Workout for the Time-Crunched Triathlete: A Solid 1-Hour Tempo Bike Session

by Coach Abe Tayag, ITU Level 1 Coach/Head Coach at AT Performance Coaching/VelogicFit-certified Bike Fitter

As your base fitness improves over the course of a training period, so does your ability to recover faster from Anaerobic Threshold workouts. If your training plan incorporates one bike tempo workout for the past four or six weeks, you might want to consider a harder, tougher tempo bike workout. 

This tempo workout will be one of the tougher training sessions of the week, and if you own a power meter, the 20-minute main set can serve as an estimate FTP or Functional Threshold Power (Coggan Protocol-take your average power over the 20-minute hard effort, and subtract 5% to get an estimate of your FTP.)

Now onto the session:
Make sure that when you do the main set of 20 minutes of non-stop riding, you find a flat (false-flat are best) route wherein you will not be interrupted.

10 minutes Easy Riding on high cadence/light gear Zone 2

10 minutes Alternate 1 minute hard at Zone 4, 1-minute easy recovery spin at Zone 1
*On the hard interval-alternate between a higher cadence of around 100 rpm and a lower cadence of around 75 wherein you will be working the heavier gears. These alternate hard efforts will teach you to find your own pace rhythm-balance of cadence and gearing.

10 minutes Easy Riding on high cadence/light gear Zone 2

Main Set
20 minutes of non-stop riding at your goal 40k time trial pace. The effort must be thoroughly balance throughout the set with the rhythm on cadence and gearing you feel you can sustain till the end. Training zone for this set is Zone 4.  Common mistake done on this set is going too hard on the first few minutes, and the pace set cannot be sustained on the whole 20 minutes.

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Recovery: 10 minutes Easy spinning

This workout will  make you learn your natural rhythm and pace on the bike—natural cadence and gearing that you can sustain at your target goal pace on your races. But with the main set at the top end of Zone 4, improving your AT, and at the same time puts enough stress on your legs at the 20-minute 40k goal pace. This is one efficient bike workout when you only got one hour to spend for training!

Reference: Your Training Zones
Doing all your training in one intensity will not vastly improve your fitness. These simple training zones are a way of making sure you train at different intensities, testing your fitness limit in some workouts. This will help you which training zones you should spend the most time in. You can use “feel” or RPE (which is short for Rate of Perceived Exertion) which is based on a score out of 10, describing how hard it feels (where 10 is the hardest).

Zone 1. Super Easy. Heart rate 68-73% of max. 4/10 on RPE. So easy,you think you went out far too easy and felt guilty. If you felt that way, you are doing it right.
Zone 2. Light aerobic. Heart rate 74-79% of max. 5-6/10 on the RPE scale. It should feel easy at first but should feel as though you have been working out for several hours in the end. How do you know that this it is still not hard? You can still hold a conversation for the duration of the work out.
Zone 3. Moderate aerobic. Heart rate 80-85% of max. This is the gray zone, and most of us coaches do not want you to be in this zone. You typically aren’t going easy enough to get the benefits of a nice easy effort and you aren’t going hard enough to get the benefits of a ‘Race Pace’ workout. 7/10 on RPE scale.
Zone 4. Threshold. Heart rate 86-91% of max. 8-9/10 on the RPE scale, and is usually the race pace zone. Threshold is the effort you can manage to last for an hour. Your breathing is labored, and your legs and lungs are burning.
Zone 5. Above threshold. Heart rate 92-100% of max. You can only do short efforts on this zone. May last from seconds to maybe 5-6 minutes.

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