Are intervals really necessary for racing?



lorrod

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What are your thoughts about doing intervals for training in order to race? For instance, would you say they are absolutely positively necessary.......or can you get by without doing them?
 

daveryanwyoming

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lorrod said:
What are your thoughts about doing intervals for training in order to race? For instance, would you say they are absolutely positively necessary.......or can you get by without doing them?
Only if you care about your results :)

You've got to target each energy system you'll need during your races. If you only do long rides even at threshold pace you won't be working pure VO2 max or pure anaerobic efforts much less pure phosphocreatine driven sprints. Some folks avoid the short intervals with a combination of longer training rides and lots of races for the speed work. That can work if you have the time and can get to enough races but it's not the most time efficient approach.

It also depends a bit on how you define "intervals" I know a number of riders that refuse to consider 20 to 30 minute efforts "intervals". Fine call them blocks or efforts or whatever feels right but the word interval doesn't demand anaerobic output. For the best value for your training time buck long(20 to 30 minute) aerobic threshold and SST intervals are hard to beat. 3 to 5 minute L5 intervals will top off your VO2 max and the high end of your aerobic capabilities, and as racing season approaches some 1 to 2 minute anaerobic L6 intervals can pay off big time. And if you want to contest sprints then some 10 to 20 second L7 neuromuscular "intervals" are pretty important. Maybe those don't sound like intervals to you, but they're focused efforts targeting specific adaptations and specific energy delivery systems.

I consider all of those to be forms of interval training and feel it's real important to have one of those or something like it in mind when I start each training ride. Without a specific training goal in mind (that usually means specific intensities for specific durations or at least minimum durations and that to me defines intervals) it's not a "training" ride, it's just a bike ride. If you've got the time to do long unstructured rides and the time to recover sufficiently from them you might still achieve your goals but most folks can get there faster with more time to recover and more time for the rest of their lives by focusing their efforts and that pretty much means intervals of some sort.

Good luck,
Dave
 

Sillyoldtwit

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lorrod said:
What are your thoughts about doing intervals for training in order to race? For instance, would you say they are absolutely positively necessary.......or can you get by without doing them?
No, and yes. No, if you want to plod along as you've always done, and yes if you want to improve. ;) Tyson
 

lorrod

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I consider all of those to be forms of interval training and feel it's real important to have one of those or something like it in mind when I start each training ride. Without a specific training goal in mind (that usually means specific intensities for specific durations or at least minimum durations and that to me defines intervals) it's not a "training" ride, it's just a bike ride. If you've got the time to do long unstructured rides and the time to recover sufficiently from them you might still achieve your goals but most folks can get there faster with more time to recover and more time for the rest of their lives by focusing their efforts and that pretty much means intervals of some sort.

Good luck,
Dave[/QUOTE]
Hi Dave - Thank you for these suggestions - this is great! Now, in the above paragraph, you state that you start every training ride with something like interval training in mind. But, you don't do some type of intervals for every ride, do you?
 

daveryanwyoming

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..... you state that you start every training ride with something like interval training in mind. But, you don't do some type of intervals for every ride, do you?
Nope, not every ride but yes for every "training" ride. I don't consider on the bike rest days to be training, more like a form of recovery to get me ready for training. I also do some social rides with my wife or non racing friends. Those don't require any specific goals, time durations or intensities beyond enjoying the day. And once in a while I do a long ride fairly fast like an impromptu 100 miler with a team mate. On rides like that I just pay attention to pace and fueling but I don't break it into blocks or intervals. I guess those are training of a sort in terms of getting used to being in the saddle for longer periods and encouraging my muscles to store glycogen but they don't form the core of my training and they're pretty few and far between(I've only done one this year and I'm on week 36 of steady training).

But my basic week including pre-race minitapers involves some goal on every ride. A typical week this time of year might be:

M - rest (on or off bike depending on energy and available time)
T am L7 sprints, pm L5 VO2 max
W L4 3x20 minutes
Th L3/SST 2-3 hour ride (I like to do 45 to hour plus high L3 blocks)
Fr. rest(on or off bike)
Sat Race or L4 work (or social ride if I'm tapering, tired or just feel like it)
Sun Race or Tempo work(same note as above)

Each of those has a goal and the goals imply both intensity and duration for the efforts. I don't get on the bike just go riding and call it training. Leaving the house every day with a plan and a goal is the single biggest change I've made to training after 25 years of cycling and it has paid off with less time on the bike, much better recovery and much better race results. Sometime the plan has to be changed when the legs just aren't recovered from a previous effort but then I just drop intensity a notch and work the next level down. If I can't even do that I just go home and get back on track the next day.

-Dave
 

lorrod

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daveryanwyoming said:
Nope, not every ride but yes for every "training" ride. I don't consider on the bike rest days to be training, more like a form of recovery to get me ready for training. I also do some social rides with my wife or non racing friends. Those don't require any specific goals, time durations or intensities beyond enjoying the day. And once in a while I do a long ride fairly fast like an impromptu 100 miler with a team mate. On rides like that I just pay attention to pace and fueling but I don't break it into blocks or intervals. I guess those are training of a sort in terms of getting used to being in the saddle for longer periods and encouraging my muscles to store glycogen but they don't form the core of my training and they're pretty few and far between(I've only done one this year and I'm on week 36 of steady training).

But my basic week including pre-race minitapers involves some goal on every ride. A typical week this time of year might be:

M - rest (on or off bike depending on energy and available time)
T am L7 sprints, pm L5 VO2 max
W L4 3x20 minutes
Th L3/SST 2-3 hour ride (I like to do 45 to hour plus high L3 blocks)
Fr. rest(on or off bike)
Sat Race or L4 work (or social ride if I'm tapering, tired or just feel like it)
Sun Race or Tempo work(same note as above)

Each of those has a goal and the goals imply both intensity and duration for the efforts. I don't get on the bike just go riding and call it training. Leaving the house every day with a plan and a goal is the single biggest change I've made to training after 25 years of cycling and it has paid off with less time on the bike, much better recovery and much better race results. Sometime the plan has to be changed when the legs just aren't recovered from a previous effort but then I just drop intensity a notch and work the next level down. If I can't even do that I just go home and get back on track the next day.

-Dave
Back in the day, it use to be that you only did intervals once...or maybe twice......per week. Do you think, with the different variations of interval definitions now, it's okay to do them up to 4 or 5 days per week?
 

youhaditcoming

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daveryanwyoming said:
And if you want to contest sprints then some 10 to 20 second L7 neuromuscular "intervals" are pretty important. Maybe those don't sound like intervals to you,
Hi, sprints are sprints, and intervals are intervals. 10 to 20 seconds maximum efforts are sprints... why complicate things...
 

sogood

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youhaditcoming said:
Hi, sprints are sprints, and intervals are intervals. 10 to 20 seconds maximum efforts are sprints... why complicate things...
Nothing complicated. It's interval when those 20s sprints are repeated over and over.
 

daveryanwyoming

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youhaditcoming said:
Hi, sprints are sprints, and intervals are intervals. 10 to 20 seconds maximum efforts are sprints... why complicate things...
Folks seem awfully hung up on the definition of the word "interval" I just see it as any time you make some effort for a minimum or preset time at a particular intensity, rest and then do it again. That was the point of my post. No, I don't go out saying I'm doing 15 second L7 intervals today, I just go sprinting but it's still a form of interval work. The OP asked whether intervals are necessary for race success, the answer depends on how you define the term.
 

Ergoman

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Feb 21, 2007
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To answer your question: Determine what kind of demands are made by the riding that you intend to do, then train specifically to meet those demands.

Road racing is a series of intense efforts with periods of rest interspersed. Intervals (no matter how they're defined) come closest to simulating road racing. If you plan to enter catagorized races, either do intervals as preparation or plan to get dropped a lot.

P.S. Ever wonder why triathletes who can hammer all day at 26 mph get dropped in their first Cat-5 criterium? It's because they haven't trained for the specific demands of the race they entered, not because they're weak riders or can't handle the bike.
 

Animator

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Ergoman said:
Road racing is a series of intense efforts with periods of rest interspersed. Intervals (no matter how they're defined) come closest to simulating road racing. If you plan to enter catagorized races, either do intervals as preparation or plan to get dropped a lot.
Not entirely accurate. e.g., 20 min. intervals are unlike most any road race unless you're solo off the front. What I've learned from this forum is that the idea is to prepare your body for the rigors of racing, not necessarily to simulate it. And doing the right intervals does that most efficiently.

However, if you have loads of time, you can do it the inefficient way of just going out with your buddies and hammering each other into pulps a few times a week. That worked for me 20 years ago when I had loads of free time. You won't reach your full potential this way but that may not be so important for you. Just depends on what you're looking for.
 

Ergoman

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Animator said:
Not entirely accurate. e.g., 20 intervals are unlike most any road race unless you're solo off the front. SNIP

I'm unclear as to what you're saying. What is/are "20 intervals"? If you mean riding 20 minutes at FTP and then repeating, then that kind of "interval", if you wish to define it as an interval, would indeed be most specific to a solo off the front.

My point is that road racing is not just time-trialing or solo breaks. It's on and off with efforts of varying intensity and duration. The best preparation for racing, assuming a decent base, is intervals of an intensity and duration that most closely match the efforts that will be required in a race. The preparation should be specific to the competition.
 

Animator

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Sorry, forgot the the "minute," as in 2x20 min. intervals. You're saying essentially the same thing I intended to say.
 

daveryanwyoming

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lorrod said:
...Do you think, with the different variations of interval definitions now, it's okay to do them up to 4 or 5 days per week?...
Is this a trick question? I just outlined a typical weekly schedule where I do just that, yeah I guess it's o,k, to do intervals 4 or 5 days a week based on the way I define the term.
Back in the day, it use to be that you only did intervals once...or maybe twice......per week.
Yep, back in the day I paid some highly respected coaches who advised me to follow schedules such as:
M-rest
T- Sprint
W- Long ride
Th - intervals
Fr - easy
Sat. Long ride or race
Sun. Long ride or race

I followed schedule's like this for years, sometimes with HR limits thrown into the mix, sometimes with specific drills like "switch between your big and small ring every 5 minutes on your long ride regardless of terrain". But very rarely with any meaningful focus for the rides other than "long"

That's part of the reason I'm strongly advocating a specific training goal at a specific intensity for each training ride. I guess I ruffled some feathers with the way I define intervals, that's cool call 'em what you want but I'm over heading out to train just to go "long" or just to "get miles" without a defined physiological goal.

Similarly I like thinking in terms of intervals because it clearly differentiates a targeted training ride from a random group or solo ride with a bit of this and a bit of that. Even back in the day I noticed the most sucessful local riders tended to train alone, now that I use a PM and have a better understanding of the need to train specific systems in specific ways I'm also going out alone and working what I need to work at the level that fits my abilities. And even though I'm considerably older I'm going faster than ever before.

I think Ergoman and Animator and I are basically saying the same things in different ways. You need to train to the demands of your activities and personally I think targeted, repeated training blocks are the best way to accomplish that task. I also agree with Animator's point that given a lot of time it's possible to get there without structure but almost everyone is time and recovery limited so IMO focused workouts are a more reliable and quicker path.

-Dave
 

lorrod

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daveryanwyoming said:
Is this a trick question? I just outlined a typical weekly schedule where I do just that, yeah I guess it's o,k, to do intervals 4 or 5 days a week based on the way I define the term.
Yep, back in the day I paid some highly respected coaches who advised me to follow schedules such as:
M-rest
T- Sprint
W- Long ride
Th - intervals
Fr - easy
Sat. Long ride or race
Sun. Long ride or race

I followed schedule's like this for years, sometimes with HR limits thrown into the mix, sometimes with specific drills like "switch between your big and small ring every 5 minutes on your long ride regardless of terrain". But very rarely with any meaningful focus for the rides other than "long"

That's part of the reason I'm strongly advocating a specific training goal at a specific intensity for each training ride. I guess I ruffled some feathers with the way I define intervals, that's cool call 'em what you want but I'm over heading out to train just to go "long" or just to "get miles" without a defined physiological goal.

Similarly I like thinking in terms of intervals because it clearly differentiates a targeted training ride from a random group or solo ride with a bit of this and a bit of that. Even back in the day I noticed the most sucessful local riders tended to train alone, now that I use a PM and have a better understanding of the need to train specific systems in specific ways I'm also going out alone and working what I need to work at the level that fits my abilities. And even though I'm considerably older I'm going faster than ever before.

I think Ergoman and Animator and I are basically saying the same things in different ways. You need to train to the demands of your activities and personally I think targeted, repeated training blocks are the best way to accomplish that task. I also agree with Animator's point that given a lot of time it's possible to get there without structure but almost everyone is time and recovery limited so IMO focused workouts are a more reliable and quicker path.

-Dave
Hi Dave - No no, no trick question. I'm trying to overcome my retrogrouch fears of consistent interval training for racing. You know, the whole "Be careful when you do intervals or you're gonna overtrain!" I really appreciate all of the advice given here. I have to admit, I don't do intervals.....and my results pretty much show it(they suck!). So, thought I would ask the question to the group to see what they thought about it. Thank you for all of the advice - it's extremely helpful.

Now......I guess I should get started on the interval workouts!
 

daveryanwyoming

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lorrod said:
..... I'm trying to overcome my retrogrouch fears of consistent interval training for racing. You know, the whole "Be careful when you do intervals or you're gonna overtrain!" ...
That advice is still valid if you define intervals as short anaerobic or even high end VO2 Max efforts. A daily diet of minute long max effort bursts can certainly lead to overtraining. If you use a more general definition of blocked, repeated training at appropriate intensities then no, they will not necessarily lead to burnout.

For non PM users that really means finding the best steady pace you can hold for the target durations, here's a rough guide to durations for different systems:

L7 sprints: 10 - 20 seconds
L6 anaerobic tolerance: 30 seconds - 2 minutes(don't do a lot of these, they'll burn you out quick)
L5 VO2 Max: 3 - 8 minutes (5 minutes being typical, again not too many sessions)
L4 FTP or Threshold pace: 10 - 30 minutes (20 minutes typically)
L3 Tempo: 30 - 90 minutes or just go riding but stay focused
L2 Endurance: As long as you can stay steady(pretty rare in my schedule these days, but I get a lot of this between harder efforts)
L1 Active recovery: on bike rest days, just go out for an hour or so or use between harder efforts to recover.(not really training, just rest and staying loose)

If you're just transitioning from more general miles based riding to focused training I'd strongly recommend targeting L3 and L4 work or more specifically that gray boundary between the two called SST or Sweet Spot Training. It's the best way to get a lot of time and a lot of aerobic training benefit. At some point you'll need to work other systems depending on your events and your own strengths and weaknesses but start working those to build a big aerobic engine. Those two will help you the most in terms of fast pace and long hills and will form a solid aerobic base for further work. Neither of those, especially the L3 work should kill you. They should take focus but feel pretty decent. Read up on SST in other threads here and dial into the RPE that you can sustain for those longer blocks.

Good luck,
Dave
 

lorrod

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ric_stern/RST said:
No, they're not *absolutely* necessary. But whether that's a good or bad approach is a different question

ric
But for the most part, when it comes to racing, intervals are probably recommended, yes?