Editor’s note: Travis Woodruff is a Tucson-based cycling coach (USA Cycling certified Level I Elite Coach) and founder of Momentum Endurance, a coaching business. Travis is providing bi-monthly training columns to help you take your cycling to the next level. If you would like more personalized service, contact Travis. Read more about Travis and his coaching in Tucson Velo’s Q&A.

Now that the Arizona racing season is well underway, many racers are looking for ways to keep fast but also fresh between race weekends. Racing is stressful (this can be especially true mid-season) so it’s important to get enough rest so that you can recover properly.

However, too much resting can lead to fitness losses over the course of several weeks. So, what do you do? Often shorter, higher intensity rides work well in these situations and they allow you to prepare specifically for what you’ll be doing in the races.

Or perhaps you don’t race, but you’re looking for an alternative to the same-old long, steady rides that you commonly do. Incorporating some higher intensity workouts will be a great way to give your body a new challenge and a chance to further improve your overall cycling fitness.

Intervals lasting three to five minutes that are done at high intensity (106-120% of Threshold Power or perceived effort of 9 or 10 out of 10) and with limited recovery (equal work to rest ratio) between repeats are excellent for boosting your fitness at maximum aerobic capacity.

Changing your weekly training to include VO2Max work allows you to supercharge your aerobic fitness while also providing your body a break from the longer, steady rides that you might otherwise be doing. Completing four to eight sessions of VO2Max intervals within two weeks is enough training overload to see measurable improvements.

Each workout should allow you to accumulate 15-20 minutes worth of VO2Max intensity; a workout that includes six, three-minute-long repeats with three minutes of recovery between each will yield 18 minutes.

After a couple weeks of VO2Max training allow yourself some recovery before revisiting longer, steadier efforts within your training once again.  You’ll likely find that you can further improve your sustainable speed or power as a result of doing the VO2Max work.

The best way to continually make progress t is to adjust the training stress whenever your improvements plateau.  Once you’ve become well adapted to a certain type of training, it’s best to change that stress so that you can make other (and further) adaptations. Interjecting VO2Max intervals is a great way to break up your routine so that you might see continued improvement without committing to a huge number of hours each week.

These workouts will be plenty challenging and the more intensity you can put into them the better training response you’ll see. Each interval is relatively short, but very intense. Your legs are sure to burn and your breathing rate will eventually be near max. This training will help you to achieve new levels with your riding so have fun with it.

On less training time you can get in an excellent VO2Max workout that’ll allow you to further build fitness or keep fresh for your weekend races. “A” Mountain, Trails End Road or North Alvernon are some of my favorite places in Tucson for such workouts since they all go gradually uphill and have relatively light auto traffic — allowing you to do the workout safely and successfully.

Now that you know, get out there and make the most of your ride!

2 thoughts on “Coaching tip: Supercharge your aerobic fitness”
  1. What is “VO2Max?” It looks like a technical term from some physiology class or a marketing term from a cheesy infomercial…

    Can folks just stay at home and lift weights, maybe jog around the yard, and do the VO2Max thing?

  2. VO2 Max is a term for how much oxygen you are able to intake during hard exercise for a sustained period of time. Basically, the more oxygen you can get in you, the faster/harder you can push yourself without crashing and burning.

    When someone talks about VO2 Max training they are talking about pushing your physical limit for short amounts of time to get your body used to working at a higher rate. Interval speed training theoretically will improve your speeds when you go out and push yourself during longer distances.

    So, if you jog around your yard REALLY fast for a few minutes and then slow to a normal jog for a few, then do it all over again, you’d be doing VO2 Max, but I’d at least jog around the neighborhood so I wouldn’t get as dizzy. 🙂

    Hope that make sense. And someone tell me if I’m missing any points…

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