Whether you’re cycling to train, lose weight, or for pleasure, there are lots of ways to fit a ride in. Commuting saves money, while sneaking some exercise. Riding a single-track can be a thrilling adventure. And, a daylong rails-to-trails ride with friends is a great way to socialize and sweat at the same time. But, what happens when you don’t have an entire day or even a couple hours to devote to riding? Instead of opting out of riding or exercise altogether, shorten your ride by upping the intensity. Interval training is the perfect remedy to the, “I don’t have time” excuse.
How it Works
Interval training features periods of all out effort, followed by brief periods of recovery. Put simply, you’ll be pedaling as hard and as fast as possible before cruising or slowing pedaling to catch your breath. These types of start and stop workouts require your muscles workout harder. As a result, your lungs have to work harder to send more oxygen to your muscles. As your legs and lungs are burning, you’ll be burning more calories and increasing oxygen uptake; helping you lose weight and improve cardiovascular conditioning.
Maybe you thought that the calorie burn and improved conditioning were the benefits, but that’s only part of the story. Truth is interval training reduces the amount of time you need to spend in the saddle. Studies have shown that a 20 minute interval workout burns more calories than a 2 minute steady-state workout, where the pace was consistent throughout the entire ride. By targeting fat and engaging multiple muscle groups, interval training produces lean muscle mass and strength. And, in case you’re not already convinced, the after-burn effect makes interval workouts even more efficient. The after-burn refers to the fact that your body will continue to burn calories for up to 48 hours after an intense workout.
There are a number of ways to integrate interval training into your current riding routine. For example, you could opt for timed intervals or distance efforts. You could chose to be in aero-position or regular riding posture. These sprints could be performed uphill or on a flat road. Ideally, you would be completing a variety of interval workouts, while mixing in longer endurance based rides. Try getting started with one of these interval based workouts.
The Little Method.
First, warm-up for 3 minutes. Then, complete pedal as fast as possible for 60 seconds. Follow that up with 75 seconds of slow cycling at a low resistance. Repeat same process for 12 total sets or 27 minutes. Tempo Intervals. Warm-up for 10 minutes at an easy pace; a 3-4 RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion, or RPE, is measured on a scale of 1-10, 1 being no exertion, 10 being your absolute limit). Then, perform three two minute intervals at a level 5-6 RPE. Recover for five minutes between each interval at 3 RPE. That’s only 30 minutes including the warm-up, but you’ll be reaping the benefits all day. Hill Climbs. Find a steep hill that takes 60 to 90 seconds to climb. After a 5-10 minute warm-up, sprint up said hill. Cruise back to the bottom and rest up to two minutes before hitting the hill again. Aim for 8-10 total sprints. For an added challenge, try remaining in the saddle for the entire sprint.
You Do Have Time
Thanks to interval training, time is no longer an issue. An effective workout that burns fat and improves fitness can be had in 30 minutes or less. No matter your current level or fitness or cycling experience, begin to incorporate intervals into your riding routine for better results in less time.