Single
31:51
138
171
155
53.4
8/12/07
Franz
Single
34:22
136
164
150
49.5

Suncrest TT and Sports Zones

August 27, 2009 10:20 pm

Many people use heart rate zones to do their training.  I wrote an article on the subject and how there are several approaches, including some simple 3 zone approaches and more sophisticated four or even five zone approaches.

My Polar heart rate monitor software allows you to setup what it calls sport zones.  The default is 5 zones all based on maximum heart rate, with the maximum intensity zone defined as 90-100% of maximum heart rate, hard intensity zone of 80-90% of maximum heart rate, and so forth.  With a maximum heart rate of 180 bpm, that would give me a range in the maximum intensity of 180 x 0.9 = 162.  On a recent 95 miles race, with 9,500 feet of climbing I used my Polar HRM and had reset to use the defaults.  But the 7 hours during the race showed 2 full hours in that red zone.  Since this red zone should be above your Lactate Threshold, it indicated that such a range was too wide.

One heart rate zone calcualtor that is more sophisticated because it also uses your resting heart rate.  You calculate the difference between your resting heart rate and maximum heart rate.  For me that is 180-45 = 135.  Now instead of using just 90% of maximum heart rate, you use 90% of that difference plus your resting heart rate (0.9 x 135 + 45 = 167).  That small change from using 162 and 167 results in a reduction of time in that recent race from 2 full hours down to 45 minutes.  Use this handy calculator to use this approach for your own zones.

Today I needed to take my bike into the shop to have the steerer tube slightly cut because when the Trek Store built up with the new frame, they didn’t cut it quite enough so the LBS needed to add a spacer on the top of the stem.  I thought this would be a good chance to do a time trial up Suncest.  All my other times up that hill were part of a long ride, including the recent Warriors race.  It took me 21:15 to make the climb, more than two minutes faster than my previous best.  I was in the “red zone” for 16:30, or most of the climb.  I had an average heart rate of 166 during the climb with a maximum of 176.  That indicates two things.  One that my maximum heart rate is indeed close to 180 and that using 167-180 bpm as the “red zone” is about right.  Below is the heart rate curve from the Suncrest time trial.

suncrest_tt

Suncrest Climb

Distance: 3.9 miles, Climb: 1,060 feet, Avg Grade: 5.1%
Date
Who Bike
Time
Weight
Max HR
Avg HR
Ft/Min
8/27/09 Franz Single 21:15 139
8/27/08
Franz Single
26:03
138
157
146
8/20/08
Franz Single
23:54
137
163
158