Q: In a recent report, five different interval programs were studied, ranging from four 8-minute intervals at race pace with one-minute recoveries to twelve 30-second hard intervals with long recoveries.
The conclusion suggests using the 30-second interval program in the final three-week tapering period before a time trial. This approach is unique compared to the standard recommendation that normally calls for much longer intervals. Your thoughts? -- Jon B.
COACH FRED: I read the same research and tried a regimen of 30 seconds on/30 seconds off this spring when I was "peaking" for the week-long PAC Tour Training Camp in Arizona run by Lon Haldeman. I coach there every March.
I had been doing long steady rides in January and February when the weather permitted. I wanted to add some intensity before the camp because it usually features some spirited riding. I felt strong at camp and thought that the intervals had done some good. Certainly, they made for hard workouts!
Of course, it's impossible to decide how useful that protocol was since I was an experiment of one. But there's solid research, primarily with runners, showing that 30-second intervals work.
As for longer intervals, like 8-minute repeats at time trial pace, they're a mainstay of any TT interval program.
The key to any intense interval program is to avoid overtraining and burnout. I often find it easier mentally to dispense with structured intervals, instead riding a hilly course and letting the climbs stimulate intensity in a natural way.