Intervals or Group riding?

BY IN Exercise Institute News On May 7, 2015

Intervals and group riding offer two unique versions of training stimulus for riders. In this article we outline the virtue of both aspects and highlight how either can be beneficial to performance gains.

This first image is a snapshot of heart rate (red line), power (pink line) and cadence (yellow line) when riding with a group of 3 fellow riders in a pace line format (single line format, with one rider on the front at a time taking 20 second turns, similar to a team time trial). Unique about this effort is that we can see the instances where the rider was on the front as the pink power line shows a peak in power production of around 350 watts (left axis) for a period of around 20-30 seconds. Our speed through this effort was largely constant even though power was not. The pink power line also demonstrates when the rider was recovering at intensities around 200 watts.

This phenomenon demonstrates how riding in a group can be fast, and at times fun, but is not necessarily exposing you to a demanding training stimulus. Still the Normalized power for this effort is around 271 watts for a 17 min period at an average HR of 169 bpm. A hard workout considering the athletes threshold HR is 170 bpm.

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IMAGE 1. Outlining the heart rate, power profile and cadence of a pace line effort with 3 other riders

Below in Image 2, the data trace outlines two different types of effort. Initially the variable output is a ‘Tabata’ effort; 20 seconds maximal, 10 seconds recovery for two and a half minutes, followed by a threshold effort completed individually for around 7 minutes. This phase of activity was hard with a Normalised power around 291watts and an average HR above threshold at 174bpm. Tabata Effort is based on a research study from Izumi Tabata and colleagues.

In the original study, athletes using this method trained 4 times per week where they completed 4mins of Tabata intervals, plus another day of steady-state training, and obtained gains similar to a group of athletes who did steady state training (70% VO2max, or within 10% of FTP) 5 times per week for 30mins at a time. The steady state group had a higher VO2max at the end (from 52 to 57 mL/(kg•min)), but the Tabata group had started lower and gained more overall (from 48 to 55 mL/(kg•min)). Also, only the Tabata group had gained anaerobic capacity benefits ( a 70% improvement). You can see how the solo effort is very constant as far as output goes and elicits a heart rate response that is very smooth. The initial Tabata effort actually has around 30 seconds recovery through the interval of approximately 2 mins. The threshold effort has no recovery across a 7 minute period.

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Image 2. An outline of Tabata intervals and Threshold efforts

If you are time poor and after a quick way of gaining significant fitness gains then the Tabata interval set will not only assist you in fast tracking fitness gains, but also increase your anaerobic capacity (ability to accelerate quickly and respond to surges, etc.) whereas the steady state activities will require significantly longer to do so and will not improve Anaerobic capacity in the process.

How does group riding fit into this process? Well group riding, or pace line riding more specifically, provides a mixture of the two and can be effective when intensities close to threshold HR are indicated. When looking at key markers of performance such as Vo2 max and Anaerobic capacity specific training may provide a novel way of fast tracking these performance gains.

Please note that the above instances are versions of Tabata efforts and are not as specific as those outlined in Tabata’s’s study. In the study participants were instructed to cycle for the 20 second maximal period at 170% of their VO2 max, the test was terminated if they could not sustain this figure. In this version of the effort the actual output was not regulated as such.

-Written by Brad Hall, Brad has a degree in Exercise Science and Psychology (Hons.) AMAPS



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