Intervals on flats or hills?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Intervals on flats or hills?

    After reading all the good info on endurance training, I'm always left wondering how you do your intervals (hills, or flats)?

    I have always done my intervals at the biggest hill in my area (paved). It takes me 3 minutes to ride up (usually granny gear due to steepness, usually road bike...). Get to top, ride back down, repeat... 5-10 times.

    I'm starting to think most of you do intervals on flat roads, or flat trails...?
    Go hard x# minutes, Go easy xx# minutes...

    FYI: I typically only do 2 races a year; Mohican 100 & Mohican State Park race. I don't have a power meter or Heart monitor. And don't want to get one- I'm not that serious of a racer. My interval plan is push it 'til it hurts and hold it... And doing reps on "my hill" I'm in the granny gear anyway...

  2. #2
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    Well, they tend to be "easier" on hills for sure but IMO there's a lot of mental strength gained by pushing (or trying to) the same watts/effort on flats.

    many on here are coached or follow a plan so the intervals and rest periods are typically prescribed and there's usually a reason for both.

    Not quite sure what you're after but hope that helps in some way.

  3. #3
    LDC is ded,deth by trollz
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    Quote Originally Posted by NPeak View Post
    After reading all the good info on endurance training, I'm always left wondering how you do your intervals (hills, or flats)?

    I have always done my intervals at the biggest hill in my area (paved). It takes me 3 minutes to ride up (usually granny gear due to steepness, usually road bike...). Get to top, ride back down, repeat... 5-10 times.

    I'm starting to think most of you do intervals on flat roads, or flat trails...?
    Go hard x# minutes, Go easy xx# minutes...

    FYI: I typically only do 2 races a year; Mohican 100 & Mohican State Park race. I don't have a power meter or Heart monitor. And don't want to get one- I'm not that serious of a racer. My interval plan is push it 'til it hurts and hold it... And doing reps on "my hill" I'm in the granny gear anyway...
    Your plan is pretty much what it needs to be. If you live by Mohican do the climb to the firetower a bunch of times on the road, or enter the trail at the covered bridge and leave it at mile 15 parking lot and do laps of that.

    On long flat roads its easier to do true intervals but you dont need those anyways. Substitute one super hard ride for like two laps of Mohican trail only hammering the climbs and pedaling easy the rest. I love that trail with all my heart.

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  4. #4
    more skier than biker
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    It depends on the type of interval I am doing if I will do them on either flats / hills. For example,

    If I am doing longer intervals that target either solid threshold or sweet spot, (i.e. 2x20's, 4x10's, etc), I'll generally do those on the flats as it is the best way (for me) to get those solid consistent efforts in without stopping, etc. These longer ones I mostly do on my road bike or cross bike on paved roads...again, just to keep the power consistently down while minimizing coasting time...and also not to have to worry about killing someone coming the other way on a mulit-use trail lol

    If I am doing shorter interval (i.e. 4 - 5 minute VO2 max intervals, or 30 or 40 second neuromuscular intervals), I'll generally do these on a hill. These are easier done on a MTB (at least in the area I live) than the longer ones above so I'll try to do these there whenever I can.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for reply's!

    I guess to simplify my question; for intervals, Is it better to;

    1) Go 9 mph up a hill (low cadence, slow spinning) for x# minutes, or
    2) Go 30 mph on a flat road (hi cadence/spinning) for x# minutes...?

    I think LaneDetroit answered my question; for hilly race- do hilly intervals...?

    Problem for me is there are not a lot of hills longer than 3 minutes around me (Mohican is an hour drive).

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by NPeak View Post
    Thanks for reply's!

    I guess to simplify my question; for intervals, Is it better to;

    1) Go 9 mph up a hill (low cadence, slow spinning) for x# minutes, or
    2) Go 30 mph on a flat road (hi cadence/spinning) for x# minutes...?

    I think LaneDetroit answered my question; for hilly race- do hilly intervals...?

    Problem for me is there are not a lot of hills longer than 3 minutes around me (Mohican is an hour drive).
    As I understand it, and this is how I always execute, or try to, is you want an optimal cadence, which is generally 85-95rpm. By optimal, I mean the cadence you can most efficiently achieve a certain power metric....which generally is in that 85-95. I think that is the bread and butter.

    On the flip side, I have had intervals prescribed that specifically say "big ring" and detail a lower cadence, or cadence of 110. These aren't as common, and are targeting something a bit different than a standard old interval.

    Not sure how helpful that is....it does somewhat come down to what you are trying to achieve. Most importantly, keep it fun

  7. #7
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    Intervals are best done on a trainer (I know, I know... but itís true). Trails are too varied in terrain to be able to hit specific targets, flat roads can work but also are dangerous with traffic b/c if your focusing the way you should during the interval you are not looking out for cars. Hills on the road can be good, but again traffic. Also doing hills outdoors usually requires too long of a rest, b/c what you climb you must descend before you can climb again. So a trainer with power allows you to be very specific with your interval.

    But that isnít to say you canít make good gains outside. W/O a HR monitor or power meter it can be a little difficult to assess performance or work done. But when Iím doing intervals outside hills or flats Iím usually training for speed & prefer to do hills that take 3-4 minuets to climb and are fairly steep (nothing real massive). How I do it is use something like Strava so you can watch & record distance vs time. Iíll warm up well then do a real hard effort (80-85 %) noting the time it takes and distance covered. Based on that Iíll decide on how many repeats Iíll do, based on where Iím at in my training. Then my goal is to maintain a consistent time for each interval until I completely blow up. That is when the work starts. At this point Iíll stop focusing so much on elapsed time and keeping it consistent and put all my focus on pushing as hard & fast as I possibly can (all out effort). Then Iíll do as man of those as I can until I really drop off. Iíll then usually spin a few minutes (less than 5) and do 1 - 2 more hard efforts. By that time Iím cooked and just do a solid cool down of spinning.

    This isnít something I do all that often because if done properly you will need a few days to recover. After itís done review the intervals and how consistent you were or were not. Take note of when you hit the wall and if you were able to recover and by how much. This is a good assessment of what you can expect during a long race like a 100 miler and you can train to increase the time it takes to blow up and also reduce the time required to recover between repeats.

  8. #8
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    My recommendation would be you do both at different times. I would spend a lot of time doing longish intervals further out from your target event (this might sound vague, but without a HR monitor or power meter it will have to suffice) - shoot for 15-20 min per interval, try for 3 or 4 intervals in a session, give yourself good recovery between. Pace these so that by the last interval you're fully gassed. Which usually means the first couple are hard but doable.

    Then in the last 4 weeks leading up to the event I would throw in more of the shorter hill sprints just to top off your upper end power. Don't spend a crazy amount of time on these bc for the longer events you want to really maintain your long-haul diesel engine.

  9. #9
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    It's good to mix it up! I find most mountain bikers are pretty good at producing high power on hills where the torque is high and cadence is low. On the other hand, these same riders might struggle to produce the same power on the flat where the torque is lower and cadence is high...
    Roadies seem to be pretty good at both!
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