XTERRA world champion Josiah Middaugh’s simple go-to bike workout stretches your ability to sustain threshold power.
This week’s workout comes to us courtesy of Colorado’s Josiah Middaugh. A 13-time XTERRA national champion and 2015 XTERRA world champion, Middaugh is no stranger to putting out huge watts on the trails. He’s also an NSCA- and CSCS-certified trainer with a master’s degree in human movement from A.T. Still University who works with countless athletes through Middaugh Coaching.
“Threshold power is king when it comes to endurance performance,” Middaugh says. “Most athletes avoid this type of training even though a race demands it. Few have the focus and attention span to suffer in the most effective way.” He says the best way to adapt to the suffering of race day is by using well-paced “bouts,” performed at a steady state near anaerobic threshold, sustained for the proper interval. Middaugh defines “threshold intensity” as “the highest sustainable intensity you can do for 40-60 minutes.”
Interval lengths should range between 6–12 minutes (in this week’s workout, we stay near the lower end with 8 minutes). Recovery should be roughly half of the interval time. For intensity, stick to threshold power, but for athletes who are doing threshold intervals for the first time and might be struggling, shoot for 95 percent of your threshold power.
“The key to this type of training is that it is well-paced,” Middaugh says. “Bouts need to be repeatable. Highest sustainable intensity means you need to hold back at the start so you can finish at the same output.” He suggests using a smart trainer with ergo mode to lock in the proper intensity.
In the absence of a smart trainer, try to find a long outdoor climb that lasts at least 8 minutes and repeat the route each time. The ability to repeat the same course also helps with consistency and progression. “Have some intermediate time checks so you are pacing evenly,” Middaugh says. “Heart rate and effort should ramp up whereas power should be plateaued. Mark your finish and see if you can cover the same distance each time or go slightly further on each bout.” Use the downhill as part of your recovery.
“I return to threshold training several times during a season, ideally a few weeks out from a key race or during blocks of training between races,” Middaugh says. “Threshold workouts can be performed with mild fatigue but not the day after a long workout or race. Follow up with adequate recovery for adaptation. They can be done on the same day as an easy swim and could be followed up with a transition run of 20–30 min.”
As an added reader bonus, Middaugh has shared his power graph from a similar session. See below (and don’t feel bad).
10 minutes in heart-rate zone 1 to 2, rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 2/10
(8 minutes at functional threshold power (FTP) or RPE of 8/10
4 minutes recover easy)
5 minutes easy