When spring rolls around and race season is looming, athletes will be looking to find more of their high end aerobic fitness. For a time crunched triathlete, fitting in the volume required to maintain durability throughout half to full iron distance races is difficult. Workouts are often geared towards volume and steady state in order to establish enough aerobic fitness to finish the race strong at a pace that is expected on race day. If the winter was spent focused on base miles, now is the time to start doing more quality based training.
Training power on the bike improves aerobic fitness. Speed workouts for cycling can be overlooked by triathletes who focus more on threshold or steady state efforts, as these lower intensity efforts offer more race-specific stimulus to the body. While it’s true that there is little need for being a great sprinter in long distance triathlon, workouts that challenge aerobic power can quickly improve VO2 max. This means improved your maximum power, economy and fatigue resistance. Just as interval work at VO2 max effort will improve your half or full marathon pace running, power efforts on the bike will improve your time trial pace.
Incorporating power efforts into your training is simple but the effort required for a full VO2 max effort is challenging. Instead of starting your aerobic power training with four times four minutes all out with full rest, try three times six broken into 15 seconds hard/15 seconds float with three minutes rest. You may find that the six minute average power of these efforts is actually higher than what you would do if you tried to maintain that hard pace for four minutes despite the micro-breaks. Breaking the efforts down into shorter intervals gives you short mental and physical breaks which can help you maintain your focus and achieve higher quality work. After two to three weeks, increase the length of the interval to eight to 10 minutes, increasing the rest from three to four minutes.
These intervals are a good introduction to aerobic power work and have similar benefits gained from VO2 max interval efforts. Adding this type of work to your threshold and steady state efforts will definitely improve your time trial ability. These intervals are equally effective running, so you could try replacing some of your kilometer repeats at interval pace with shorter 15/15 seconds fartlek sessions to see if you can maintain higher quality throughout the workout.
Aerobic Power 15/15 intervals:
Perform the entire interval in the same gear. I would suggest a gearing of 53×16 where you hold 90 to 95 rpm during acceleration which may decrease during the rest period. Re-accelerate the same gear back up during the work period. After a good warm up, start the interval by accelerating constantly for 15 seconds, then ride steady in the same gear for 15 seconds and repeat for six straight minutes. Rest completely in an easy gear for three minutes, then repeat two more times.