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  1. #1
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    Interval training, cadence, general rambling

    As I posted elsewhere, I'm trying to bike to lose weight and improve cardiovascular health. I'm 33, 6'1", 294#. Been reading this forum voraciously, but am still not clear about what/how I should be doing to optimize the process. Any advice is appreciated.

    I've been reading about interval training, and wanted to give that a try. So, yesterday morning, I jumped on the elliptical (easier to focus on tracking times on the machine than on the bike on the road) with the following plan: 5 min warm up, 10 min of alternating 1 min hard as I can and 1 min slow, then 5 min cooldown. Did the first min, no problem, hit about 150 bpm heartrate. Rested a minute (hr down around 135), did another minute hard, hit around 155bpm, felt like I was going to die. Rested a minute, could not increase speed at all, was barely staying on the machine. After about a minute more, was able to squeeze out another 30 sec of fast, then just did slow through the end.

    Am I missing something in how I approach interval work? Is this just an issue of being out of shape, or is my approach wrong? Can someone recommend a good book/website that explains this (I'm quite willing to pay for a book, but I'm not interested in paying for a "training service") in detail? Most of the sites I've looked at have brief summaries and then require a subscription or membership in a "program" to get more details.

    Same day, I went for a ride in the evening. Made about 10.5 miles (furthest I've done this year), and felt great. My HR was around 150-155bpm most of the ride, and I didn't feel particularly tired at the end (would have gone further, but it started to rain, heavily). Why is it that 150bpm was killing me on the elliptical, but was fine on the bike???

    As to cadence, my cadence was typically 70-80 (avg cadence per computer was 75), but I tend to pedal in bursts - spin, spin, spin, coast. Spin, spin, spin, coast. Etc. Is this normal? Should I be spinning nonstop? Even with zero resistance, I can't really maintain constant spinning for very long. Is this just a practice/fitness issue?

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  2. #2
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    I'm no expert, but last year I did "pyramids" on my indoor trainer during the winter, and this year I just started doing them outdoors.

    Simple to do ... and time, with the help of a cyclecomputer.

    Typical interval:
    1 minute on 1 minute off
    2 min on, 2 min off
    3 min on, 3 min off
    4 min on, 4 min off
    4 min on, 4 min off
    3 min on, 3 min off
    2 min on, 2 min off
    1 min on, 1 min off

    When I say "on" I mean all out effort. Pedal as hard and as fast as you can in an appropriate gear for one minute, then "soft pedal" for one minute. Then two on, two off, etc ...

    This DOESN'T mean you have to do a minute ... you can start at 20 seconds, 30 seconds, whatever ... with an appropriate rest time in between, which is what I started at. I'd do 20 seconds hard, 40 soft, then 30 hard/30 soft, then 40 hard, 20 soft, and repeat.

    Tailor your intervals to your current fitness level.

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    Interval training is supposed to suck. If you don't feel like puking when you're done then you didn't go hard enough. But honestly it does get better as you get more in shape.

    As far as spinning you should aim to find a speed/gear combo that allows you to spin at a constant cadence for long periods of time. Spinning takes some training after a while you will develop the coordination to sustain high cadence for hours.
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    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    To be frank; You are not in good enough shape to worry about interval training. Just go ride your bike and build up some base miles.
    Weight loss is not a sprint, it takes a lifestyle change. You have got a start on it, by wanting to ride your bike.

    Just your cadence and mileage tell me this. You are not able to spin 10 miles without coasting.
    I would make 10 miles spinning a goal, then 20, then 35 and so on. Before I would worry about intervals.

    Just work on watching what you eat and drink, try to cut down on useless intake, and learn to spin the pedals for mile after mile.
    The weight will come off.

    For you to worry about interval work at this point is not helpful. Get in some kind of base bike shape first.



    P.S. your doing good. Just go ride your bike.
    Gravity hates us all, but it hates me more than thin people!

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    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ill.clyde View Post
    I'm no expert, but last year I did "pyramids" on my indoor trainer during the winter, and this year I just started doing them outdoors.

    Simple to do ... and time, with the help of a cyclecomputer.

    Typical interval:
    1 minute on 1 minute off
    2 min on, 2 min off
    3 min on, 3 min off
    4 min on, 4 min off
    4 min on, 4 min off
    3 min on, 3 min off
    2 min on, 2 min off
    1 min on, 1 min off

    When I say "on" I mean all out effort. Pedal as hard and as fast as you can in an appropriate gear for one minute, then "soft pedal" for one minute. Then two on, two off, etc ...

    This DOESN'T mean you have to do a minute ... you can start at 20 seconds, 30 seconds, whatever ... with an appropriate rest time in between, which is what I started at. I'd do 20 seconds hard, 40 soft, then 30 hard/30 soft, then 40 hard, 20 soft, and repeat.

    Tailor your intervals to your current fitness level.

    The OP can't spin 10 miles. How would you expect him to do this?
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  6. #6
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    You failed to notice that I said you can do less ... like 20 seconds worth ... You mean to tell me you never coast during a 10 mile ride?

    Base miles are absolutely important ... but short intervals where he can practice spinning certainly have some value.

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    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ill.clyde View Post
    You failed to notice that I said you can do less ... like 20 seconds worth ... You mean to tell me you never coast during a 10 mile ride?

    Base miles are absolutely important ... but short intervals where he can practice spinning certainly have some value.

    Go read Joe friels books. Cyclist training bible.


    And yes I spin many,many miles without coasting. It took a lot of training but, yes I do it all the time.
    Given the exception of trafic, road conditions. 10 miles is but a VERY short distance.
    Last edited by jr59; 06-15-11 at 03:01 PM.
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    Senior Member Seve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgalak View Post
    Why is it that 150bpm was killing me on the elliptical, but was fine on the bike???
    Patience Grasshopper .....

    There are several factors that affect your heart rate besides exercise or exertion that may apply? http://www.livestrong.com/article/77...ct-heart-rate/ has a list of the most common.

    Also, while on the elliptical you are performing a weight-bearing exercise, while on the bike you are not which may account for the perceived difference.

    I wouldn't be too worried about cadence target ranges and training intervals until you have at least a few hundred miles of saddle time. It's not a realistic approach and might just put you off riding until you become more fit.
    I'm not suggesting that you don't pay attention to spinning versus mashing, rather, just go out and ride and set realistic targets based on time to start with.

    Say 3-4 times a week for 45 minutes, as an example and don't expect to be spinning constantly as that is not realistic for anyone starting out. As you have already found out spinning then coasting is necessary.

    If you do this, then you will find your fitness improving, including your speed, spinning, power etc. and then perhaps move into interval and cadence training.

  9. #9
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    Ask anyone or read any magazine (outside, mens journal) and you will get 50 milliion ideas often conflicting

    There is no magic..... watch the diet, workout. mix up the exercise, long and slow, intervals, weights, etc

    Don't do to much too soon, build it up slowly

    for intervals on an eliptical try this

    2 minute warm up
    30 sec hard as you can go
    90 sec easy
    repeat 6 more times for a total of 16 minute of intervals
    cool down 2 minutes

    it that is too tough (and it was for me ) modify to 30 sec hard 120 sec or 150 sec easy.......
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    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jr59 View Post
    The OP can't spin 10 miles. How would you expect him to do this?
    The spin bike I have used are like fixies...there is no coasting.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jgalak View Post
    Am I missing something in how I approach interval work?
    1. Conventional wisdom is that you should have 500-1000 low-intensity "base miles" in your legs before riding hard for the season. Just ride and increase time/mileage gradually (runners use 10% a week). A rest day off the bike is good.

    2. The standard disclaimer in today's litigious society is that you should be cleared by your doctor for this sort of thing with a stress test on a tread mill or ergometer.

    3. Different interval intensity/length combinations cause adaptations in different systems. With a solid base you'd probably want to boost your aerobic capacity and lactate clearance so that you can work out longer and harder to cover more distance (different scenery is nice), go faster (it's fun), and burn more Calories.

    That would come from 5-30 minute intervals where the two prevailing ideas are to push from the bottom or pull from the top; where the intensities might be 90%-93% of average heart rate for the last 20 minutes of an all-out 30 minute effort and 94-102%.

    I like 10 minute intervals beyond my lactate threshold - they're easier to accommodate logistically than longer intervals and produce good results for me.

    Is this just an issue of being out of shape,
    Some things get better with fitness - I can get to 95-100% of my maximum heart rate without feeling like puking or stopping (just slowing down because that's not sustainable). Some things don't - you'll always hurt when lactic acid builds up enough. More fitness also means you can suffer for much longer before you physically can't continue at a given intensity.

    or is my approach wrong? Can someone recommend a good book/website that explains this (I'm quite willing to pay for a book, but I'm not interested in paying for a "training service") in detail?
    The Cyclist's Training Bible by Joel Friel is the canonical encyclopedic reference.

    The Time Crunched Cyclist: Fit, Fast, and Powerful in 6 Hours a Week by Chris Carmichael (Lance Armstrong's coach) is a more pragmatic cook book.

    Same day, I went for a ride in the evening. Made about 10.5 miles (furthest I've done this year), and felt great. My HR was around 150-155bpm most of the ride, and I didn't feel particularly tired at the end (would have gone further, but it started to rain, heavily). Why is it that 150bpm was killing me on the elliptical, but was fine on the bike???
    Heart rate is a lagging indicator and can take a full 10 minutes to reach what it's going to be during steady state exercise. If you'd kept up the same pace your heart rate would have been higher, perhaps much higher.

    Your body and muscles have a limit to how fast they can convert oxygen into work. Once you exceed that (where heart rate alone often doesn't tell the story) you'll quickly use up your reserves. I get about 30 seconds at double the power I should be able to maintain for an hour.

    Once you exceed your body's ability to process lactic acid its accumulation increases with the fourth power of your power output. Just a little bit more can be the difference between hard work and painful.

    Finally note that relevant heart rates are different for different exercises (although I'd credit the lagging heart rate in this case). Using more or less muscle mass changes how much oxygen you can convert to work leading to different heart rates at the same exertion level.

    As to cadence, my cadence was typically 70-80 (avg cadence per computer was 75), but I tend to pedal in bursts - spin, spin, spin, coast. Spin, spin, spin, coast. Etc. Is this normal?
    No, but you have to start with what you've got.

    Should I be spinning nonstop?
    Indoors on a trainer/rollers/stationary bike/ergometer that's the goal - pulling up a representative sample I stopped pedaling for 10 seconds twice out of 40 minutes.

    Outside you coast approaching stops or headed down steep hills where you'd run out of gears. It's much more pleasant.

    You also pedal without pressure and reduced RPMs when changing gears. While modern cogs and rings with their ramps, pins, and cut-down teeth can often shift under load, things are much smoother when you don't do that.

    Even with zero resistance, I can't really maintain constant spinning for very long. Is this just a practice/fitness issue?
    Yes.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 06-15-11 at 04:44 PM.

  12. #12
    pbd
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    Get a base first.

    You've already done the hardest part, and that's getting started. I started for real on Jan. 1 this year, and it was a major accomplishment the first time I finished a 6-mile loop near my house. It almost killed me. 10 miles in a day was huge milestone for me.

    Now, without having done any specific training, a 25 mile loop is my standard "short" ride during the week, and I'm at 2000 miles for the year. I never did anything specific besides just go ride. If I felt like riding up hills, I did. If I felt like cruising the flat along the beach, I did. No intervals, no training regime, just ride.

    I think that's been a key for me. I'm not "training", I'm doing something I enjoy, and it's working. I've lost over 40 pounds since January 1st, and I'm loving every minute on my bike.

    After 2000 miles, I'm to the point where I'm starting to think about doing some structured training. I sometimes like trying to beat my own times on familiar courses, or beat my own times up specific hills/mountains, and I realize that training would help me with those things. But it still won't be anything that serious, I'm not going to do anything to jeopardize the fun I have on my bike. If my bike becomes an exercise machine, I might start liking it less, so to me it's still a toy I love riding.

    You don't have to do everything perfectly to get better and lose weight, you just have to do something. Once you have some more experience, you'll figure out better what it is you want and then you can get help on how to get there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jr59 View Post
    To be frank; You are not in good enough shape to worry about interval training. Just go ride your bike and build up some base miles.
    Weight loss is not a sprint, it takes a lifestyle change. You have got a start on it, by wanting to ride your bike.

    Just your cadence and mileage tell me this. You are not able to spin 10 miles without coasting.
    I would make 10 miles spinning a goal, then 20, then 35 and so on. Before I would worry about intervals.

    Just work on watching what you eat and drink, try to cut down on useless intake, and learn to spin the pedals for mile after mile.
    The weight will come off.

    For you to worry about interval work at this point is not helpful. Get in some kind of base bike shape first.



    P.S. your doing good. Just go ride your bike.

    This is some good advice, I really needed to hear this myself. I`ve been trying to pressure myself into intervals. I can pedal/spin most of 20 mile loop, but there is definitely room for improvement and this reply really makes sense to me, thanks.

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    Good thread, good comments.

    I would also offer that 150-155 as a peak in an interval workout is too low, and will not result in significant performance improvement.

    I used to do intervals on an elliptical, maxing at 155-160. Now I find I can't go fast enough or put enough tension on the elliptical to get my HR that high.

  15. #15
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    As others have mentioned........

    You need to adjust to your current fitness level. Your "all out" interval may be between two houses, two light poles, 10 seconds, etc. You don't need to wait to do interval training but just make it appropriate for where you are now.

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    Senior Member Chaco's Avatar
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    If I were in your shoes (which I sort of have been, since 4 years ago I weighed 50 lbs. more than I do now), here's what I'd do:

    1. First, take stock of where you're at now: your max heart rate at your age is probably somewhere around 190. Right now, you're maxing out on your intervals at 155, which is around 81% of your max. A true interval, when you're in shape, should take up up to around 92% to 97% of your max, or somewhere between 175 and 185 bpm. So you can see you're pretty far short of that right now, which is what we'd expect. Keep in mind that the 190 bpm is a theoretical number -- it may be more or less for you, but that's an average.

    2. Realize that to go from the out of shape condition you're in now, to a point where you can do, say, 8 1 minute intervals at 90% + of your max bpm, will take time. It might even take a couple of years. No problem. You've got the rest of your life to get it right! When I started 5 years ago, I was exactly like you. I was 58 then, at 273 lbs., and my max heart rate was around 175. At first, I couldn't get higher than 140 bpm for a minute or so. Today, my max heart rate is 172, at 63 yrs. old. Yesterday, I was out on a hilly route, and had 3 intervals - the first averaging 168 bpm for 5 minutes, the second averaging 165 bpm for 3.5 minutes, and the third at 162 bpm for 2 minutes. I was tired after that, but still had 30 miles left on the ride. I'm just saying this so you know that you can go from being in miserable shape to being in pretty good shape for your age within a few years.

    3. Until you get your diet down and start getting in better shape, I'd limit the intervals to the gym ( using the elliptical or similar machine). Why? As you pointed out, it's much easier to track and you won't hit a stop light in the middle of your interval. Do the intervals at least 2 times a week, but always leave a day in between. Work on getting from 2 intervals to 8 or so. And work on getting your bpm from 155 up to 170 or so. The other key thing to look at is how quickly your pulse rate slows in between the interval. In the beginning, you probably won't drop by more than 5 bpm, but once you get in better shape, you should be dropping between 15 and 25 bpm.

    4. During this time, get your aerobic (endurance) conditioning from biking. In other words, until your in much better shape, don't worry about intervals on the bike. I think it would just be frustrating for you.

    5. Once you're able to consistently do 6 to 8 intervals in the gym at 85% or more of max bpm, then try doing intervals on the bike at least one day a week. By this time, if you're eating right, you should have lost quite a few pounds, and you'll be in better shape overall. You'll also hopefully be going on much longer rides, so that 10 miles will barely seem like a warmup for you.

    Everything I've read seems to indicate that interval training is a very healthy and productive way to get fit. Don't get discouraged by the "purists" who say that you aren't doing "real" interval training unless you get up to 95% of your max bpm. That may be true, but it's not the point. The point is stressing your body with an all out effort, resting, and then doing it over again.

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    Fantastic advice, thank you. Base miles it is then. Need to get out there and ride more, my schedule makes it hard to find time, but I've been doing better and better. Planning on trying for around 15 miles tomorrow. I need to find my current "limit" so that I know what to push from. The 10 mile ride on Tuesday wasn't long enough - I could have gone further, only stopped because of the downpour.
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