Tag Archives: Power Intervals

Enjoying a good interval

Quarq Power MeterThree nights this week I have been able to climb on the trainer and do my Power Interval workouts. I can’t say that I was looking forward to them. Frankly, after back to back nights of the intervals, I was pretty fatigued on Wednesday. However, by Thursday evening I was doing a little better.

Even so, it was tempting to climb on the bike and just spin for a bit. When I think of these workouts I always remember the period toward the end of the session when I am leaning forward on the bike staring at the computer screen with slobber starting to roll onto my lip. I’m spinning trying to squeeze the last bit of power out of my legs to hold the wattage over my target.

“Do I really want to do that?” I ask myself as I mount the bicycle that for the next hour will go nowhere. The only place that bike is taking me is into pain.

My approach is always to get right on the edge. Sometimes this means that I “ride to failure”. This means by the last few intervals I can’t complete them as planned. My legs “fail” to produce the necessary power.

Last night, I took a different approach. Rather than coming out trying to keep the wattage up around 340, I just determined I would work to keep it over 300 watts. I figured that was over my FTP and would be a good workout, but it would also (I admit it) be a bit easier. The plan was to make it through all nine of the 2 minute intervals with a consistent average.

The first three went pretty much as I planned. Then I completed my Rest Between Interval spin of six minutes. During the second group of three I got confused. The topic of discussion on Pardon the Interruption got me distracted. “Am I on the second of this set or the third?” I decided to assume I had more to do. So, turns out that middle grouping ended up being four instead of three.

Then the amazing thing happened. As I was going into the final three intervals, I felt better and better. My average wattage for those intervals ended up being about 20 watts higher than the average for those first three. Granted, I was still breathing pretty hard by those final 30 seconds, but I finished strong.

Besides learning a lesson about pacing. That workout also reminded me of the importance of staying with you plan. You see, I was reaping the benefits of Monday and Tuesday… and, yes, also the rest I got on Wednesday and Thursday. Power Intervals are always hard. However, they are murder the first time you do them after any time off the bike.

So, next time you are tempted to put off that training session, remember that you’ll pay for it later. That might be a little bit of encouragement to get back on there. It was well worth the time and effort and tomorrow I’ll appreciate it even more.

Piney Mountain Throw Down

Yeah, yesterday was my birthday. I would love to say that I went out and rode my age in miles. Well, it didn’t happen. However, I did get to torture myself for about a third of my age. That should count for something.

I also learned a valuable lesson. Do not eat a lunch of chicken pot pie before you go out and do power intervals. I love chicken pot pie, but prefer to only taste it once. No one wants to throw up when throwing down some power!

Piney Mountain Road

Starting up Piney Mountain Road

The day was beautiful and the Beautiful Redhead asked me to come home early for lunch because she would be teaching as a substitute in the early afternoon hour. As I got out of the car to walk up to the house, I could feel the warmth from the sun. The urge to do my workout on the road instead of later that evening on the trainer awakened within me.

My workout for the day would be power intervals — 3 x [(2 x 2 min.)(2 min. RBI)] (6 min. RBS). I decided to head over to Piney Mountain Road. I recalled that Jim Cunningham would send me there for short repeats. It is near by and at power the climb takes me around 3 minutes. So, it should be simple to get the 2 minute burst.

I turned off of Pleasantburg Drive and there in front of me was the beginning of the climb. I used the cement guardrails of a bridge crossing a small creek as my start marker. The road then begins a shallow climb. Soon you begin a slight turn to the left.

When you enter this curve, you notice the grade begins to angle upward. Up ahead you can see more of the road and you realize that it is going to hurt pretty soon. As you look up the now straightened road, you see another kick up and then a more noticeable turn to the right.

My two minutes were up before I reached the turn to the right. There is a yellow traffic marker indicating the sharper turn to the right. That is about where I ended up at 2 minutes. It became my target.

Race to the sign.  Turn around and spin to the bottom. Race back up again.

Nine times. I would start out spinning at a pretty high rate until the road started kicking up. It was possible to keep seated for a little longer as I shifted to an easier gear. Then I ended up having to stand through the steepest section. Then it was a plop back into the saddle as my heart rate spiked and the grade began to decrease.

I tried several different approaches with my cadence. I tried some in the small ring and some in the big ring. They all hurt.

Still, when I returned back home about an hour and fifteen minutes later, I was happy. It is such a difference doing these power intervals on the road and not on the trainer. I will be fighting to pull this off more as the days get longer.

The numbers made me happy. All but the last interval (336 watts) averaged over 350 watts. Most of them were over 380 watts. The first one (before the chicken pot pie began to squawk) was a 435 watts.

It makes me feel better about where I am right now. It is good to get a “real world” view over the trainer experience. At the same time, I realize how far I need to go to be competitive. Only thing is that now, I’m encouraged to think I can get there.

Flat is where I am at

It was time to climb back on the trainer last night. It has been a week since I have put rubber on pavement. However, I have pretty much been following the plan though I don’t seem to be going anywhere.

I mean that literally and figuratively. It is funny when I look at my Strava profile. It shows that over the last 30 days I have averaged 3 rides a week for about 5 hours, but only 26 miles. I guess I could set up the Garmin to read distance from a sensor on the back wheel, but it doesn’t seem that important. I’ve never really focused on miles so much as time anyway.

What bothers me more is that I don’t seem to be going anywhere fitness wise. Maybe I have just hit a flat spot before my body move up to the next level. However, right now I don’t feel that I’ve progressed that far.

I started my current training plan back on January 7. That puts me about halfway through the 12 week program. Last year, I started a similar plan on February 6. I went back to compare some of the numbers between where I am now and where I was at six weeks then.

March 27, 2012 – 4 x 3 minute Power Intervals (3 minute RBI)

Interval 1: 326 watts
Interval 2: 322 watts
Interval 3: 333 watts
Interval 4: 349 watts

However, I then went beyond the plan and climbed Paris Mountain in 13:45 averaging 297 watts.

February 12, 2013 – 6 x 3 minute Power Intervals (2 minute RBI)

Interval 1: 310 watts
Interval 2: 310 watts
Interval 3: 309 watts
Interval 4: 305 watts
Interval 5: 304 watts
Interval 6: 307 watts

There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have been able to climb Paris Mountain in under 14 minutes after that.

Granted, there are several things to consider 1) the first session was on the road — up the State Park side of Altamont, 2) I knew in the second session that I had to pace myself for six intervals, 3) I had more chance to recover between intervals in the first session and 4) the time of year was different. I think that fourth point can’t be overlooked. Because of the time change, I had been able to do more outside riding by that point. Also, I’m certain I was in a better frame of mind with the longer days.

Here is what concerns me the most. I am climbing on the trainer out of duty. I can remember times when I’ve been able to put out 400+ watt Power Intervals. I can’t envision in my mind doing that again. Managing six 300 watt intervals leaves me exhausted. I’m suffering through these intervals just aiming to get through them. All of this and I just don’t know if it is going to make any difference.

Maybe what I should do is go out and do my next Power Interval session like I did that one just under a year ago. Maybe I should do like I did last year and perform another FTP test midway through so I can prove to myself that I have progressed. I just know I need a shot in the arm (figuratively!) to help me out of these doldrums.

As it is, I’m finding it very hard to consider shelling out $30 bucks to go race just to get shelled out the back. Sorry for being so negative, but when you read this blog… it is part of the package. If you’ve been reading long enough, you’ve probably caught on that it won’t last too long.

Record and remind

Let’s get the work out of the way and then bring up some fun! We’ll start this morning’s post talking about the PowerInterval and then move on to Team Low Cadence news… and a little more. Here we go.

1.22.2013 Workout 1.24.2013 Workout
Warmup – 125 watts
PowerInterval 1:1 – 277 watts
RBI – 147 watts
PowerInterval 1:2 – 281 watts
RBI – 156 watts
PowerInterval 1:3 – 276 watts
RBS – 167 watts
PowerInterval 2:1 – 274 watts
RBI – 178 watts
PowerInterval 2:2 – 276 watts
RBI – 122 watts
PowerInterval 2:3 – 280 watts
Cool Down – 159 watts
Overall Average – 171 watts
Average Cadence – 92 rpm
Warmup – 154 watts
PowerInterval 1:1 – 280 watts
RBI – 95 watts
PowerInterval 1:2 – 290 watts
RBI – 141 watts
PowerInterval 1:3 – 307 watts
RBS – 132 watts
PowerInterval 2:1 – 304 watts
RBI – 141 watts
PowerInterval 2:2 – 308 watts
RBI – 142 watts
PowerInterval 2:3 – 304 watts
Cool Down – 125 watts
Overall Average – 171 watts
Average Cadence – 95 rpm

You may recall that I mentioned that during the Tuesday evening power intervals I did not push much during the 3 minute sessions. I simply tried to stay above FTP. This I was able to do quite easily.

I went back to read a little more about the workout and realized that I was supposed to be riding up in a power zone that I felt I could hold for the 3 minute interval… and just that. This means my Tuesday evening workout was not really up to par. I decided to see about that last night.

I followed the same process for warming up by stair stepping up the wattage each 5 minutes while trying to keep the cadence nearly the same. As I look at the numbers, I’m surprised to see that the average wattage for that period is higher than Tuesday’s. I felt that I was spinning easier.

At first I just thought I would up the wattage about 10 watts — from a minimum target of 260 to 270. That first interval followed that approach. You can see that with that effort I came in close to the previous workout. What you don’t see is that I was upping my cadence to nearly 100 rpm.

Through all of the Rest Between Intervals, I purposefully didn’t watch the wattage. I only followed the time. I didn’t really care how much wattage I was producing or the cadence at which I was spinning. The only goal was to be rested for the next interval. That makes it interesting when I see that once I settled into a pattern that the wattage is very similar for those periods.

Inside the second power interval I decided to change my approach. I was finding that I felt pretty good at my 270 goal and that my wattage kept creeping up to 300+. Finally, I gave in and just started targeting the 300 watt mark. That ended up being the last interval below 300 watts.

The remaining intervals consisted of me spinning along at 95 to 100 rpm watching the wattage to keep it as close to 300 as possible. It was hard. By the final interval I was having to catch myself from dropping below. My wattage graph looked a little ragged on that one!

The two other things I did differently for the workout is I lengthened the Rest Between Sets. On Tuesday I had incorrectly rested for 5 minutes. On Thursday I completed the full called for 8 minutes. The other things I did was go much easier for the final 30 minute cool down. That was partly because I was fighting a cramp in my right calve.

So, in the end I finished with exactly the same average wattage for the full 90 minutes. My cadence was different between the two. The 95 rpm recorded for Thursday reflects just how fast I was pedaling during the intervals.

I was very happy with the workout. Today is a rest day and tomorrow is another OverUnder workout. Looks like I am going to hit the plan dead on for this week!

Team Low Cadence Announcement

Team Low Cadence is really getting ready to roll!  We have 14 members of the team so far. These riders have various abilities, but one thing they share is a passion for the mission of the I Do It For Foundation. There is room for more!

We are ready to place a bulk order for Team Low Cadence cycling kits. If I know you want to be on the team, then I can make certain that you get the size that you desire. Otherwise, I am having to use average sizes for the remaining number of kits. Could be that by the time you decide to participate, we won’t have the size you need. Getting your kit will be delayed even longer.

So, sign up today! Learn more about it at the Team Low Cadence signup page. If you are already a member, be sure to recruit your friends. Come on board and help grow the I Do It For Foundation… Do it for someone you love.

Power Interval blues

I woke up this morning a little irritable. A clue to my mood could be found in my weigh in — 170 pounds. Basically that means I was hungry. The Beautiful Redhead will tell you that when I get hungry, I get grumpy! It also was due to the Power Intervals I did around 9PM last night.

That means I rode two days at a more intense pace. Even as I was completing the Power Intervals I regretted overdoing it on the EnduranceMiles workout on Monday. Now today I feel it as I walk up steps. It isn’t that it hurts, it is just there is a weakness in my legs. It is as though I did squats in the weight room… that shaky feeling you get the morning after working out.

So, how do these Power Intervals work? Here is the deal when following the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan with the Experienced Competitor track. Last night’s workout called for a total ride of 90 minutes averaging 170 to 190 watts. Within this period you complete 2 x [3 x 3 minute Power Interval efforts (over 260 watts) with a 3 minute Rest Between Intervals and a 5 minute Rest Between Sets].

PowerInterval Chart

90 min. 2 x [3 x 3 min. @ PI (3 min. RBI)(5 min RBS)] with chain falling off

I started out spinning very easily until I felt comfortable at about a 95 rpm. After 5 minutes, I shifted to a harder gear and continued that each five minutes until I finished 30 minutes. You can see the stair step progression in the above chart. Of course, at 20 minutes I was at the max of the EnduranceMiles wattage and so I held it there until the Power Intervals were to start.

You can also see the chart five “plateaus” or increases in wattage to a sustained level for three minutes. These are the Power Intervals. So, where is the sixth one? It is that “spire” one following the five.

Just as I was beginning to start the final Power Interval my chain dropped. On instinct, I just kept pedaling and shifted my left lever to bring the chain back up onto the ring. Of course, that only works when the rear wheel is turning… which, of course, it wasn’t because I was on a trainer. I ended up having to get off the bicycle and pull the chain back on with my hand. I then “took off” out of frustration.

I was pretty toasted after that. However, after a few minutes of spinning, I was feeling good again and you can see I pushed above the EnduranceMiles limit for about four minutes. What you don’t see is that the cadence during that time was around 100 rpm. I then started “stepping down” in wattage until I was very easily spinning for the last five minutes.

What do the numbers look like?

  • Warmup – 125 watts
  • PowerInterval 1:1 – 277 watts
  • RBI – 147 watts
  • PowerInterval 1:2 – 281 watts
  • RBI – 156 watts
  • PowerInterval 1:3 – 276 watts
  • RBS – 167 watts
  • PowerInterval 2:1 – 274 watts
  • RBI – 178 watts
  • PowerInterval 2:2 – 276 watts
  • RBI – 122 watts
  • PowerInterval 2:3 – 280 watts
  • Cool Down – 159 watts
  • Average for workout – 171 watts

Did I do it correctly? I guess the one question I have is the efforts during the PowerIntervals. These intervals are supposed to be the most power you can produce for the required time. I didn’t really take that approach. I set a target of 260+ watts. My only concern was not dropping below that number. I wasn’t concentrating on seeing how hard I could go.

Still, I think it worked out. I exceeded 270 watts each effort and that is over my FTP. By the time I was getting near the final intervals my perceived exertion was telling me I was near the limit. Plus, that final effort had me deflating from 365 watts in the first minute, 326 minutes in the second minute and 285 watts in the third. In other words, the numbers seemed to indicate that 280 – 290 would have been the absolute I could have consistently held for the period of the intervals.

Why do I post this stuff?

  1. It keeps me accountable
  2. It serves as a training log
  3. I hope it encourages others to take up a plan of their own
  4. What else am I going to blog about?

Well, if you happened to read this far, “Thanks for reading!”

Make a deposit for when you need to withdraw

Sometimes it isn’t the data that gives you a lift. It isn’t always high wattage numbers. You can’t really quantify it. You just get off the bike and you find a smile on your face.

That is what happened for me last night. I got home to find it raining outside. I’ve been riding my bike to work a bit lately and when I saw the storm clouds rolling in, I headed out of the office about 10 minutes early in hopes of reaching home before the precipitation started.

I did make it, but about the time I got my kit on there was a steady shower. Now, I realize that you diehards are saying, “So. What is a little rain?” Point is, I was only going to be on the bike for an hour. I might as well do my workout on the trainer.

A few minutes later I was spinning away in the Low Cadence Lair. Then I started my 3 sets of 3 x 2 minute Power Intervals. Pretty standard stuff — 2 minutes on at 300+ watts and 2 minutes off before repeating that two more times. I took a 6 minute rest between the sets.

It felt good. My legs felt strong. I fought the urge to really put out and tried to keep around a 320 watts average. However, for most of the time, I wasn’t looking at the computer. I was getting caught up in the rhythm spinning my legs in circles.

My legs alerted me when I was deep in the second minute. “Hello up there,” they start calling. “Ummmm, we’re starting to feel a little tired here.” Then I would be saved by the RBI. This continued right up until the last two intervals. I could tell that I was dropping a bit of my power. Still, my legs felt happy.

As it turns out, the data backed up what I was feeling. I held a pretty consistent wattage through the first seven intervals. A few of them were the exact same at 324 watts. The last two dropped to just below 320 watts.

Andre Greipel's legs

We can't all look like Andre Greipel, but sometimes we feel like we do!

If you have ever had a good Power Interval session, you know what I am talking about. You nail it. Your legs feel like you could turn a windmill. You get off the bike and you can feel the tension of your quadriceps while your VMO is clearly defined above your knee cap. Basically, your legs LOOK like they are fast!

Getting off the bike after a session like that makes you ready for the next one. Of course, the next one could leave you ruing the day you ever saw a bicycle. That is when you need to bring up the good days from your memory bank.

Well, last night, I made a deposit.

Powering through it

Last night was my first PowerInterval workout with the Time-Crunched Cyclist plan. I was looking forward to it because it would be another revealing look at my current fitness level. This workout is also an important preparation for the type of racing we do the most of around here… the criterium.

Here is what the workout called for: I would start off spinning between 133w – 216w. Once I got warmed up, I would start the first of two sets. Each set was made up of three intervals three minutes long at over 300 watts. Between each interval, I would do an easy spin for a Rest Between Intervals. Once the first set was finished, I would complete an eight minute Rest Between Sets. Once my time was up, it was time to do it all over again for the second set. I would finish off the workout with more spinning between 133w – 216w and then go real easy for the last five minutes to cool down.

I got started with the workout with enough time to do it on the road, but I still opted for the trainer because for this first attempt I wanted a more controlled environment. After grabbing my water, eating a snack and getting my fan started up, I climbed on board to start. It took at least fifteen minutes of this to get my legs feeling loose.

Here is what happened…

  • EnduranceMiles: 15 min. @ 167w/131bpm/95rpm
  • Interval 1.1: 3 min. @ 337w/165bpm/93rpm
  • RBI: 2 min. @159bpm
  • Interval 1.2: 3 min. @ 326w/168bpm/92rpm
  • RBI: 2 min. @ 163bpm
  • Interval 1.3: 3 min. @ 318w/170bpm/92rpm
  • RBS: 8 min. @ 144bpm
  • Interval 2.1: 3 min. @ 316w/167bpm/88rpm
  • RBI: 2 min. @ 162bpm
  • Interval 2.2: 3 min. @ 312w/167bpm/92rpm
  • RBI: 2 min. @ 162bpm
  • Interval 2.3: 3 min. @ 311w/170bpm/91rpm
  • EnduranceMiles: 6 min. @ 161w/161bpm/92rpm
  • Cool Down: 5 min. @ 140bpm

You will note that this totals just around one hour of total seat time. Really, that amount of time barely allows you to get in the required intervals. However, in keeping with the approach of the Time-Crunched Cyclist plan, I was able to get home from work, get in the workout, eat dinner with my family and then make it to a performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore in the evening.

The EnduranceMiles portions of my workouts are becoming my default effort. Put me on a bike and I’ll immediately start spinning between 92 – 95 rpm at around 170 watts. For someone who was first known as “Low Cadence” because of my propensity to push a big gear, this is a big change for me.

What stuck out to me in this workout was the gradual drop off in power as I did each workout. I pretty much cross off the first one because I always seem to overdo it on my first attempt of anything. My goal was to be moderate and stay near the 300w baseline.

I do not go by average wattage when I ride. I just look at the actual wattage and try to ride within a range that I can hold with a particular cadence. So, especially on a trainer, I watch my cadence more than my wattage. This does mean that I don’t always know what my average is until I look at the file afterward.

You can notice this as you look at the cadence for each interval. It is pretty consistent except for Interval 2.1. The reason the cadence is lower there is because I was starting to go numb from sitting in the saddle! I shifted down and rode for a minute while standing. Once I gave my butt a break, I got back to the normal cadence.

Still, though I attempted to keep my efforts as consistent as possible, I dropped 15 watts from Interval 1.2 to 2.3. I would like to see that gap drop as I do this more. This is probably evidence that I don’t have many matches to burn right now.

Matches are important in criterium racing. There are a lot of accelerations and the race moves quickly with attacks and counterattacks. I think I could compete in a road race right now and if I took care of myself, I could definitely finish in the field. However, one or two attacks and I’d start burning out.

Hey, that is why we have Power Interval work outs! I’m looking forward to more of them and I am glad I got a good first attempt to use as my measuring stick for those future efforts. I’ve just got to keep getting on the bike and powering through it!