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The famous “one hour session” on the bike.

Let’s face it, us amateurs do not have infinite time to our hands, therefore we need to make every minute count, you heard that story before. Getting on the bike, and for most of the times the stationary bike that is, we do want to make our quads cry, get the training adaptation and benefit for our grand- fondo, or criterium race, or even a local triathlon.

But let’s get to the juice of the matter, how can you implement a one hour workout at home or at the local cycling studio that will be so potent to keep you up with the big boys or girls? Let’s get one thing straight, you can’t beat the volume of 400-600km/ week distance covered by the pros or full-time athletes, and all of that work covered by them will reflect certain adaptations at the cellular level. Those adaptations will be hard to match no way you cut it and dice it, it is just not possible to cover all this ground with 3-5 x 1 hour sessions per week. However you can get a respectable amount of quality work in, construct a durable athlete able to cope with high intensity (HI) events ahead, and learn to tolerate “pain” a bit better. But if the bar is raised to international level standards, things get messy and you will realize the gap.

The one hour sessions idea has a specific characteristic that identifies them, pain!! And when I say there is pain involved be prepared to exit your comfort zone and push the heavy W rep after rep. In pure words it will be a self- inflicted torment that is presented again and again within the hour with little remorse. There is something about these workouts that is mental enough and get’s you in touch with your inner beast (If there is one of course).  The key concept in those sessions is the polarity, the ability to drive all the systems upwards (cardio-respiratory, musculo-skeletal, etc) and squeeze their last drop of energy out, and immediately after that give little time to recover to return down to levels to z1 or z2,  and shortly after hit it again. Repeat this recipe in a structure that makes sense for your specific cycling race (relate to it’s characteristics) and week after week you have a well “sharpened spear” to attack with.

The parameters to view are HR, W, rpm, time, and of course if you are experienced and sincere enough the RPE (rate of perceived exertion). All these added to the mix in a scientific, and a bit creative way will deliver the required results. But care needs to be given in terms of signs and symptoms while viewing the parameters involved. If you are pushing like a mad-man and no response appears to the HR maybe it is worth exploring further with your coach or Doctor if more recovery time is needed.

A word of advice would be not to use these workouts as your only form of cycling fitness, you need the long and slow sessions with km covered in the z1 and z2 efforts that are required to build the foundations of aerobic fitness. Also equally important are the recovery sessions on the bike (indoors or outdoors) that play a crucial role as well. You get fit not when you drive max W and push the pedals very hard but when you allow and actually enforce recovery and also active recovery sessions in your weekly regime.

Finally worth mentioning that the potency of the one-hour quality sessions is as valuable as your ability (or your coach’s ability) to select them and insert them correctly where they are needed in the week. “Overcook” this and your chances for success become very limited as the end-result.


*Kypros Nicolaou is an Exercise Physiologist, graduate of the University of Alabama, an ACSM certified Health & Fitness Instructor, holds an ITU  Level II Certification as a Triathlon Coach, and is a multiple Ironman & Half Ironman Triathlon finisher. He is coaching Triathletes online, teaches Functional Training at ryltoday, and performs Exercise Physiology assessments at the Cyprus Sports & Research Center.    info@ryltoday.com

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