What is Interval Training?
Interval training is basically riding at different intensities for various periods of time during a ride. After a warm-up, a hard effort is followed by an easy effort to recover.
The general pattern is that the more demanding an interval is, the longer the recovery interval will be.
The objective is to raise your Lactate Threshold so that you can ride harder for longer thus improving your speed and endurance.
When you ride outdoors your rides most likely already consist of ‘intervals’. You’ll no doubt start your ride at a gentle pace for a few minutes (your warm-up), then gradually raise the intensity. As your ride progesses you’ll ride up hills at a greater intensity, then take it easy for a few minutes as you recover. Then you might charge along a stretch of flat road, maybe taking it in turns at the front if you’re riding with others. After that you might sprint to road signs, accelerate hard from junctions etc.. It’s basically an interval session. This type of training, based on the route, was called Fartlek training by the Swedish. ‘Fartlek’ maens Speed Play in Swedish and was developed for endurance athletes such as cross-country skiers and runners.
You’ve no doubt noticed that the longer/steeper a climb is, and the harder you ride it, the longer you will want to ride at an easy pace after it, or you might even stop (and wait for you mate, have a drink, something to eat) while you get your breath back. It’s the same principle when you do intervals indoors.
The problem riding indoors is that there’s no changes in terrain or landmarks for you to sprint to. This issue is solved by basing intervals on time and changing gears or resistance.
High Intensity Interval Training
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT or just HIT) where short intervals of maximum efforts with very easy recovery periods in between, have resulted in improvements in endurance. However these put the body under a lot of stress as the efforts are close to, or above, the anaerobic threshold.
The recovery periods are done at endurance pace or below. They are suitable for indoor cycling as a HIIT session need last only 45 minutes.
How High Intensity Training works
The intense efforts use the anaerobic system which produces an excess of lactic acid. During the recovery interval the body uses oxygen to re-process the lactic acid for further energy production and in this way the Aerobic system is developed. Over time the body will become more efficient at using oxygen to deal with the lactic acid and will be able to exercise for longer at a higher intensity thus reducing the rate of fatigue and muscular pain. Read more about HIIT here.
Sweet Spot Intervals
In comparison to HIIT, Sweet Spot Interval training involves efforts at a more moderate intensity. Thus the duration of the intervals are generally in the range of 5 to 10 minutes with a full workout adding up to around 30 minutes in the Sweet Spot zone. Read more about Sweet Spot Training here.