Training advice: fewer but harder sessions vs. easier, more frequent training sessions?

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
229
84
48
41
#1
In anticipation of the birth of my first child, I am trying to change my cycling routine, because I am certain I will have less time for 3-8 hour rides that I am used to on the weekends. Instead, I have started doing 2 1-hour interval sessions during the week in addition to a 3-hour ride. I do 3 6-minute hill climb intervals + 3 smaller intervals on one day (I am just following a local incline) and either pyramid intervals or 1-minute intervals on the other. My times have improved quite steadily (including on the longer rides), but yesterday I felt as if I had a lot of gas left in the tank (despite knocking 20 seconds off my PR for the climb at the first attempt).

So should I add a third session and allow for better recovery or add more intervals to make each workout more taxing?
 

TokyoLiving

Maximum Pace
Dec 9, 2015
522
208
73
53
#2
Depends upon how old you are. I build in either a recovery day or just slow spin day. Also depends upon how busy I am and also my fitness goals. You won't lose your fitness by taking a day off and in fact helps in the long run.
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
229
84
48
41
#3
I’m 37 and I’ve been cycling for sports for decades. Thanks to the proximity to nice hilly terrain and mountains, I have put in 5-10 hours per week last year. But it is the first time I started training rather than just go and ride some loop of a given length. My ultimate goal is to increase my ftp so that I can ride further in a given time. When I did more running or return from longer rides, I had had the nice feeling of “satisfied exhaustion” — and this is lacking now. On the other hand, that may mean I would need an extra day of recovery.
 

kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,601
422
103
Japan
#4
Are you racing at all? Miyagi has a pretty good cycling scene. If you want to up intensity ride with other racers, most of them are pinched for time as well. Good thing about young babies, they sleep quite a bit. You can sneak off for hard riding say 90 minutes or so during the day on your days off. BTW, best training....racing.
 

TokyoLiving

Maximum Pace
Dec 9, 2015
522
208
73
53
#5
Sounds like you want to up your game. Lots of rides during the week and weekends to challenge yourself.

I’m in a similar situation juggling work, family and training so I don’t get dropped at the first climb. I include commuting rides to work 3 days a week, hard early morning ride in Tuesdays or spring Wednesdays and a long Sunday ride. With two days off the bike and hit the gym to balance it all out.
 

TokyoLiving

Maximum Pace
Dec 9, 2015
522
208
73
53
#6
My son is 8 now so more independent and easier to get away for a few hours. Also having built in the commute which is an hour each way helps keep the mileage up.

Racing in Japan would be dangerous i think
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
229
84
48
41
#7
Are you racing at all? Miyagi has a pretty good cycling scene. If you want to up intensity ride with other racers, most of them are pinched for time as well. Good thing about young babies, they sleep quite a bit.
No, in fact, I am doing all of my cycling on a rather heavy full-suspension mountain bike (13.5 kg). I'll get a new bike this year or next year, though, and then it'll be something more suitable. I haven't thought about racing, although I might give that a try once I have a proper road bike (or a cyclocross bike with slicks). For sure I'll try to participate in the Tour de Tohoku then.
You can sneak off for hard riding say 90 minutes or so during the day on your days off. BTW, best training....racing.
In fact, that's why I tried doing intervals, because I know I will only rarely get the opportunity to spend a whole day in the saddle. It takes me about 1 hour 10 minutes per session, starting from work. And if I go during the day, I could spend some time in the woods, making use of those knobbly tires.[/QUOTE]
 
Last edited:

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
229
84
48
41
#8
Sounds like you want to up your game. Lots of rides during the week and weekends to challenge yourself.
Yup, definitely. And even a few sessions made a very big difference, as my times for my Strava segments got consistently better. Yesterday, I knocked off 19 seconds from by personal best on a ~6 minute climb. So it's fun and motivating! (And I can dream of the times I could do with an 8 kg bike … and 3 kg less fat on me!)
I’m in a similar situation juggling work, family and training so I don’t get dropped at the first climb. I include commuting rides to work 3 days a week, hard early morning ride in Tuesdays or spring Wednesdays and a long Sunday ride. With two days off the bike and hit the gym to balance it all out.
I also commute, but it is only 2 km one way, and due to the traffic lights (which are badly timed and placed here in Sendai), it is not enough to really call that part of my training. My personal solution is to head out after work for a quick spin and then come back. If we had a shower here on campus, I'd also consider going out for a loop during lunch, but I haven't found one yet. (And I have looked.)
 

kiwisimon

Maximum Pace
Dec 14, 2006
2,601
422
103
Japan
#9
Oh MTB, in that case find some morning rides on the road and ust keep going as long as you can till you get dropped each time. Nothing like taking a pull at the front of a bunch on a MTB to spike your heartrate. Same advice applies but prepare to get shattered. And burn through tires.
 

GrantT

Maximum Pace
Oct 2, 2012
1,589
1,171
143
Setagaya
#10
If you have something left at the end of the interval session, do a bit more. Adding another interval session might not leave enough recovery time.
 

theBlob

Bokeh master
Sep 28, 2011
2,858
1,443
129
...
#11
Depends on your goals really. I have more fun cycling now that I rest more. Cause I’m always well rested so my legs are up for decent efforts.
I don’t think you improve as much as pushing yourself more frequently but you also don’t get tired to the point of it effecting your on bike performance and off bike life. Which can happen if you are properly training as during those build times you are stressing your body.
 

andywood

Maximum Pace
Apr 8, 2008
1,510
1,184
133
Niigata
#12
In anticipation of the birth of my first child, I am trying to change my cycling routine, because I am certain I will have less time for 3-8 hour rides that I am used to on the weekends. Instead, I have started doing 2 1-hour interval sessions during the week in addition to a 3-hour ride. I do 3 6-minute hill climb intervals + 3 smaller intervals on one day (I am just following a local incline) and either pyramid intervals or 1-minute intervals on the other. My times have improved quite steadily (including on the longer rides), but yesterday I felt as if I had a lot of gas left in the tank (despite knocking 20 seconds off my PR for the climb at the first attempt).

So should I add a third session and allow for better recovery or add more intervals to make each workout more taxing?
Intervals are a great way to improve fitness, especially when time is limited. If you are looking to get fitter, your workouts should become progressively harder over time.

There are more ways to make the workouts harder than just adding to them. Here are just a couple of ideas:

Reducing the RI

The rest interval (RI) between intervals is important as the interval itself. I try to be as strict with this "off" RI as I am with the "on" interval. If you reduce the length of the RI over time you can expect to get fit.

For example: 1 min (2min RI) x 5 > 1 min (1.5min RI) x 5 > 1 min (1min RI) x 5

Also by reducing the RI, you free up more time for extra "on" intervals.

For example: 1 min (2min RI) x 5 > >>> > 1 min (1min RI) x 7
(The first is 15 mins training with 5 mins of "work". The second is 14 mins of training with 7 mins of "work")

The 10% rule

If you don't feel cooked after your intervals why not try this:

On your climb mark out a start and finish point about 4 mins apart when going full pace.

Do the first interval at race pace. If you have a power meter, record average power. Or just recording the time it takes is enough.

Repeat the climb and try to hit this target power or time (you might beat it on the second climb but it will drop off thereafter).

When you fail to get within 10% of your target, you fail... and go home!

For example:

300W (- 10% = 270 W cut off) > 305W > 290 W > 290 W > 280 W > 275 W >270 W > 250 W (fail)

or 4:00 (+ 10% = 4:24 cut off) > 3:58 > 4:10 > 4:15 > 4:15 > 4:20 > 4:30 (fail)

I usually manage 8 or 9 of these. If you can do more, you aren't going hard enough on the first interval. If you can only do 3 or 4 (which is the common mistake) you are going too hard on the first.

These intervals teach you a lot about pacing your effort.

As you get fitter, you will be able to increase your target watts or reduce your target time.

Again you can make these harder by reducing the RI. I usually go for a 4 min RI at first.

Hope these ideas help. Give them a try!

Andy

https://www.facebook.com/biketrainingandracinginjapan/

www.jyonnobitime.com/time
 

andywood

Maximum Pace
Apr 8, 2008
1,510
1,184
133
Niigata
#13
My son is 8 now so more independent and easier to get away for a few hours. Also having built in the commute which is an hour each way helps keep the mileage up.

Racing in Japan would be dangerous i think
Some people may argue racing in Japan to be safer than commuting in Japan!?!?

If you are looking for a very safe scene to test your performance the hillclimb scene in Japan is a great option.

Andy

https://www.facebook.com/biketrainingandracinginjapan/

www.jyonnobitime.com/time
 
Likes: leicaman

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
229
84
48
41
#14
Wow, Andy, those are great tips. Right now I have a 5 minute rest interval as that was what was suggested online (I took advice from GCN videos here), but it feels a bit too long. Plus, it didn't really mesh with the local geography of the loop I ride (there are two traffic lights and it is just a 5~6 minute climb). I'll definitely try and cut the rest time to 4 minutes and then see whether and when I can lower it further. If I had 3 minutes between efforts, that'd be perfect, I could have two high-intensity efforts per climb.

The 10 % rule exercise really sounds like fun and hopefully improves my pacing for high-intensity efforts. I'll give that a try next week, too. It'll slot in perfect with my existing schedule anyway — I just replace my standard hill climb intervals with those.

Do you have an opinion on doing reps while over- and undergearing (I love the former annd hate the latter)?

And do you use an app for managing the reps? I'm trying one called Intervals, but without an Apple Watch, it lacks a little in the notification department. (I'm just with my phone and I don't use a Garmin or so.) In particular I'd like to know in advance when I'll make my last effort. Right now I have to keep track, and that gets a bit difficult if you are going on full gas one minute and then meditate in the between efforts.
 

leicaman

Maximum Pace
Sep 20, 2012
2,439
2,131
133
Asakadai, Saitama
#15
Great tips from @andywood . Think I might have to try some of those out. I’ve never done any proper training for cycling but that sounds like fun.
Just the other day I actually tried a type of interval. I normally go out on the Arakawa and try to hit a certain wattage for a set time. But this time I went out for an easy ride but got bored so decided to hit the last 5 mins hard. Man was it tough.
One thing I have noticed is that trying to keep a certain wattage on the flats is vastly different (read much more difficult) than when climbing.
The 5 mins were tough but felt really good. The intervals that Andy suggested sound tougher so looking forward to giving them a go.
 

OreoCookie

Maximum Pace
Dec 2, 2017
229
84
48
41
#16
Same here, up until now I'd just go and ride. Strava really changed that for me, giving me my times on segments, power estimates (which I of course take with a grain of salt) and so forth. Plus, I did not expect to actually like doing intervals — I'm not a gym rat or like working out for working out's sake.
 

Johank

Warming-Up
Mar 30, 2018
11
5
3
49
#17
Interval training will for sure make your training much more efficiënt. IT is not the number of hours that make you improve a lot, off course this helps but you need to train smart in order to make really progress.

How to train smart depends on what type of cyclist you want to be: a sprinter, an all rounder, Climber, pursuiter, grand fondo rider , thriathlete .... in function of that you want to target different power zones.
For example a breakaway specialist want to be best in 5min power, so you will train to have highest 5min power. A sprinter will train to have highest 10sec power, a centary rider for the highest 2h power etc.

In general you need following in your yearly calendar: (all of us, even starting on good level)
Base training: low bpm/power, independent from cycling type (LSD and lower half EXT), to make your base as wilde as possible
Build training: more specific in function of cyclist type you want to be. Some types will start to focus on max power like sprinter, Some otters might want to focus to increase FTP a lot with a lot of sweet spot training for example (intervals of 20-30 min just below, above FTP with 4 min rest in between)
Peak training: last 2 WK’s before race-day with high intensity but already Some less hours
Tapering during last 2 wks before event

When you train smart you do not need to put that many hours in to improve in fact but you need to train very specific
I hope this helps. If Some of the terms not clear just let me know.
 

andywood

Maximum Pace
Apr 8, 2008
1,510
1,184
133
Niigata
#18
Wow, Andy, those are great tips. Right now I have a 5 minute rest interval as that was what was suggested online (I took advice from GCN videos here), but it feels a bit too long. Plus, it didn't really mesh with the local geography of the loop I ride (there are two traffic lights and it is just a 5~6 minute climb). I'll definitely try and cut the rest time to 4 minutes and then see whether and when I can lower it further. If I had 3 minutes between efforts, that'd be perfect, I could have two high-intensity efforts per climb.

The 10 % rule exercise really sounds like fun and hopefully improves my pacing for high-intensity efforts. I'll give that a try next week, too. It'll slot in perfect with my existing schedule anyway — I just replace my standard hill climb intervals with those.

Do you have an opinion on doing reps while over- and undergearing (I love the former annd hate the latter)?

And do you use an app for managing the reps? I'm trying one called Intervals, but without an Apple Watch, it lacks a little in the notification department. (I'm just with my phone and I don't use a Garmin or so.) In particular I'd like to know in advance when I'll make my last effort. Right now I have to keep track, and that gets a bit difficult if you are going on full gas one minute and then meditate in the between efforts.
For heavy gear work, I would use the same hill and again aim for 4 minutes. You want to be in the heaviest gear you can while maintaining good pedaling form. This should be aerobic so not as intense as the 10% intervals. I do these intervals to supplement strength work in the winter. I wrote about it here:


I also do high cadence work in the winter. On the trainer, I do these for an hour or so and combine them with active recovery. So the intensity is low.

Another write up here:


On the road I tend to do up to a minute high cadence with a minute RI. x 10 sets. During the same workout I do 1 leg drills (30s left leg, 30 secs both, 30 secs right leg, 30 secs both) x 10 sets/ Both these drills are good for improving your pedaling efficiency.


For tracking intervals, I just use my garmin. Even a stopwatch function on your phone would work, so long as it records and displays the number of laps...

Andy

https://www.facebook.com/biketrainingandracinginjapan/

www.jyonnobitime.com/time
 

andywood

Maximum Pace
Apr 8, 2008
1,510
1,184
133
Niigata
#19
Great tips from @andywood . Think I might have to try some of those out. I’ve never done any proper training for cycling but that sounds like fun.
Just the other day I actually tried a type of interval. I normally go out on the Arakawa and try to hit a certain wattage for a set time. But this time I went out for an easy ride but got bored so decided to hit the last 5 mins hard. Man was it tough.
One thing I have noticed is that trying to keep a certain wattage on the flats is vastly different (read much more difficult) than when climbing.
The 5 mins were tough but felt really good. The intervals that Andy suggested sound tougher so looking forward to giving them a go.
I agree it's harder to hold a certain wattage on the flat. Looking at real time 1s power is next to useless. Even lap power fluctuates. Do you use Normalized Power?

What are you looking at on your display? For power, I like to look at 3s power, 10s power and NP lap. I use the first two to keep a steady normalized lap power.

Hope this helps!?

Andy

https://www.facebook.com/biketrainingandracinginjapan/

www.jyonnobitime.com/time
 

andywood

Maximum Pace
Apr 8, 2008
1,510
1,184
133
Niigata
#20
Interval training will for sure make your training much more efficiënt. IT is not the number of hours that make you improve a lot, off course this helps but you need to train smart in order to make really progress.

How to train smart depends on what type of cyclist you want to be: a sprinter, an all rounder, Climber, pursuiter, grand fondo rider , thriathlete .... in function of that you want to target different power zones.
For example a breakaway specialist want to be best in 5min power, so you will train to have highest 5min power. A sprinter will train to have highest 10sec power, a centary rider for the highest 2h power etc.

In general you need following in your yearly calendar: (all of us, even starting on good level)
Base training: low bpm/power, independent from cycling type (LSD and lower half EXT), to make your base as wilde as possible
Build training: more specific in function of cyclist type you want to be. Some types will start to focus on max power like sprinter, Some otters might want to focus to increase FTP a lot with a lot of sweet spot training for example (intervals of 20-30 min just below, above FTP with 4 min rest in between)
Peak training: last 2 WK’s before race-day with high intensity but already Some less hours
Tapering during last 2 wks before event

When you train smart you do not need to put that many hours in to improve in fact but you need to train very specific
I hope this helps. If Some of the terms not clear just let me know.

Great advice indeed!

The only thing that I would add is that the type of rider you are, sprinter, climber, allrounder etc is largely genetic and can be analysed using a power profile test.

People often say to work on your weaknesses. But the other argument is to stick to what your good at. The power profile test highlights your strengths and weaknesses and so you can think about these when you choose the types of events you want to ride.

Andy

https://www.facebook.com/biketrainingandracinginjapan/

www.jyonnobitime.com/time