For most of the country, spring has sprung, and it’s finally time to take the bikes off the trainers and hit the road.
If you’re anything like me, you spent most of the winter pedaling away while binge watching House of Cards on Netflix, and while you’ve done an okay job of maintaining your fitness on the bike, you’re ready to get out of the “base building” phase, and on to the fun part of training.
To build your spring cycling fitness fast, there’s three workouts that you can incorporate into your weekly training. Adding interval sessions, hill sessions, and bike handling and technique work into your line up will boost your speed and endurance, and have you riding with a faster group in no time.
If you read the word “intervals” and groaned inwardly, then you know just exactly how effective they are. Paul Laursen, PdD of the University of Queensland in Australia was quoted recently in an article in Bicycling Magazine saying that intervals are a fast way to make you faster. In fact he says, “Just two weeks of interval training can enhance performance.”
They work by increasing your V02 max, burning fat, and helping you to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable in regards to your heart rate and lactic acid in your muscles.
Your interval workouts don’t need to be long, but it’s important that you find a flat stretch of road without any stoplights or sharp turns so that you can focus on giving every interval your hardest effort possible.
Give this workout a try to see fast improvements on the bike.
45 Minute Interval Workout
- Warm Up: 10 minutes at a high cadence, increasing heart rate over the warm up period
- Interval Set: 10 rounds of 45 seconds hard push at 80% effort. 15 second recovery.
**During the hard push keep your cadence between 85-110 rpm, add gear as needed to make this an effort at 80% of your maximum capacity.**
- Recovery Set: 5 minutes easy spin. Let your heart rate return to comfortable range.
- Interval Set: 10 rounds of 20 seconds hard push at 95% effort. 20 second recovery.
**During the hard push keep your cadence between 85-110 rpm, add gear as needed to make this an effort at 95% of your maximum capacity.**
- Cool Down: 10 minutes letting your heart rate return to normal and spinning out your legs
When it comes to hills, you either love them or hate them. There’s nothing quite like the joy of hammering hard and making it over the crest to hit some amazing speeds on the downhills, and with enough training you can become a strong, fast climber.
They key to dominating the hills is understanding your gearing, and finding a pace and resistance that challenges you, but that keeps your heart rate steady and your legs from blowing up on every ascent.
The best way to get better at riding hills is to, no surprise here, practice riding hills. Hill repeats are a great way to build your hill skills. Even if you live in a flat area (like, say Florida where I ride and train), chances are good that you’ll still be able to find a bridge, highway overpass, or hilly area where you can incorporate hill training into your monthly schedule.
For the best benefits, plan a hill repeat workout at least once a week and watch your leg strength and confidence on the climbs soar.
Hill Repeat Workout
Find a hill or climb that takes you approximately 5 minutes to ascend for this workout. If you don’t have one available, you can work to build your leg strength by simply riding in a harder gear than normal for the 5 minute climb interval.
1 Hour Hill Repeat Workout
- Warm Up: 15 minute gradual progressive warm up. Work to keep your cadence high and prepare your heart rate and legs for the activity.
- Hill Repeats: 5×5 minute repeats
Climb for 5 minutes working to keep your cadence and heart rate stable. Downshift as needed to keep your legs moving at an even pace through the full 5 minute interval.
Recover on the downhill.
- Repeat the 5 minuet climb 5 times.
- Cool Down: 15 minute gradual cool down letting your heart rate return to a comfortable place and flushing out any lactic acid in your legs from the climbs.
Cycling is almost as much about technique as it is about fitness, and adding drills with a focus of improving your cycling technique into your workout is a great way to get faster on the bike.
One easy way to pick up your speed is to increase your cadence, or the rate at which your feet rotate in your pedal stroke. The best cyclists aim to comfortably maintain between 90 and 110 RPM during their workouts. For most of us average Joe’s, that can feel a bit fast, so try adding this cadence drill into your next ride to help increase your RPM’s when you ride.
15 Minute Cadence Drills
You can do this workout on its own with a 10 minute warm up and 10 minute cool down, or add this into the middle of your next ride. Just make sure you give your legs enough time to warm up before starting the drills.
- 1 Minute: 95 RPM
- 1 Minute: 120 RPM
- 30 Seconds: 95 RPM
- 30 Seconds: Recover at your comfortable pace
- 30 Seconds: Max RPM you can hold consistently for entire 30 seconds
- 1 Minute 30 Seconds: Decrease to moderate pace
Repeat drill 3 times
**During your high cadence efforts make sure you’re not bouncing in the saddle. You want enough gear on your bike that you’re pushing and stable during the drill. If you can’t achieve the recommended cadence, work to hit as high as you can without allowing yourself to bounce.**