Interval training for cyclist

Interval training for cyclists

I do it and you should too.

As it is pretty well documented, once you get into your thirties there is a slowing down of your metabolism, on average between 2-4%. The good news is, interval training for cyclists is one of many methods that can be used to off-set the decline.

Everyone needs a vacuum cleaner workout

I had been cycling alone for about a month before one Sunday, on my way out, a big group of local riders I had seen a few times before, flew by shouting ‘vamos’ and I thought, why not, let’s go! 3 hours later and back home, buzzing from my first group ride, I knew my solo rides would never be the same again.

Cycling in a big group takes the sport to a whole new level, there are technical skills and etiquette to master, but if you can find a group that challenges you to an appropriate level you can boost your metabolism and preserve your muscle tone. A few other ways you can do this are;

  • Body weight circuits
  • Resistance circuits
  • Interval Running
  • Hill Running
  • Kettelebell Exercises
  • Skipping

So we are looking at any physically demanding task that

a) Uses many muscle groups

b) Is done near maximum heart rate.

It is good that we can achieve this on the bike, because if you can overload the muscles, this will promote protein building and lean mass preservation.

We  know that our intervals need to be demanding but on the other hand there needs to be adequate recovery afterwards, on the bike you can use intervals between 30-seconds and 8 minutes, recovery should be set at a ratio of 1:1, therefore a 5-minute interval should have a 5-minute recovery period.

You can have a structured plan to your intervals, as mentioned above or if you are lucky enough, as I am, to be able  to ride with a huge cycling community in an area with some great climbs and very light cyclists, you will have ample opportunity to challenge yourself.

I said that everyone needs ‘a vacuum cleaner workout’, mine was the Saturday morning rides – climbing day. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to join the group and it was an experience, so much so that when I got home I would be so shattered that I would sneak upstairs, turn the vacuum cleaner on and pretend I was cleaning, so that I could have a 10 minute nap!

Now I must tell you, by the end of the month I was able to get back from a Saturday hill session, have a shower and a protein shake,  be released back into the community to go out to lunch, shopping or anything else normal people do on a Saturday.

Afterwards is when the magic happens

During those sessions you are burning lots of calories, however the real key to interval training is what happens after your interval session.

If your interval is intense enough, your oxygen demands remain elevated well after the interval session. with low intensity cardio you only benefit from a few minutes of additional oxygen demand.

However with a high intensity interval activity, the oxygen demand can remain high for anywhere from 6 to 48 hours, depending on the intensity and duration of the interval session.

Mix it up

As much as I feel I get out of interval sessions, it is really important for me to include a variety of rides and activities to develop a strong aerobic base, avoid burnout and aid recovery.

Drop me a line if you would like some help with your sessions and also let me know ‘what your ‘vacuum cleaner workout’ looks like?


  • Steve

    Reply Reply October 29, 2016

    Hi, I spend an awful lot of time doing cycling interval training. In fact pretty all of it is interval of one kind of another. It’s an incredibly efficient way of training. And with the busy lives we all lead getting the most from our training is paramount.
    Great to see you advocating this type of training. Too many people just ride their bikes and think it’s training!

    • fitbodycyclist

      Reply Reply October 29, 2016

      Thanks for that Steve! I think that when you have such a solid goal as an Ironman and a busy lifestyle too, you really have no choice but to include quality training into your program. The problem is when you lean to the more social aspect of cycling and have access to all the amazingly efficient equipment out there, it is really easy to “de-train” if you are not careful. All the best with your up and coming event and if you fancy some warm weather cycling in southern Spain, let me know?

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