Looking for help from some smart 50+'s on interval training; I'm confused.
I think I am at the point where I need to start riding smarter (not just harder/longer) and from what I've read it's time for me to think about interval training. But in doing research here at BF, in various magazines and websites, I've quickly reached a point where the complexity of what's being suggested is beyond my ability to comprehend and/or ability to care. There is a lot of stuff about zones -- heart rates -- a lot of acronyms about stress levels -- complex training intervals -- suggested weekly schedules -- etc.; a little more than I want to absorb.
My problem is:
- the area where I live/train/commute is basically all rolling hills; there really aren't big stretches of "flat" where I could religiously follow the kind of regimented interval training regimens I see
- though I'm now riding 4 to 6 days a week (even in the winter), I can't religiously guarantee which days I'll ride...a lot of the "training" plans I've seen seem to recommend a pretty strict weekly schedule (e.g, "Tuesday is interval day")
- my weekday riding is done commuting (20 miles round trip) and this time of year it's all in the dark, and often in the rain. I can't really be very accurate about timed/measured intervals, or even look at bike computer in the dark, while I'm trying to dodge cars, raindrops, black ice, etc.
On the other hand, over on the training forum, there have been some posts that just suggest that you can get 80% of the benefit of interval training just by making sure that in your training rides you just vary your exertion levels -- attack some hills hard; then spin easy to cool down and get your heart rate normal; and then attack again.
So, I'm wondering, is there an easy way to think about this?
I take some longer rides on the weekend (weather permitting), and then do a 20-mile round-trip commute 2 or 3 days a week that is pretty much all rolling hills. I was hoping that maybe my "interval" training would be to take one leg of my commute each week and do "intervals" all the way home by really pounding my way up every hill, and then spinning easily on the descents -- would that do it? Will I kill my knees if I'm using rolling hills as the "exertion" part of my intervals?
(BTW, at age 51, my goal is not to win the Tour de France...I am just trying to take the time I spend on the bike today and try to move to the "next level' in fitness, speed, endurance, etc. I got back into biking a year ago and am currently riding at the rate of about 3700 miles a year, so I don't think I lack for mileage...but I don't know that I'm maximizing the benefit I am getting from my time on the bike in terms of fitness. My goal would be to be better/faster at climbs, centuries, etc....like confidently tackling a ride like this: www.tourdeblast.com )