Cycle faster

Bike intervals

So far, sportives have been fun. Getting used to group riding, raising my average pace, increasing the distances covered at this pace. But something has been missing. When the bunch hits a short incline the strong riders rise from the saddle, step on the pedals and power away. When somebody darts out from the pack, the strong riders leap onto their wheel with a burst of speed. This is what’s missing from my cycling: I need more power.

Today I went to Regents Park to do some intervals. My dual aim is to: 1/ increase my overall sustainable pace (long steady rides are fine for base building, but shorter faster rides will increase my sustainable riding speed); and 2/ increase my pedal power.

On the Outer Circle I used the straight from the south east corner up to the north east corner (exit to Parkway) for my flat out bursts. This is a slight incline, levelling out two thirds of the way up, and came recommended by Al. The remainder of the loop was the recovery time.

A scientific approach would match the level of intensity with my precise anaerobic threshold. But – in the absence of this data – I aimed to simply ride as fast as I could evenly sustain during the near maximal exertion. This was generally 24-25mph – hitting 27mph at one point – and getting my heart rate up to 175bpm. The rest of the loop is flat so – whilst recovering – it’s easy to spin a fast yet easy cadence and maintain 20mph, heart rate dropping to approx 130bpm. For me this simulates sportive pace bunch riding and suited my objectives.

I did 6 repetitions, then headed home via Primrose Hill, Hampstead, and Highgate. To add some spice to the session I restricted myself to the large chain ring and powered up the short London hills (an alternative would be hill reps). Adding interval training will improve both my sportive performances and my triathlon time-trial riding.

Listening to your heart

How important is your resting heart rate?

An interesting question. For the last two years I’ve trained using a Polar heart rate monitor (HRM); training in heart rate zones helps me ensure sessions have maximum effect and prevents either under- or over-training. It’s easy to see general trends as a given training plan progresses, with average pacing during each heart rate zone gradually increasing as fitness improves. And equally an unusually elevated heart rate (or a slower pace within a heart rate zone) is a good indicator for fatigue, stress, poor nutrition, illness or general over-training.

However, monitoring heart rate during training doesn’t necessarily give you the full picture. So – as I taper for the London marathon – I decided to check out my resting heart rate. To do this I kept my HRM by my bed, and as soon as I woke up took a reading; I did this for four days in a  row. Why first thing? I wanted to avoid even the slight elevation caused by getting up! Things like walking, drinking a coffee and even having a shower can raise your heart rate, and I wanted a true reading.

The results were (in beats per minute): Thursday 43; Friday 42; Saturday 45; Sunday 43. Average: 43.

Entering the final taper week, I’m delighted to have a nice low heart rate. Runners World suggests it should be lower than during your peak training, as this is a great measure to show that mileage has been cut back adequately and that you’re getting sufficient rest at this vital time (see Taper Tips).

I also found some interesting heart rate charts for age and fitness comparison.


How fit are you? And are you over-trained?

How fit are you? And are you over-trained?