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  1. #1
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    Why Intervals are so effective.

    The best way to improve threshold power is to ride at threshold power. Threshold power is an important component of bike performance, and if it is a weakness (like it is for me), then it should be worked.

    Below I'm comparing power distributions of two rides: one hard group ride, and an interval day.

    It's just surprising that in that 2:10 group ride, there was so little time in the threshold zone. A lot of time is spent shooting above and below threshold. Great for VO2max and AC power, but not so much for threshold.

    On the interval day, I got more time in the threshold zone just by doing one flat 20min TT, just barely below TT race pace. (the other intervals put me either above or below threshold zone). Imagine if I did two 20 min TTs.

    Just some food for thought.
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    Last edited by Poncharelli; 09-09-2011 at 08:52 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Out of curiosity, we're both done on the same roads/conditions? Or was the interval session on the rollers?

    I find interval training effective mostly because I do them on the trainer and can control my environment better (no hills, stops, cars, etc.) In my area, it's almost impossible to get a steady 20 minute at threshold, it's always over/under/over/under...

    Also, a group ride has a lot of drafting, making it even harder to really put the power down and adding yet another element that doesn't help targetting a given power zone..

    I'm not surprised by your result, comparing a solo ride with an interval session on the other hand would be more relevant.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    It's just surprising that in that 2:10 group ride, there was so little time in the threshold zone. A lot of time is spent shooting above and below threshold. Great for AC power, but not so much for threshold.

    On the interval day, I got more time in the threshold zone just by doing one flat 20min TT. (the other intervals put me either above or below threshold zone). Imagine if I did two 20 min TTs.

    Just some food for thought.
    That is a problem with group rides. You often end up riding at other people's pace rather than your own.

    Group ride whore

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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by PissedOffCil View Post
    Out of curiosity, we're both done on the same roads/conditions? Or was the interval session on the rollers?

    I find interval training effective mostly because I do them on the trainer and can control my environment better (no hills, stops, cars, etc.) In my area, it's almost impossible to get a steady 20 minute at threshold, it's always over/under/over/under...

    Also, a group ride has a lot of drafting, making it even harder to really put the power down and adding yet another element that doesn't help targetting a given power zone...

    The interval session was on pancake flat roads with no stop signs, but a few corners and one 180 to turn around. Averaged 256W on the TT. Started very motivated above threshold zone, then was droppin power by the 13-15min point, then finished high (seems like the typical pattern for me).

    The road group ride was a 20 minute WU, then about 1:15 of race pace riding. Then a slow spin home. The race pace riding consist of one 6 minute hill, then a downhill, then a 2-3 minute hill, then we regroup and work together to get down to the flats. In the flats we did Team Time Trial format with 5 guys for about 40 minutes (stopping for a couple of stop signs and signal lights of course).

    The threshold zone was set from 240-275W I believe. For the most part, I was trying to stay above 250.

    The road group ride was Tuesday and interval session Thursday, FYI. Second week of a build period.

    Quote Originally Posted by PissedOffCil View Post
    I'm not surprised by your result, comparing a solo ride with an interval session on the other hand would be more relevant.
    A solo MTB ride for sure would be a good comparison. Wonder how much time is spent in the threshold zone there. Probably not much either.
    Last edited by Poncharelli; 09-09-2011 at 08:42 AM.
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  5. #5
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    not surprising.

    another aspect of group rides vs solo intervals though is that psychologically there is a huge difference.

    numbers on the screen don't have the same effect as knowing where you stand relative to others.

    it can work both ways though, i think not knowing where you stand can keep you working harder at times. it can be demoralizing to think you are going good and then get dropped from a group!

    focused intervals are tough psychologically though too. i know some life long athletes that are top in the nation that do zero focused intervals. instead the focus is terrain based, picking rides that provide the right terrain for a workout and then nailing it (flat ride for base, rolling hills for speed and AC, long climbs for threshold etc). unfortunately for one of them, there are no terrain based swimming workouts so his swimming holds him back!
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    I'm really looking forward to a winter of 2x20s on the trainer. Painfully hard during the 20, but feels so good afterwards.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by whybotherme View Post
    not surprising.

    another aspect of group rides vs solo intervals though is that psychologically there is a huge difference.
    Very true. The group ride, even though it had less time at Threshold, had a larger TSS and corresponding KJ's. Probably because it had more time at high Tempo.

    So psychologically, it's definitely an easier way to get a "bigger ride".


    BTW, on that particular group ride, i was the strongest guy that night. On other nights, when some of our strong roadie Cat 2's show up, then they just rip everyone's legs apart with hard surges. Then i get popped off the back, and struggle in zone 2/3 to the next meeting point.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    A solo MTB ride for sure would be a good comparison. Wonder how much time is spent in the threshold zone there. Probably not much either.
    I was thinking a solo road ride actually. Too many obstacles and terrain variations on the MTB around here, it's impossible to get a rythm. It's all burst, burst, burst...
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    Quote Originally Posted by PissedOffCil View Post
    I was thinking a solo road ride actually. .
    How long of a ride?

    If it's a road ride around 1.5 hours, and there is no power display to look at, then a highly motivated rider will probably average in the Tempo zone. It will still have to be paced correctly.

    That's because Tempo is considered "fun fast" (after 1.5 hours though, it's pretty painful).

    Threshold, definitely not as fun; actually, a lot of pain and concentration required. And by definition, can't be averaged longer than an hour.
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    The golden age of track running and the quest to break the 4 minute mile barrier was fueled in large part by the pioneers of interval training like Hans Gershler and Arthur Lydiard. Prior to this, runners just did time trials at their distances and struggled to find more speed when they reached their natural limits. The internet makes it easy for people like us to understand the physiology behind the training, I love trying to figure out how to make it all work. Even after more that 25 years racing, I still find it exciting to make a plan for the year and try to get my body to come around.

  11. #11
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    I seriously think my running 5k's, which are like a 20 minute interval, help more with my racing than group riding does...

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    Quote Originally Posted by nOOky View Post
    I seriously think my running 5k's, which are like a 20 minute interval, help more with my racing than group riding does...
    A 5k race is very demanding because you are getting into your anaerobic system a bit, the mile is especially punishing for this reason.

    Intervals, by definition, are training with both a "work" and rest interval. So running a 5K at 6 mins mile pace would be more of race effort, while running 12 quarters at 85 seconds (faster than you race) with a 200 jog between would be an example of intervals, in that all the work is done at a pace faster than you race.

    Bike intervals function exactly the same.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    How long of a ride?

    If it's a road ride around 1.5 hours, and there is no power display to look at, then a highly motivated rider will probably average in the Tempo zone. It will still have to be paced correctly.

    That's because Tempo is considered "fun fast" (after 1.5 hours though, it's pretty painful).

    Threshold, definitely not as fun; actually, a lot of pain and concentration required. And by definition, can't be averaged longer than an hour.
    On solo rides, terrain dictates your training more than anything else so it really depends. There is no clear answer to that question, I don't believe it's just a matter of ride length. Take a ride with a lot of hills and I'll average much higher power than flat roads because they are respectively my strength and weakness.

    I find it very hard to do intervals outside and the more I think about it, the more I'll keep my structured interval training for the trainer. Outside, it's just about pushing to the max given the terrain I have to deal with. Of course I'll choose my route based on what I want to work on but apart from that it's just pushing as hard as possible.

    That's my view of it anyways.
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    Not sure this is a thread about intervals being effective, more so that riding solo makes it easier to hit a pre-specified goal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bioteknik View Post
    Not sure this is a thread about intervals being effective, more so that riding solo makes it easier to hit a pre-specified goal.

    Everytime I think about intervals, I always remember this chart:

    Tempo Training | FasCat Coaching :: Cycling Coach for all Cyclists

    ......illustrating and listing the benefit of each zone.

    Riding solo definitely helps you stay within the appropriate zone.
    Last edited by Poncharelli; 09-13-2011 at 11:53 AM.
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    One more point.

    The thing that I failed to address though is that the group ride did have a lot of time at high tempo (which was captured in the "endurance" zone (140-235W)). (PowerAgent zones are screwy).

    High tempo also has a large improvement to Threshold as demonstrated by this chart:
    Tempo Training | FasCat Coaching :: Cycling Coach for all Cyclists

    But I wonder if the dosage of these threshold improvers matter? Anotherwords, is 10 min of constant threshold better than 10 1-minute threshold intervals with some lower powers thrown inbetween? Because this is probably how a group ride is accumulating threshold time, as the sum of a bunch of shorter efforts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    But I wonder if the dosage of these threshold improvers matter? Anotherwords, is 10 min of constant threshold better than 10 1-minute threshold intervals with some lower powers thrown inbetween? Because this is probably how a group ride is accumulating threshold time, as the sum of a bunch of shorter efforts.
    if one were to draw a parallel between LSD and threshold at the cellular/tissue level then it is likely that the "constant" demand is better for forcing adaptation than the "broken up" effort.

    i don't think that 2 1hr steady rides separated by time/recovery is anywhere near as good as 1 2hr steady ride for aerobic adaptation. though this opinion is solely derived from my own experience and my body's response to the stimulus.

    for higher intensities the "broken up" effort is required to put the same stress on the system. unfortunately the mental game one plays to repeatedly dig that deep is something i struggle with and usually wind up fading even though my legs could likely do the effort. that is why Allison's last intervals often have her dropping me instead of the other way around!!!
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by whybotherme View Post
    if one were to draw a parallel between LSD and threshold at the cellular/tissue level then it is likely that the "constant" demand is better for forcing adaptation than the "broken up" effort.

    i don't think that 2 1hr steady rides separated by time/recovery is anywhere near as good as 1 2hr steady ride for aerobic adaptation. though this opinion is solely derived from my own experience and my body's response to the stimulus.

    for higher intensities the "broken up" effort is required to put the same stress on the system. unfortunately the mental game one plays to repeatedly dig that deep is something i struggle with and usually wind up fading even though my legs could likely do the effort. that is why Allison's last intervals often have her dropping me instead of the other way around!!!:madman:
    Really? Damn..she's fast!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by rydbyk View Post
    Really? Damn..she's fast!!
    she is fast, but her beating my arse on intervals is more of a function of the mental toughness she displays in training during intervals and her capacity to pace perfectly and dig deep over and over again. during races we know that historically i put in faster laps (though my lap times typically lose a higher percent of time from first lap to last lap, possibly also a mental toughness issue after the race becomes a solo TT effort).
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