Does Sprinting on the Bike Benefit Triathlon at All?

Yes, it will hurt! But improving your anaerobic capacity will make you a better all-around triathlete.

Yes, it will hurt! But improving your anaerobic capacity will make you a better all-around triathlete.

We all know triathletes who are willing to train hard and put in big miles on the bike, but ask a triathlete to do high intensity anaerobic work and they begin to question your sanity. Anaerobic training, like sprinting, refers to the body’s ability to perform work when not enough oxygen is available.

Our sub-threshold aerobic capacity, or the ability to utilize oxygen efficiently, has a direct correlation to our peak power production—or anaerobic capacity. After weeks, months, and years of consistent aerobic training, our bodies “stall out” in stimulating mitochondria, leaving valuable power on the table.

Mitochondria are the main structures responsible for creating energy needed for our cells during exercise. Mitochondria multiply when the energy needs of a cell increase. Repeatedly stimulating a muscle cell will spur the production of more mitochondria in that cell to keep up with energy demand. Anaerobic training in the form of sprints helps develop “mitochondrial density.” More density means more energy, which means better training and faster race times at all distances.

Want to improve your anaerobic capacity? Try this workout during your next training session.

12 min easy
5 x 15 sec seated sprints with 45 sec rest
3 min easy

Main Set:
Russian Pyramid x 2 (Stay seated for all efforts. Push as hard as possible, keeping in mind that each set will take 12 minutes.)
5 sec sprint/55 sec easy spin recovery
10 sec sprint/50 sec easy spin recovery
15 sec sprint/45 sec easy spin recovery
20 sec sprint/40 sec easy spin recovery
25 sec sprint/35 sec easy spin recovery
30 sec sprint/30 sec easy spin recovery
35 sec sprint/25 sec easy spin recovery
40 sec sprint/20 sec easy spin recovery
45 sec sprint/15 sec easy spin recovery
50 sec sprint/10 sec easy spin recovery
55 sec sprint/5 sec easy spin recovery
60 sec sprint
3 min easy spin, then repeat the above set

10 min easy

Justin Green is a USAT Level 1 coach, founder of Fit Endurance Coaching, a BikeFit certified bike fitter, AESP Track and Field certified, and has a combined 15 years of race experience between cycling and triathlon.