Intervals with Others – Don’t Impact the Efficacy of your Intervals

Cycling is a sport that is founded on camaraderie and social atmosphere. It usually begins with a friend or family member, who has a passion for the sport, decides to share the joy that riding a bike can bring and it quickly grows to a larger passion for many.  Quickly filled with group rides, cycling events and coffee/donut rides. 

For some, this passion turns into a desire to push physiological limits and once believed physical peaks. If you fall into this category we suggest you assess your rides and determine if all of your rides end up as group rides or if you have one or two weekly structured rides.  

Several weeks ago a group of athletes set out to perform intervals together.  What came from this workout proved to be a great example of how training with others can be of detriment to your ride.  The workout was quite simple, it was four threshold intervals, each eight minutes in length with four minutes of active rest between intervals (ignore that 4th interval, the cold temps increased desire for coffee).  During these intervals two of the athletes stayed together, averaging a faster pace where the 3rd rider rode the intervals solo. Rider’s 1 and 2 covered, on average, more ground than rider one and both felt that perceived exertion was an 8/10 intensity.  Where as our 3rd rider rode slower but also stated his perceived effort was the same 8/10. The ride results in the following power profiles:


One detail to keep in mind is that, although weights vary between these riders by approximately 10lbs from the heaviest to the lightest, their power at threshold is the same which means that interval ranges are also the same.

From the data you can see that rider 1 & 2 both had a more stochastic power profile for their intervals whereas rider 3 had a more plateaued effort throughout each interval.  Rider 3 also had significantly higher average powers that fell within the goal range. Riders 1 & 2, on the other hand, spent less than 60% of their intervals in their power ranges and averages fall well below the prescribed goal.

This may not seem like that much of an issue, but if you are working with 3-8 hours a week to train and your workouts look like this you are not only focusing on a completely different effort and potentially different energy system, you are decreasing your potential results because the overload/stress that has been created is less than desired.

Buck the trend and be the lone wolf if you have intervals scheduled.  You can either take your turn on the front, or drift off the back to get the work done that you need to accomplish, but don’t do like riders 1 & 2 did in this circumstance and negatively impact the goal in mind.

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