Episode #15 – Boost Your Power and Speed with One Hour per Week

Episode #15 – Boost Your Power and Speed with One Hour per Week

Introducing the Tuesday of Terror aka Hour of Power aka Hour of Speed. The prescribed intervals in this episode are key to building power and speed in both the off season and competition phases.

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Let’s talk about Andy Schleck’s woeful season. After fracturing his hip in the Critérium du Dauphiné in June he was forced to sit out the Tour de France. A 6 week recovery was the first estimate, but he had trouble riding and discovered more pain when he went to Switzerland to train in the mountains, where it turned out that he had an inflammation of the hip and that put him off the bike for longer. He has come out and said that the Tour of Beijing is the start of his 2013 season, and after the race he is going to train through winter in a warm part of Spain.

Will he be back? Other than the fact that he’s still only 27 years old, my take is never write off a champion. This pains me to say, but I have to admit I lost faith that Cadel would ever win the Tour de France, and look what happened there. The next year he smashed it! He was the strongest rider in the peloton. The lesson I took from that is when everyone else has given up on you, never give up on yourself. Andy will be back, mark my words.

Speaking of Cadel it’s not known yet if he’s over the viral infection that ruined the end of his season. He’s been off for 4 weeks because of it and will have a blood test later this week in Milan to see how he is recovering. “Based on that, we will decide the management of his condition,” said team doctor Max Testa. “The plan is still to maintain the winter training schedule that was discussed before. “So there’s no reason to think we will change his training program at all for next season.”

Tell me, what do you think about Cadel, is it too early to ask the question whether he’s done? He will be 36 next season and still considers himself a Tour contender, but too me it seems like other things are taking priority, and rightfully so. The dude has been riding for a long time, and with a new focus being on baby Robel, I wouldn’t be surprised if he bows out of the peloton after next year. Till then though, I am not going to officially write him off just yet. Lesson learnt on that one.

Boost Your Power and Speed with One Hour per Week

I used to loathe Tuesdays. They were my solo effort/ergo days. Always consisting of an uncomfortable pain that I couldn’t distract myself from. The fact is though Tuesdays were the difference in maintaining my form over winter, and riding with confidence in winter races. Also not suffering like a dog. My Tuesdays consisted of one element split two ways. They were either and hour of power or an hour of speed. I’m going to go through a 3 step plan for each to see if they can work for you. Now a reminder I’m not a coach, and generally I only did what I was told. So you will have to look a bit deeper than this episode if you want to use these properly in your training program.

Hour of Power

It means a bunch of different things to a bunch of different people, this is my take. I stole this name from a hard club training ride done in Canberra on Tuesdays. It just happens that I never did that hour of power because I had my own. I don’t know about you but I’ve never been a consistent morning trainer so this concept has served me well through many winter months.

So what’s the theory behind the hour of power? It goes like this. The idea is that all you need for focussed quality training is an hour of power. It’s training with high intensity that improves your ability to continue exercise without accumulating lactic acid. This physiological skill is often the most determinant factor in endurance sports. The aim is to increase your threshold power because that will make you a better endurance athlete.

There’s no other way to put it, it’s a hard hour. I’ve always been told, to be good at the tough stuff you have to do the tough stuff, and this is precisely the definition of that saying.

Now the tricky bit here is knowing what type of intervals to include in your hour of power as training should increasingly take on the characteristics of the goal race. That means being certain to make both the durations and intensities of your workouts similar to those of the race. So this is where at least one of your weekly workouts should take on the combined intensity and duration characteristics of your chosen race type. You want the stress you experience in this workout to approach that which you will experience in the race. For most endurance-sport events, it’s unlikely that you will make this workout just as long and just as intense as the race. That’s likely to be far too demanding in terms of motivation and the number of days needed afterwards to recover before training hard again. But you can make it just as intense only shorter, or just as long only less intense. Intervals, repetitions and challenging workout segments can be included in workouts of different durations to simulate the stress of the race.

For all endurance cycling intervals there are common building blocks. Today I’m going to talk about 2 types. Steady state and speed work.

Where to start? What gets measured gets managed.

1. Perform a Power Metre Test

I recommend you do a 30 minute all-out test to get your current threshold power. A power metre is the best way to read your average power output in the test. I’m not going to get into this here but I will say power is the best measure of output available to those with deep pockets. Heart rate is a measure of input and is not as absolute as watts, and not as reliable. Buy a power metre.

In theory, the aim is to get a picture the power you would average with your highest possible effort during a 60-minute race. Joe Friel recommends the average power for this 30-minute, solo effort to be quite close to what you would do in a 60-minute race.

2. Plan Your Interval Sessions

Now when you know AVERAGE watts from the 30 minute test, you can plan interval training on these values. The main reason to use a power meter in your cycling training is you get a better and more accurate picture of the physiological parameters you want to improve. Using a power meter makes it easy to train exactly what you want to improve.

Say for example you are training for MTB Marathons. You want to have a quality workout that focuses on steady state intervals. These are intervals that are done at your AVERAGE watts, and in this case we would like to focus on threshold power so we use our test result to plan the interval training. That means that if you hit an average power output of 300W in 30 minute maximum test, your intervals could look like this:

3 x (8min + 2min) 300 / 150W

That means 8 minutes work with a power output around 300W followed by 2 minutes with active recovery around 150W. You shall repeat these intervals 3 times which gives a total of 24 minutes with 300W and 6 minutes with 150W.

Depending on my fitness I would start the season at 3 minute efforts and build up to 15 / 20 minute efforts. Working with the short to long approach, it can be built up over time where the gap in training is filled in with endurance and practice races before the major competitions.

Week 1

10min warm-up
4 x (5min high intensity + 2min low intensity) = 20min + 8min
5min cool down

Week 2

10min warm-up
3 x (7min high intensity + 2min low intensity) = 21min + 6min
5min cool down

Week 3

10min warm-up
3 x (8min high intensity + 2min low intensity) = 24min + 6min
5min cool down

Week 4

10min warm-up
5 x (8min high intensity + 2min low intensity) = 40min + 10min
5min cool down

This program gives you between 20 and 40 minutes at very high aerobic oxygen consumption. Your aerobic engine will love this program and you will be glad that these tough intervals are separated into short bursts. The idea is to break it up so it’s not too painful, but it is important to maintain some intensity in the recovery periods since that will help you to recover faster.

3. Ride Your Intervals

Now you are ready to start your interval training. After a solid incremental warm up you are ready for the interval session. Try to maintain a power output as described, don’t go faster than your training plan tells you to. 6 to 8 weeks later you should go back to Step 1 to do another power meter threshold test. Then you can plan new intervals based on your imporoved threshold power.

Hour of Speed

I would actually swap out my hour of power for an hour of speed in competition phases. Specifically with less time to train, I think this is the best bang for your buck. If your test times improve, you are on the right track.

The theory is that if you can increase your top speed over short distances, your old race pace will become easier to maintain. You should become a more efficient racer as what used to be 40 km/hr top average pace over a distance becomes 42km/hr.  So your race pace over a longer distance should also lift, this works like steady state intervals and is based on a threshold theory.

This work is primarily used in competitions, where jumps and sprints demand anaerobic efforts. This type of training is very exhausting and therefore it should primarily be used for competition preparation. This speed work program is designed to increase your short distance lactic speed efforts. Working with a short to long approach, only working with speed as your guide rather than heart rate or power and going to a shorter more lactic level to begin with.

It’s important to monitor how the efforts feel and whether you are getting up to the target speed. This will be a measure of if you are able to push them longer. Included are efforts up to 1 min, but if your speed is drops off before this time or your target km/hr is not obtainable.

1. Perform a 5km Time Trial Test

Do a 5 km TT in the first week to set a speed pace for the efforts.  Whatever your AVERAGE speed is during this 5 km TT will determine your speed in the efforts. You will need to work out 120% of your average speed and then perform your efforts at this speed (ie. if speed in TT is 30 km/hr then your intervals speed will be 36 km/hr).  Your gear selection shouldn’t change.  Your heart rate should be recorded, but won’t be used as a guide for effort and your cadence should be faster in efforts than in the TT.

2. Plan Your Interval Sessions

Week 1

2(5 x :00:30 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= 00:30

2(8 x :00:15) ride DH with 120+ RPM. Maintain RPM into flat until it drops below 100. Repeat.

Week 2

2(5 x :00:45 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= 00:30

3(3 x 01:00 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= :01:00

Week 3

3(4 x :00:45 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= 00:30

2(8 x :00:30 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= 00:30

Week 4

3(3x :01:00 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= :01:00

2(5 x :00:45 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= 01:30

Week 5

2(5 x :00:30 @ 120% of TT SPEED)) R= 01:00

3(3 x :01:00 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= 01:30

Week 6

2(5 x :00:30 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= 01:00

3(3 x :01:00 @ 120% of TT SPEED) R= 01:30


3. Ride Your Intervals

Now you are ready to start your interval training. After a solid incremental warm up you are ready for the interval session. Try to maintain the speed output as described, don’t go faster than your training plan tells you to. 6 to 8 weeks later you should go back to Step 1 to do another 5km TT test. Then you can plan new intervals based on your improved speed.
Hopefully this information will help you take your threshold power or speed to the next level. You don’t advance your power output by riding around for three hours on a club run at whatever speed the leaders choose; or knocking out 1000 watt intervals for 5 seconds at a time. There is a sweet spot that brings returns that far exceed the perceived effort.

Photo Credit: Ty Domin


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