How to get faster with interval training

Three short but intense workouts to improve your cycling

You can increase your body’s anaerobic capacity, power and endurance – and your cycling speed – with some short, sharp bursts of interval training, explains former Cycling Plus magazine deputy editor and time triallist Neil Pedoe.

Here are three sessions that will improve your cycling and help you achieve personal bests. They're also a good way to spruce up a stale training regime.

Hill speed: two-minute repeats

Climbing takes it out of you at the best of times, but this hard-and-fast short burst of pain will help your long-term power. Find a short, sharp hill, no more than a minute or two of climbing, and speed up as you approach, switching to larger gears and reaching your maximum speed. Power up the climb trying to maintain this, then after you’ve reached the top roll back down and repeat five times.

Sprint seconds: 15-second sprints

After warming up for 20 minutes on flat roads, sprint for 15 seconds all-out, followed by three to four minutes of gentle pedalling for recovery. Repeat this pattern for five or six sprints or until your top effort starts to drop. The hard, short intervals make anabolic changes, meaning more protein is synthesised in the muscles, making them stronger, and letting you ride faster.

Shock tactics: three-minute repeats

With these traditional interval sessions, the point is to shock your body into adaptation. They will help improve your speed while also upping your aerobic capacity. Warm up thoroughly, then perform five sets of three minutes intervals flat-out at the highest pace you can sustain, with three minutes of recovery in between. Your recovery should still include cycling, by sitting up, turning the pedals softly and trying to regain control of your breathing.

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