Training

Benchmark a Better You: Week 2 Bike Workouts

Following on from last week’s benchmark test, we’ve got three more bike workouts from coach Karen Smyers.

After last week’s benchmark test and opening week workouts, hopefully you’re feeling good—and you’re excited to get into these Week 2 workouts. Former Ironman world champion Karen Smyers has crafted three more workouts for this week, all of which are designed to keep you on track to see greater results when you repeat the benchmark bike test at the end of the month. If you’ve not done it yet, it’s not too late! You can find all the details of the benchmark test and Week 1 workouts here.

Effort levels in this month’s workouts will be given as a percentage of Functional Threshold Power (FTP), which is defined as the pace or power you can maintain for an all-out 60-minute time trial. If you don’t have a power meter or do not know your FTP, measure effort by Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) as follows:

1-3 – very easy, light aerobic, light strain on legs

4-6 – moderate, aerobic, sustainable for more than 60 minutes, moderate leg strain

6.5-7.5 – tempo, sustainable with focus; some discomfort/building fatigue/leg strain

8-9 – hard effort requiring lots of motivation to sustain even for short intervals, high strain on legs, breathing is deep and rapid

10 – anaerobic efforts, not sustainable more than a couple of minutes, legs at max effort, breathing at max if held long enough

Workout 1: Threshold Intervals

Duration: 60 Mins

Warm-up:

10 min. easy pedaling: light resistance/easy gear, 60% FTP or less, RPE 2-3

1 min. calibrate your trainer if your trainer requires it.

Set 1:

9 min. Prep. Set: 

Leg Speed/Pedaling Efficiency work

Notes: If you have a power meter, start the set at 75% FTP. For those without a power meter, use a gear that you can pedal at 95 rpms at RPE 4.5 as your starting gear. Every time you increase cadence by 5 rpms, go to one gear easier to keep the power about the same or you can use an ergometer which will adjust the resistance for the cadence you are holding. To increase the power by 5 watts, just hold slightly higher cadence (1-2 rpms)  in the same gear. Try to stay smooth at the faster cadence by envisioning pedaling in smaller and smaller circles, with the ball of your foot  “collapsing” toward the center point (your bottom bracket).   

3 min. @ 75% as: 1 min. @ 95 rpms, 1 min. @ 100 rpms, 1 min. @ 105 rpms
3 min. @ 75%+5w as: 1 min. @ 100 rpms, 1 min. @ 105 rpms, 1 min. @ 110 rpms  
3 min. @ 75%+10w as: 1 min. @ 105 rpms, 1 min. @ 110 rpms, 1 min. @ 115 rpms

Set 2:

3 min. Prep Set 2:
3 x (30 sec. acceleration to 100-110% in TT gear, 30 sec. easy spin in easy gear).  

Main Set:

2 x (5 x 2.5 min. with 30 sec. rest between intervals). Rest 2 min. between sets.  

Use your TT gear for all intervals and adjust your cadence to put out the target power. 

Round 1, target power/effort for the 5 intervals:  

95% FTP (RPE 7.5)
100% FTP (RPE 8)
100% FTP (RPE 8)
105% FTP (RPE 8.5)
110% FTP (RPE 9)

Round 2, target power/effort for the 5 intervals:
100%
100%
105%
110%
110% (reference RPEs from round 1)

Workout notes:
Your heart-rate should be about 10-15 beats below your average heart-rate from the benchmark test on the first interval and build to what you maxed out at in the benchmark test by the end of each set. 

Cool-down:

2 min. easy

Workout 2: Moderate Endurance Plus Technique

Duration: 45 Mins

Warm-up:

10 min. easy pedaling: light resistance/easy gear, 60% of FTP or less, RPE 2-3

3 min. drills:
3 x -1-legged drills as 3 x (20 sec. one leg/10 sec. both legs/ 20 sec. other leg/ 10 sec. both legs)
1 min. calibrate your trainer if your trainer requires it.

Main Set:

3 x (4 min. @ 95 rpms; 3 min. @ 100 rpms; 2 min. @ 105 rpms; 1 min. @ 110 rpms)

All 3 sets should be done at 75-80% of FTP, RPE 4.5-5 for the 4-min. block but your RPE may increase as the cadence gets higher/more challenging. No rest between sets or between intervals unless you can’t continue without a short break.

Cool-down:

1 min. easy

Workout notes:
You can also use an ergometer for this set if your trainer has one. This will allow you to keep the power the same as your cadence increases. If you don’t have an ergometer, use one gear easier every time you increase your cadence with the main set 10-minute blocks to keep your power about the same. 

You should start each 10-minute block in one or two gears easier than you used for your TT gear (the gear you used most for your benchmark test).

Your heart-rate may get pretty elevated on the higher cadences but the work required from your legs is still in the moderate range so you should recover quickly from this workout but it will give you a good aerobic stimulus.  

If you struggle to hit the cadences, you can reduce them by 5-10 rpms to make the highest point somewhat challenging for you. Alternatively, see if you can hit the cadences using an easier gear. Cadences don’t have to be exact to reap the benefits of learning to pedal with higher cadences.

If you don’t have cadence, you can play a song that has the right beat and try to pedal to the beat. (There are playlists for songs with different bpms on the internet if you search).  

Workout 3: Endurance/Base Building

Duration: 70 Min.

Warm-up:

9 min. easy pedaling: light resistance/easy gear, 70% FTP or less, RPE 2-4
1 min. calibrate your trainer if your trainer requires it.

Main Set:

10 min. @ 75% FTP, RPE 4.5 @ ideal rpms
10 min. @ 80% FTP, RPE 5 in one gear harder, except stand in two gears harder for the last 30 sec.

1 min. easy spin in easy gear

8 min. @ 75%, RPE 4.5 @ ideal rpms
8 min. @ 85%, RPE 6 in one gear harder, except stand in two gears harder for the last 30 sec.

1 min. easy spin in easy gear

6 min. @ 75%, RPE 4.5 @ ideal rpms
6 min. @ 90%, RPE 6.5 in 1-2 gears harder, except stand in two gears harder for the last 30 sec.

1 min. easy spin in easy gear

4 min. @ 75%, RPE 4.5 @ ideal rpms
4 min. @ 95%, RPE 7.5 in 1-2 gears harder, except stand in 2-3 gears harder for the last 30 sec.

1 min. easy spin in easy gear to cool down

Workout notes:
Ideal rpms refers to the cadence that feels most comfortable to you when you are pushing hard (like during the Benchmark TT).  

The goal of this workout is to accumulate a lot of sustained time at a moderate effort with a little added time in the tempo range in a harder gear to build some leg strength. The standing portions will spike your HR a little and give you a chance to change muscle recruitment and positions.