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Workout Wednesday: Tempo Bike Intervals

IMG_1441 (2)For this week’s workout Wednesday, I’m offering you a cycling session that is great for dialing in your pace at a tempo effort. This effort is specific to half distance racing but is also a great base building effort for those racing shorter distance as you will recover quickly and be able to get back to higher intensity training sooner. For the full distance folks, this workout fits into a busy weekday schedule well and is a good introduction to high intensity if you have been spending the past month or two reintroducing yourself to training. If you are focusing on XTERRA or cross triathlon this year, this session is critical for maintaining a solid pace in single track between punchy efforts on the climbs.

This is a rhythm workout and helps you to find that edge between hard/sustainable versus too hard/unsustainable. In short, everyone can benefit from this kind of session.

Give it a try and let me know what you think on Twitter!

Warm Up

  • 10 minutes starting with easy pedaling and building the effort slowly as your legs warm up.
  • 10 alternating 20 seconds surging with 1:40 of relaxed high cadence easy gear.


Main Set

You can do this workout on your trainer, on the road or off road. Perform three to five times (start with three sets and build up weekly).

  • 6 minutes in Zone 3 (76-90% of FTP) with 2 minute recovery at 80-95 rpm. Zone 3 is equivalent to about 90-93% of your anaerobic threshold heart rate if you want to gauge your efforts by heart rate. Aim for somewhere between a 7 and 8.5 out of 10 on the perceived effort scale with the first set being about a 7 and the last set getting closer to 9.
  • 80 rpm is appropriate if you are riding a mountain bike on dirt. On the road or on a trainer aim for the higher cadence range for this set.

As you progress through the set you should find your average heart rate for each interval increases. If it is going down, you may have gone either too hard on the first one. If your average heart rate remains the same, you may not be going hard enough.

Cool down

  • Ride for 10 minutes at 100 rpm

No matter what discipline of triathlon you train for, having intervals in zone 3 intensity at a high cadence (80 rpm is a high cadence when you are riding off road) is important to train your aerobic system to handle race intensity. At a lower cadence, this set trains mostly muscular endurance which will not prepare you for race effort. Mixing your training with some low cadence/muscular strength interval days with this workout at high cadence/aerobic capacity will prepare you well for the start of the season.

Have fun with it!