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Workout Wednesday: Mel’s 60 minute over/under speed workout


This week’s one hour trainer workout is a tough one. The idea is to work on your VO2 max and some anaerobic work while still getting some solid tempo efforts in. This workout really mimics the needs and requirements of an ITU style bike leg or an XTERRA race. Mountain biking and criterium-style road racing are similar in that you must maintain a strong pace while reacting with bursts of power to attacks, corners and undulations in the course. Periodically there might be short bouts of rest (such as when the pack contracts in an ITU race or at a downhill section in an XTERRA event), but otherwise it is a full throttle –though inconsistent effort for the duration.

Training to ride a hard tempo sprinkled with efforts at VO2 max will prepare you for the effort you will require on race day. This is a very difficult session so make sure you are fresh going into it and practice good recovery techniques afterward.

If you are an Ironman athlete, this workout is beneficial for breaking you out of what might be an FTP rut. If you are finding your threshold won’t go up no matter how much volume and interval work you do, it could be you need to ride a little harder.

It is also useful to have access to this power in order to ride your own race in Ironman. In my experience, when I stray too far from VO2 max work it is very difficult to break out of the “pack” which is created from legal drafting when there is congestion after the swim. Having access to VO2 max effort and the ability to settle right back into Zone 3 tempo will allow you to ride your own race and leave the competition behind.

This is also exactly the work you will need to be competitive this cyclocross season. Cyclocross is a series of maximum sprints during a maximal tempo effort so this work is precisely what you need to do.

This workout prescribes efforts based on functional threshold power (FTP), or the effort you can maintain for one hour. If you don’t know your FTP, you need to go do a field test on a day when you are fresh (and not the day you do this workout). A simple FTP test is to warm up, do one all out five minute effort (to take the freshness out), rest ten minutes, then do twenty minutes as hard as you can go.   Record your average watts, cadence and heart rate for that effort.   Subtract five per cent from the twenty minute power average and you will have your FTP. If you don’t have a power meter, you can use your heart rate average and ride in the zones reflected below.

Over / Under

Start with a 15-20 minute warmup of spinning with some higher cadence efforts then get straight into the main set. You will need a consistent 12 minute hill or straight stretch of road for these efforts. I like to do them on a trainer so I can get the exact number I am looking for.

Do the following two times through (if you have more than 60 minutes, push this to three or four times through):

3 minutes at 100% of FTP (zone 4)

1 minute at 120-120% FTP (zone 5)

2 minutes at 85-90% FTP (zone 3)

2 minutes at 110-120% of FTP (zone 5)

3 minutes at 85-90% FTP (zone 3)

1 minute at 120-120% FTP (zone 5)

Take as much rest as you need. Start with five to twelve minutes rest, but as you get fitter you will want to reduce the rest period between efforts.

Good luck!