A perfect set of intervals

by gbsmith4

If you’re reading this to hear my musings on the market…sorry.  Or, just musings in general, I can’t help you.

Instead, I’m going to talk briefly about cycling.  And specifically an aspect of cycling (well, just about all endurance sports, really): intervals.

Now basically intervals are just short, but hard efforts that are usually done near, or above, your race pace.  And since you’re going near or above race pace, by definition, the length of each interval is always shorter than your race length (otherwise, it’d be a race!)

Now, I’ve had a lot of coaches and have done pretty much every type of interval there is.  But, I’ve never had anyone define what a perfect set of intervals entail.  So, with apologies to every endurance coach out there, here goes:

1.  Each interval should be at or above race pace (or race power, if you’re cycling.)  If I’m going hard, I want to go at least as hard — if not harder — than I do in a race.  Otherwise, it’s not an interval, it’s some kind of base-building or endurance workout.

2. The total pain of each interval should be about an 8 or 9 (on a scale of 1-10).  Any easier, and you’re not going hard enough.  Any harder and you burn out before the session is over.

3.  Only the very last part of the very last interval should be a 10.  If you encounter a “10” before the last interval, you’re either going too hard or doing too many intervals.  If you never encounter a “10” you either have to go harder in each interval or add intervals.

4. The total pain of the entire session should be a 9, never a 10.  I know a lot of coaches want you to run or bike until you puke.   However, if you go that hard, you develop real scar tissue about ever doing an interval again.  Instead, I want to make the session just hard enough that I tested myself, but I’m ready to come back and do it again.

5.  You should end the session feeling more confident in your ability than when you started.  If you end the session feeling defeated, the intervals were too hard.  Remember, when you do intervals you’re developing both physical and mental abilities, with the latter often being more critical.

Therefore, it’s fine to feel tired at the end.  It’s not fine to feel dread.

And…that’s it.  Just 5 points to consider.  Hope they help.