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Day 21: “Only A Minute” Bike Session

This bike workout is a fun one that’ll push you to your max—but only for a minute!

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This workout—from coach Karen Smyers—is a great bike session for January because the intervals are short and it’s not too taxing a session, but it still gets you working at a high intensity. Smyers says: “I get a kick out of how the workout changes based solely on the rest intervals and how most people surprise themselves with the power and effort they can hit at the end. I also like that it challenges people to go to failure—and not be afraid of it. You sometimes have to bump into your limits to expand them!”

Smyers says this 60-minute session is best done with an easy day either side of it and is ideally done indoors on the trainer. For those who use a powermeter, do the first part of the main set at 110% FTP (functional threshold power) and increase watts by ~10% each set. If you don’t use power, don’t worry! It’s easy to follow this session at RPE (rate of perceived exertion).

“Only A Minute” Bike Session


10 minutes easy spin, build up intensity as you feel comfortable.

10 minutes high cadence work as: 

  • 5 minutes as: 2 minutes @ 95 RPM, 90 seconds @ 100 RPM, 1 minute @ 105 RPM, 30 seconds @ 110 RPM. All at 65% effort.
  • 5 minutes as: 2 minutes @ 100 RPM, 90 seconds @ 105 RPM, 1 minute @ 110 RPM, 30 seconds @ 115 RPM. All at 70% effort.

This helps promote smooth pedaling while getting your heart rate up and loosening your leg muscle. 

Main Set

15 x 1 minute broken into 3 sets of 5 intervals. Your power/effort should go up each set and the rest interval increases too. 

Set 1: 5 x 1 minute @ 80% effort, rest 30 seconds.

This set has short rest intervals so your heart rate will stay elevated the whole time. It is right at anaerobic threshold, which makes it somewhat challenging to hold, but the short duration makes it quite doable. Your cadence should be at/around your preferred RPM, which is typically 85-90 RPM for most triathletes.

Set 2: 5 x 1 minute @ 90% effort, rest 1 minute.

This set brings you slightly over your anaerobic threshold which makes the second half of the interval challenging. If you hold a slightly higher cadence than your preferred cadence then your legs may hold up better. The longer rest helps you recover your heart rate between sets so that, ideally, you start each interval ready to go.

Set 3: 5 x 1 minute @ 100% effort, rest 2 minutes.

Aim to gradually increase your watts/effort on each interval here, as long as you don’t hit failure. If you do, then stop that interval early—don’t just keep grinding—and reduce your effort slightly so you can get through the full interval on the next minute.

The fun and challenging part of this workout is right here in this third set when you might doubt if you can do any more. This is where you can really test yourself—and it’s only a minute!


3-5 minutes easy spin

Meet Your Coach

Ironman World Champion Karen Freaking Smyers. Need we say more? (OK we have a lot more to say. Read all about the woman, the legend here.)