The hardest workout I can remember was in preparation for my World Hour Record ride in September 2014. That training session was on the cycling track in Grenchen, Switzerland. The program was 8 6-minute intervals at 105% race speed (that’s 5% faster than typical race pace).
Two-minute breaks were planned between the intervals, but during the break I was on free rollers, spinning my legs, so I never got off the bike except for the three seconds it took to jump onto the rollers. I basically went straight into the red from the gun, leaving no time to recover between intervals. As the session went on, it got harder and harder to match my planned speed.
Three rounds in, I was ready to throw in the towel. If it wasn’t for my team cheering me on, I probably wouldn’t have made it through it. The last 6-minute interval was completed purely on willpower. My body was so far in the red zone that I honestly don’t remember much.
After analyzing the numbers and looking at my speed, heart rate, and power output, I realized how hard I worked for this 48-minute session. That workout took my body to another level of fitness, but it was painful to get there. I had a heart rate of around 192 during the efforts and it only went down to the 165-170 beats per minute range during those two-minute breaks.
So, how can an everyday athlete or rider profit from my pain? As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, riding or running at the same speed will only get you so far. To improve your performance, you have to do intervals.
Jens Voigt’s Vicious-and-Violent All Out Speed Workout
If you’re a mid-level athlete, you can also glean lessons from how I prepared for the World Hour Record. With a few small tweaks, you can even tailor this type of session to your needs. Instead of training on a cycling track, choose a quiet road without traffic. If you know your anaerobic threshold, aim for a speed that will push your heart rate slightly above that threshold. Start with three 6-minute intervals at 105% race pace, with two minutes of active recovery between each one.
Finish your 6-minute effort and keep rolling very easy for another minute. Then turn around and roll back for a minute before starting your next 6-minute interval. When it comes to levels of exertion, you should be back to the point where you finished your first effort. Then, ride easy again for 2 minutes and complete another 6-minute interval in the opposite direction.
This program is not designed to build endurance or base miles. It’s supposed to be a vicious-and-violent all out effort. It’s only 24 minutes long, so it’ll be a shorter riding day, but it will be intense. I recommend sandwiching the intervals between a 45-minute warm-up and a 45-minute cool down. Looking to tweak the program a bit more? Another variation would be to keep the original six repetitions, but reduce the length of the intervals to as few as 4 minutes. It’s up to you to experiment and adapt the program to your needs.
Get Uncomfortable, Get Results
The ultimate goal is to train your body to work on a higher level. You’re trying to force your body to work in an uncomfortable zone, and get it used to creating lactic acid while reducing the level of lactate acid in your bloodstream as quickly as possible.
If you’re looking to amp up your power for your next race, this is a great way to improve your power output. This interval session is a perfect compliment to old-school, base mile running. If you’re a beginner, you can use this program to test your abilities and fitness. For a beginner with limited base miles, opt for an even shorter program. Warm up for 20 minutes, do 6 speed-pace-plus-5% intervals of 2 minutes each, and then cool down for 20 minutes. You’ll finish the whole training session in an hour.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.