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  1. #1
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    Intervals: Fast or Slow

    I love to ride but at a comfortable pace. Problem with that is I can only ride at a comfortable pace. So this year, I'm motivated to do intervals (alternate riding at an elevated heart rate with periods of rest in between).

    My problem is that I see two ways I can do this and I don't know which is best.

    I can get my heart rate up by grinding up a steep climb at 3 mph.

    Or

    I can get my heart rate up by spinning at 120 rpm in my big ring on my trainer.

    Does it matter which I choose? Is one better than the other?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    neither... much preferable to ride up a hill @ 90rpm.
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  3. #3
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    Where do you live? Some of your local clubs may offer some rides with intervals as an option. As for intervals, just try pushing your speed on flats. Try holding high speeds for 30 seconds or a minute, then back down. It's not just about cadence output, but power output too. Spinning at 120 means you're not putting out much power (or you're superman).

  4. #4
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    Depends I'm sure on what system you are trying to build of course. Over 100 for shorter intervals is typical, but even then there are probably exceptions (like standing).
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  5. #5
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    True, but if the OP is incapable of mustering up a steep hill beyond 3MPH or suggests that's the only way to get the HR up, I'm guessing muscle and power are what are needed here.

  6. #6
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    For a very short burst, I can get over 100 standing.... but it only lasts about 5 seconds.
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  7. #7
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    Sounds a lot like sex, neither is best for all rides...... to get the best results, you need to practice slow, fast and some in between. The key is to practice with appropriate amounts of non-riding time, sleep and a decent diet.
    Last edited by Flexnuphill; 06-01-2015 at 10:14 AM.

  8. #8
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    I think I tried it once standing as an active participant, didn't like it so much. A few times as a casual observer, that was ok.
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  9. #9
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    Thanks for the replies so far guys. Here's a little more detail behind my question.

    Basically, I'm 55 years old and have been riding forever. I'm also about 40 pounds overweight. Most of my rides are in the 65-75 percent max heart rate range which equates to 12-14 mph.

    I understand that my weight is my largest obstacle to going faster; I'm making an effort reduce weight. But I know I also need to push on some of my rides. And thatís where my interval question comes from.

    Thanks again.

  10. #10
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    It is not that difficult. Just go out and ride, and pick it up in the speed department. Your fitness could improve a lot more, it takes time. I would just focus on working harder for 15-30 min then go back to your normal pace, and just alternate that for a while.

    At your fitness level & sounds like your on a diet, doing intervals is going to be a sever blow to your system.
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  11. #11
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    I think you might be surprised to see how hard you can push if you make sure to warm up properly. One common mistake people make is to go out too hard. It's uncomfortable and may sabotage your effort to go faster.

    Just bring up the pace gradually for 20 minutes, ease up for a few minutes, and then begin your sets. The first set might be a little uncomfortable (don't overdo it) but once you get your heart rate up, the following efforts will be a lot easier to maintain.

    One other key to picking up speed is to get aero. I've seen plenty of big guys move pretty quickly on the flats. Typically, they're VERY COMFORTABLE riding in the drops and wear lycra, of course. They may not be leaning forward more than 45 deg but reducing your frontal area into the wind becomes even more important as you pick up your pace.

    Good luck!
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  12. #12
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    Riding at low to moderate intensities does little help weight loss. A side benefit to raising your heart rate is that you will likely experience a strong caloric burn which will help you in this area. Reducing weight will in turn make you faster, etc.
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  13. #13
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    What kind of trainer do you have? Also, how many days a week are you biking? If you have a fluid trainer, then that would be perfect to do the intervals on for the time being. On the bike, I'd make sure you have a pretty decent warm-up before doing any intervals or or pick-ups. For example, what I'd do sometimes, is warm up for about 15-20 minutes small chain-ring front at 90-95rpm, then jump into 10 x 2 min pick ups with 2 mins rest in between. One thing I've learned from my level II triathlon coach is to keep rest periods in between each interval pick-up set about the same. So if you're doing 3 minute pick-ups, then 3 minutes rest in between. If you have a Garmin 510, 810, or 1000 you should be able to set-up interval training on there through the data fields. For the time being too, I wouldn't be doing intervals on really steep hills in the beginning. Start off on somewhere fairly flat. It doesn't have to be super flat but don't want take chance putting too much pressure on your knees.

    Like Joeinchi said, he's got a good point. A lot of people will tend to go out too hard in time trial testing, or racing in general. If you don't have a heart rate monitor or power meter, that's fine. Just go based on feel too. I've never used either one during biking, but HRM for running, yes. If you're 3-4 days a week, I'd put one interval day, one tempo day, one recovery day, and one base mileage day.

    I hope this helps...
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  14. #14
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    Thanks guys. Awesome info. Lots of help.

    Slightly related, question about max heart rate.

    I've always calculated it with the following formula: 210 minus half your age, then subtract 5% of your body weight in pounds. Add four for a male and 0 for a female. With this formula I get a max of 174.

    Recently, I found this: Warm up thoroughly for at least 15 minutes. On a long, steady hill start off fairly briskly and increase your effort every minute. Do this seated for at least five minutes until you canít go any faster. At this point get out of the saddle and sprint as hard as you can for 15 seconds. Stop and get off the bike and immediately check your HR reading. This is your max HR.

    When I did this, my max came out to 157. Seems like quite a difference between the two.

    Any thoughts on the two methods?

  15. #15
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    You're welcome. Regarding max HR calculations, I'm 51, male and weigh 162, so ...

    Standard Formula: 220 - 51 = 169
    Your Formula: 210 - (51 / 2) - (162 x 0.05) + 4 = 180.4
    Field Test (on bike): 172

    Yes, that formula you shared does seem to produce a high number. I've done field tests similar to the one you described. If you gave it your best effort, then your 157 number would be the one to go with. Of course, another field test to confirm your initial result wouldn't hurt.

    But you're on the right track. Figure out your max and then start setting appropriate target rates. Some time down the road, you may want to do a 20-minute threshold test which will let you fine tune your training further.
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  16. #16
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    Standard - 174 .. I can hold this for a good length of time
    Your way 182.. Pretty close . I hit this often but at this level if I'm attacked I have no answer

    There was another way .. Which I can't remember which came out to 185 for me and that what I have my max set at

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by leond View Post
    Thanks guys. Awesome info. Lots of help.

    Slightly related, question about max heart rate.

    I've always calculated it with the following formula: [I]210 minus half your age, then subtract 5% of your body weight in pounds.
    The formulas are completely worthless because because maximum heart rate has a standard deviation of about 12. There's a 68% chance for +/- 12, 14% for +/- 12 more, etc.

    Even a 24bpm range is insufficient for zone setting, and that's 48bpm.

    Weight also doesn't affect maximum heart rate - mine was 185 at 185 pounds, still is at 138, and probably would have came out the same at 205.

    Even knowing your maximum heart rate doesn't help because lactate threshold heart rate (determining how hard you can ride for efforts longer than a few minutes) varies as a fraction of it. Mine is currently 91% of my maximum (it went up 4bpm after a year of easy miles to loose weight).

    The simplest inexpensive thing to do is to find your LTHR by riding as hard as you can for 30 minutes without stopping and average your heart rate over the last 20 minutes per Joe Friel's The Cyclist's Training Bible. Set your zones based on that under (1 active recovery, 2 endurance, 3 tempo) around (zone 4 threshold) and over (zone 5) with definitions varying depending on who you talk to (IIRC Friel runs zone 4 up to LTHR, starts 5a there, and adds 5b/5c).

    Chris Carmichael's test protocol outlined in The Time Crunched Cyclist: Fit, Fast, and Powerful in 6 Hours a Week has a pair of 8 minute maximum efforts separated by an easy 10 minute spin; that's easier to pace and more practical to accommodate with traffic outside in suburban settings. Use Carmichael's zones.

    Recently, I found this: Warm up thoroughly for at least 15 minutes. On a long, steady hill start off fairly briskly and increase your effort every minute. Do this seated for at least five minutes until you canít go any faster. At this point get out of the saddle and sprint as hard as you can for 15 seconds. Stop and get off the bike and immediately check your HR reading. This is your max HR.

    When I did this, my max came out to 157. Seems like quite a difference between the two.
    Yup.

    Any thoughts on the two methods?
    Define your zones based around an effort which minimizes the anaerobic contribution, either Friel's 30 minute time trial or Carmichael's 8 minute efforts.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 06-15-2015 at 04:37 PM.

  18. #18
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    You want to know your maximum heart rate? Your not doing it right.

    Get warmed up, get a bear in a cage, hit it with a 2x4 in the face, get on the bike and have someone open the cage door. After the bear catches you, you will be at maximum heart rate.

    Short story, unless you puke and start seeing black on your effort, your not there yet.
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  19. #19
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    Max heart rate can change pretty significantly with fitness too.
    When I'm in bad shape, my max HR can be friggin high! I've peaked at 237 max heart rate before. When I'm in solid shape, I tend to hang around 180 as a max with occasional peaks up to 199 (think: charging up a 1 mile 10% at high cadence).

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by leond View Post
    Recently, I found this: Warm up thoroughly for at least 15 minutes. On a long, steady hill start off fairly briskly and increase your effort every minute. Do this seated for at least five minutes until you canít go any faster. At this point get out of the saddle and sprint as hard as you can for 15 seconds. Stop and get off the bike and immediately check your HR reading. This is your max HR.

    When I did this, my max came out to 157. Seems like quite a difference between the two.

    Any thoughts on the two methods?
    Also, I would add that, if your HR was 157 after this kind of exertion then either you're one hell of an athlete already, you have a huge, malformed heart, or you weren't pushing as hard as you think you were.

    What are the details of that hill? Average grade, how long, how fast, how fast was your sprint?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Corenfa View Post
    Also, I would add that, if your HR was 157 after this kind of exertion then either you're one hell of an athlete already, you have a huge, malformed heart, or you weren't pushing as hard as you think you were.
    Without any nausea or pain he's not trying hard enough, although he could be among the 21% of the population with a maximum heart rate over one standard deviation below the median.

    This ignores the negligible utility of knowing maximum heart rate.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 06-16-2015 at 11:21 AM.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by leond View Post
    I understand that my weight is my largest obstacle to going faster
    Only up-hill. Weight doesn't matter much on flat ground, and it's possible to be both fit and 50 pounds over your optimal riding weight.

  23. #23
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    I think the OP has a very low thresold for pain. So ultimately he is not going to be very fast on the bike. As previously posted, on his rides he averages 12-14 mph.
    I think there is a rule# for this.... but I forgot.
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  24. #24
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    Jeez, enough with the "he's not trying hard enough" cracks.

    As mentioned above:
    Quote Originally Posted by Corenfa View Post
    Max heart rate can change pretty significantly with fitness too.
    When I'm in bad shape, my max HR can be friggin high! I've peaked at 237 max heart rate before. When I'm in solid shape, I tend to hang around 180 as a max with occasional peaks up to 199 (think: charging up a 1 mile 10% at high cadence).
    For someone who's 55 and been riding at an endurance pace for years, I think a 157 max is very reasonable. What's the standard guideline ... 220 - 55 = 165? So that's -8 bpm deviation.

    And while I agree that knowing your lactate threshold makes it easy to establish targets, I sometimes question all this complexity. Something like this would probably suffice AND deliver improvements:

    Quote Originally Posted by kevra83 View Post
    Just go based on feel too. I've never used one either during biking, but HRM for running, yes. If you're (riding) 3-4 days a week, I'd put one interval day, one tempo day, one recovery day, and one base mileage day.
    I ride with a close eye on targets but, honestly, it's not that much different from this simple plan.
    Joe

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by duriel View Post
    For a very short burst, I can get over 100 standing.... but it only lasts about 5 seconds.
    I feel bad for your wife


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