Increasing Performance with Push/Pull Threshold Intervals

Published by:

One of the best ways to increase your cycling fitness  is to increase your functional threshold. This is the maximum intensity that you can sustain for 1 hour. Increase the threshold and you’ll be producing more power which ultimately means you’ll be able to ride faster for longer.

I’ve found one of the most effective intervals to increase your functional threshold is a set of intervals that combines work at just below as well as just above the threshold. The idea behind this is that you push your threshold up from below and also pull it up from above.

Below is my favourite session of push/pull intervals.

Push/pull intervals workout: 1 hour

  • 10 min warm up @ 75% MHR
  • 20 min @ 85% MHR
  • 7 x 1 min intervals flat out with 2 min easy pedalling in between
  • 10 min cool down to 70% MHR

Make no mistake about it this is a tough interval session but one that will make the most out of an hour on the trainer or in the gym if your training is time limited.

Interval Training

An additional benefit of these intervals is that while they are tough to perform they are a bit easier on your legs than the standard 2×20 session we’ve previously discussed at length. As a result you should be able to perform them more regularly than 2×20′s.

The 20 minute block is performed in the ‘sweet spot’ of 85% MHR which equates to about 90-95% of your functional threshold. This should have the effect of slowly pushing up your anaerobic threshold in a slow and steady manner each time you do this set of intervals.

During the 20 minute block you should be riding at a pace that requires you to concentrate but not so fast that your legs are screaming for you to stop. Don’t be tempted to push too hard in this block, you need to save your muscles for the 1 minutes intervals ahead…

The 1 minute ‘all out’ intervals take you anaerobic, which will have the affect of pulling up your anaerobic threshold from above as well as boosting your VO2Max. You might find the pacing of these intervals tricky at first. Try to keep your form and pedal stroke as smooth as possible – you don’t want to be bouncing around in the saddle. To improve your fluidity concentrate on putting all of your energy through your legs into a smooth circular pedal stroke.

As with all interval workouts you should only do them when you’re well rested and feeling fresh. Doing workouts like these should be avoided if you’ve got tired legs.


Source: Century Training — Endurance Cycling Training Tips

Commuting by Bike: 10 Tips

Published by:

Commuting to work by bike can be a great way to enhance your cycling training and kick your fitness on to the next level. In addition to improve your cycling fitness commuting can save you money and help you improve your general health.

Below are some of our top commuting tips that will help you get the most from your commute.

1. Locking Your Bike Properly

Where there are lots of commuter bikes there are also usually bike thieves not far away. Investing in a good quality lock and using it properly is essential to avoid both the cost and hassle of having your bike stolen.

Personally I only use Kryptonite D locks as they have pretty good reputation. I use 1 lock to secure the rear wheel and frame to a bike rack and one to attach the front wheel to the frame and bike rack (is possible). Avoid the use of cable locks as they provide little protection to thieves apart from opportunists.

2. Ride a Simple Bike

If you’re riding every day you don’t want to be worrying about mechanical issues such as tuning gears every few days. To reduce the maintenance and reliability of my commuting bike I travel to work using the fixed gear bike I built up a couple of years ago.

With an old steel framed fixed gear bike there really is so little to go wrong. The occasional clean/lube of the chain, keep an eye on the tyres and brake pads and that is about it. No gears to tune, no cassette to obsessively clean, no nagging odd noises to worry about every time you ride.

Not only is the reliability of my commuting bike a big advantage, it doesn’t look too attractive to potential thieves when compared with some of the carbon framed super bikes I see locked up at the train station next to mine.

commuting by bike

3. Drying Cycling Kit at Work

If you get to work soaking wet (sweat or weather induced!) you may run the risk of stinking out the office if you attempt to air dry your cycling gear in the office.  Instead I’d suggest you thoroughly rinse your cycling shorts, jersey and base layers in water to remove as much of the dirt as possible.

Wring as much of the water out of each garment as possible. Next lay your towel flat on the ground and carefully lay your clothes flat on top. Next roll up the towel (with the clothes on the inside) until you have a sausage shaped towel. Place one foot on the end of the towel and with your hands take the other end and twist the sausage as much as possible.

Of course this trick only really works on lycra and other technical fabrics that wick away moisture. To maximize the effectiveness lay your clothes as flat as possible before rolling the towel in order to maximize the surface area of towel in contact with your kit.

Also consider Merino wool base layers and jerseys that are great at regulating your temperature but tend not to cling to odors meaning you’ll smell fresher for longer. They are not the cheapest compared to synthetic materials but they do work very well.

4. Reduce the Kit You Carry

The less kit you have to carry with you each day on your commute the better and the more inclined you’ll be to ride for longer if time allows. Here are a few ways you can reduce the kit your have to carry each day.

i. Spare Shoes at Work. While I don’t mind carrying a few clothes with me each day shoes are particularly bulky so I always leave a spare pair of work shoes at work.

ii. Leave Your Lock. Save having to haul around that heavy D lock and simply leave it overnight in the place where you lock your bike up.

iii. Quick Dry Towels. If you shower at work be sure to invest in a quick dry towel. Not only do they dry very quickly but they are far lighter and less bulky than regular cotton towels.

5. Non Iron Clothes

If you work in an office environment then you should try and use non iron clothing. Non iron shirts used to be stiff and very synthetic (often uncomfortable)  feeling a few years ago however now you’ll be hard pressed to tell them apart from regular cotton shirts.

6. Roll up clothes

The best way to avoid creases in your work clothes is to roll each item up tightly before putting them in your bag. This works much better than folding. The tighter the roll the better. If you need to wear a full suit and can’t leave it at work then take a look at this method of rolling a suit.

7. Spares & Repairs

Doing a lot of riding means you should try and be prepared for the eventual punctures that will come. I have one small waterproof bag that I keep for my commuting spares/tools. I never take anything out of this bag on a day to day basis (my phone/wallet go in my messenger bag) so I never have to worry about if I packed those tyre levers or forgot my spare tube. So long as it it in my messenger bag I’m good to go. Inside it I keep the following:

  • Mini pump
  • Tyre Levers x 2
  • 1 x spare inner tube
  • 5 x pre-glued tube patches
  • Spare money
  • ID
  • 2 x spare contact lenses
  • Chain break tool
  • 5mm allen key


8. Prep The Night Before

The biggest enemy of the bike commuter is excuses. It can be all too easy to get up 5 minutes later than planned and decide you don’t have time to run around and get all of your kit ready so you’ll drive or get the train instead.  It’s well worth taking 5 minutes each evening to get everything ready so all you have to do in the morning is get up, get dressed and go with no excuses possible. Here’s what I do every evening:

  • Check the weather forecast
  • Prep my kit/clothes
  • Pack my messenger bag
  • Check the bike/tyre pressure

9. Use Your Commute as training

Many people find that when they start commuting by bike their fitness improves rapidly before plateauing after a few months. This is usually because all of the commutes are ridden at the same intensity. One way to keep benefiting is to add some interval training into your commutes. These interval sessions don’t need to be too structured. The key is to try and vary the intensity of your rides so you work on improving different aspects of your riding.

To get the maximum benefit it’s best to try and mix up the intensity and (if possible) distance of your commutes. If time allows take it easy and ride a little further on some days. On other days sprint flat out for road signs or trees to work on your top end speed. On others identify short sections of road where you ride flat out or at a very high tempo in order to increase your threshold.

10. Enjoy it

There are times when commuting by bike can become a chore. Try to vary your commute to keep it interesting and don’t be afraid to take a few days break if the weather is awful or you’re simply feeling tired. I usually aim to commute by bike 2-3 days per week (varying my daily mileage from between 40-60km). By only mentally committing to ride 2-3 times per week i don’t feel guilty about taking time off and if i do more i feel pleased about myself. Most of all just enjoy the time on your bike!

Source: Century Training — Endurance Cycling Training Tips

Are Spin Classes Good for Cyclists

Published by:

We get asked a lot whether spin classes are good for cyclists, and in particular endurance cyclists training for century rides, sportives or other long distance events. Below we’ll take a look at both the benefits and drawbacks of adding spin classes to your training schedule and try to give you some tips to help you get the most from your spin classes.

The Benefits

High intensity workouts. Most amateur riders are short of training time. Family and work commitments eat into the training time of most cyclists. Spin sessions provide a short intense workout that can often be squeezed into a lunch break at work. In terms of giving the legs a workout in a short space of time spin sessions are really good.

Good to aid weight loss. The high intensity of spin classes means you’re burning a lot of calories in a relatively short period of time. As far as bang for your time buck, spin bike classes burn a large amount of calories compared to many other bike workouts you could choose instead.

Highly motivational setting. Most gyms have dedicated spin studios where the bikes are close to each other, the lights are dimmed and the music is turned up high. Combined with the vocal encouragement most spin class instructors give, this environment means that participants are usually more willing to suffer than if training on their own.

Mental Strength. Spin sessions, if done correctly are tough workouts, period. If you can get through them and do attend regularly, they’ll definitely improve your mental strength. Just like regular interval sessions they’ll teach you to know your physical limits and develop the ability to ride on your threshold enabling to get the most out of your training.

are spin classes good for cyclists

The Drawbacks

Not Cycling Centric. While some spin instructors are keen cyclists unfortunately the vast majority are not. As a result many will try and introduce elements that won’t necessarily bring you the maximum benefits as a cyclists. For example many instruct the class to do press-ups, down onto the handle bars or repeatedly jump up out of the saddle over and over again. When faced with such requests feel free to use your judgement and ignore such requests.

Most instructors won’t mind you partially doing your own thing, especially if you let them know before hand that you like the classes but also are keen on not doing certain elements of these workouts. If all else fails remember that you are in control of the resistance on your bike so you can always

Easy to hide. Spin sessions on the bike should be tough. They are short sessions (usually 45 minutes) so you need to make sure you get the best from them. When you’re in a dark spin session, your legs are screaming at you to stop pedaling and the instructor tells you to turn the resistance up a whole turn it can be tempting to ignore the instructions and make it a little easier for yourself. The whole point of spin sessions are they are short and hard. Stick with it and make sure each interval hurts as much as it should.


A lot of people always ask us if spin classes are good for cyclists. It is true that a much more structured interval session may provide greater benefits however for the vast majority of cyclists spin classes provide a convenient and effective workout that will certainly compliment their cycling training schedule.

Most classes provide a highly motivational environment and an interval based session which will bring most cyclists large fitness benefits if performed reasonably regularly.


Source: Century Training — Endurance Cycling Training Tips

Are Your Training Hard Enough?

Published by:

It’s easy to read about how the pro’s head out for 5, 6 or 7 hour rides each day while they get ready for the season ahead and think you have to do the same. This is perhaps one of the most common mistakes amateurs make when planning their training sessions.

If you’re lucky enough to not have to work and can up your sleep to 10 hours a night then sure heading our and riding lots of low intensity miles can and would bring you some big benefits. However not many of us have the lifestyles that allow us to do this so we need to change our approach to training.

Most of us can typically only get out for 1 or 2 long rides per week with the rest of our training time being short commute rides or a stolen hour in the gym or on the turbo trainer every couple of days. The key to maximizing your potential is to get the maximum you can from these sessions.

Are Your Training Hard Enough

If you’re only doing 1 long ride per week and and say 3 or 4 one hour sessions then you should have ample recovery time to recuperate and recover ready for the next ride meaning you can push hard on those midweek rides.

Here are a few ideas to get you using this time to it’s maximum:

1. Interval Training

Plain and simple. If you want to get stronger and go faster then interval training should be utilized on at least some of these shorter workouts during your training week. There are thousands of variations of intervals out there but for me the classic and one of the most effective for general improvement is the 2 x 20 minute interval. It may not be pleasant but it sure gets results. Be sure to check out our other interval tips too for advice on how to get the best out of your interval sessions.

2. Local Chain Gang

Most cycling clubs tend to run a short mid week chain gang rides. The point of these rides is to give the riders a very fast, race paced tempo training ride. In addition to getting a very good hard workout you’ll also benefit from riding at pace within a group as well as benefiting from the social aspects of riding with others (its less boring than the turbo trainer!).

3. Use your commute better

If you’re lucky enough to commute to work on your bike consider changing your route to help you improve the workout it gives you. Perhaps twice a week you can extend the ride or change the route to incorporate some hills that you can use as natural intervals. If not you could nominate stretches between certain landmarks to be sprint sections.

4. Consider Spin Classes

We get asked quite regularly if spin classes are good for cyclists. While the spin sessions that most gyms offer aren’t particularly aimed at improving cycling performance but general fitness they can still offer big benefits. They offer you a small structured workout session that usually involves some form of interval like routines in a highly motivational atmosphere. You can always ignore the instructors calls to do press ups onto your handlebars and instead just participate on the aspects of these classes that will help improve your cycling.

5. Time Trial

A good motivational tool to get some short hard sessions in is to regularly ride a local loop and keep track of your times over the same course. This could be a local mid week time trial event organized by a local cycling club or it could simply be a short loop local to where you live. By putting yourself against the clock you’re much more likely to want to improve your times and work harder as a result.

Time trials are not easy to ride as they require you to ride the distance on your limits. As well as bringing you physical benefits they are also great for developing your mental strength and teaching you to deal with the need to concentrate hard in order to manage to sustain these tough efforts.

Hopefully you can now start maximizing the time you spend on the bike to get the most out of your training. Just be careful to allow yourself time to recover after performing hard workouts. This recovery time is actually where your muscles repair themselves and get stronger so don’t be afraid to skip a session or back off if you’re feeling fatigued.




Source: Century Training — Endurance Cycling Training Tips

The Benefits of Indoor Training

Published by:

While reading Bradley Wiggins latest book ‘My Time’ I was struck by how devastating his use of indoor training has been over the last couple of years.

In 2011 he crashed out of the Tour de France early on breaking his collar bone in the process. After the crash he decided to focus on the Vuelta (The Tour of Spain) as his next race to target after his collar bone healed.

In the 6 weeks prior to finishing 3rd in the 2011 Vuelta Wiggins did absolutely no racing whatsoever. Instead all of his preparation was done entirely indoors, or more precisely on a turbo trainer in his garden shed.

Think about this for a minute. He finished 3rd in one of the toughest bike races in the world on a course that wasn’t particularly suited to him, despite spending all of his race preparation in his garden shed. This got me thinking about how most of us probably under estimate the benefits indoor cycling can bring and don’t use it enough to help us improve our cycling performance.

Specificity of Workouts

Training indoors on a turbo trainer allows you to perform very specific and targeted workouts. Wiggins himself mentions that during those 6 weeks if he had been racing he’d have spent several days just cruising along in the peloton during very little work indeed. Combined with the days off traveling between races, short prologue days and rest days he states quite clearly that he would have done far fewer really hard workouts had he not broken his collar bone.

Instead of days spending 5 hours drafting in the peloton chatting to his fellow pros he was doing shorter sessions on his turbo trainer with a much higher intensity and therefore gaining more benefit.

He mentions that his coach loved it because he could give him very specific instructions for each workout, telling him exactly how long to ride for at a certain power output. While not everyone has a coach or even a power meter everybody can benefit from being more specific about their workouts and the benefits they seek. Always have an aim when you start a session off.

Mental Toughness
There is no doubt about it that  training on an indoor trainer takes a huge amount of mental toughness, concentration and dedication. Most of us will quite easily find any excuse not to train on a turbo trainer. I’m a firm believe that if you can over come this almost ‘fear’ of indoor training and master it then there are other benefits to be had despite the physical ones.

A lot of cycling performance depends on your mind. Whether it’s not getting dropped by a bunch of riders or simply keeping your legs pumping while riding solo into the wind the mental strength you can gain from indoor training can certainly help you improve out on the road.


In addition to riding specific sessions provided by his coach, Wiggins also used the time to work on acclimatising himself to riding in the extreme heat he’d face during the Vuelta. By heating his garden shed up to 40+ degrees he was simulating the riding conditions he’d find in Spain, despite being in a wet and windy Yorkshire in the UK.

Time Saving

He also mentions in the book that he wasn’t simply going out doing long steady 8 hour rides but instead doing much shorter, more explosive training on his turbo trainer. For most of us with full time jobs, family stuff and a ‘normal’ life this is incredibly powerful.

By using perhaps as little as 3 hours a week to train indoors you can make some pretty big gains to your fitness so long as these sessions are laser targeted and high intensity. Combine these with maybe 1 or 2 outdoor rides and you can have a really effective training regime on as little as 6 hours per week.

Source: Century Training — Endurance Cycling Training Tips

How to Sprint Like Freight Train – Part 1

Published by:

Sprinting is the best skill you can have as a cyclist. No skill will allow you to win more bike races than being able to sprint. It is a dynamic and spectacular aspect of cycling that is essential if you are going to win races regularly. Sprinting is a very specialized discipline. The best sprinters […]
Source: Cycling Training

How to Sprint Like Freight Train – Part 2

Published by:

As we covered previously, we break sprinting down into five essential elements: P – Positioning A – Awareness T – Timing A – Acceleration S – Speed Last week we covered positioning. This week, we’re looking at awareness. The awareness of where you are positioned and where your competitors are, is an important focus as […]
Source: Cycling Training

How to Sprint Like Freight Train – Part 3

Published by:

As we covered previously, we break sprinting down into five essential elements: P – Positioning A – Awareness T – Timing A – Acceleration S – Speed Last week we covered awareness. This week, we’re looking at timing. We have spoken about timing above in many of the positioning and awareness segments. The important thing […]
Source: Cycling Training

Lactate Threshold Explained…

Published by:

Warning. This post is a bit heavy going so read when your mind is fresh. If you’re just starting out on the beginner or century programs, feel free to skip this unless you’re interested. Lactate Threshold (LT) is going to be a very important concept for you to understand. Parts of the program require strict […]
Source: Cycling Training

Strength Endurance (SE) Explained

Published by:

Strength Endurance (SE) is a very important component of your build phase and important to maintain during the season. SE is the most effective way to build the leg strength that is specific to cycling. It is similar to weight training where the desired effect is to build muscle strength (SE 1) and later to […]
Source: Cycling Training