SteadyState Intervals – The Cornerstone of Your Training for Summer Goals

Now is the time to figure out how you’re going to prepare for your summer goals. It’s not too late, but for athletes with a solid base of aerobic fitness I recommend a minimum of three months of structured, goal-oriented training in preparation for a goal event. For athletes who are starting out with a lower level of fitness, I’d prefer 4-6 months of structured preparation.

One of the cornerstone workouts for long endurance events like Leadville or Ride the Rockies is SteadyState intervals. These 10-20 minute lactate threshold intervals are an essential and time-efficient way to build sustainable power. And while you should also spend time at a more moderate endurance pace in training, SteadyState intervals also build aerobic power, enabling you to maintain a moderate endurance pace for longer periods of time.

SteadyState intervals are not very sexy and are not very exciting. When building training programs – whether a coach builds it or you do it on you own – there’s a temptation to come up with intricate workouts, as if there’s a connection between the intricacy of the interval set and its effectiveness. When it comes down to it, however, positive adaptations result from accumulating an appropriate amount of time at the right workload. For building sustainable power at lactate threshold, that means long, steady intervals at or near your current lactate threshold intensity. Some athletes struggle with that because they want their training to be more varied and entertaining, and if that’s you then my recommendation is to reserve some workouts for the structure that yields results, and reserve other rides for variety and entertainment. All rides can be fun, but if you have goals you want to accomplish then you also have to be willing to do the structured work that’s required.

A typical SteadyState workout is a pretty simple structure to follow. After a good warmup, an example of an interval set might be three 10-minute SteadyState intervals separated by 5 minutes of easy spinning recovery. During the intervals, ride at a steady pace that is 90-95% of your CTS Field Test power output or 92-94% of your CTS Field Test heart rate. This will be about an 7-8 on a 1-10 scale of perceived exertion, where 10 is an all-out effort. Maintain a cadence of 90-95 rpm. Your breathing should be deep and labored, but controlled. If you’re panting uncontrollably or you feel like you’re in a time trial, you’re going too hard. Ten-minute intervals are a good starting point for intermediate riders, and from there you can work up to 12-, 15-, or even 20-minute intervals.

Building power at lactate threshold is a good idea for a lot of reasons, but if you only focus on aerobic power and LT power, you run the risk of developing a “diesel engine”, one that’s good for steady efforts but lacks the punch to accelerate. The good news is, however, that the higher you can push your lactate threshold power, the better your starting point for high-intensity intervals like PowerIntervals as you get closer to your event. It’s those efforts that will give you that high-end power to surge over the top of climbs, accelerate into a breakaway, and have a ton of fun pushing the pace at the local group ride

The training you do right now makes a huge difference in the type of summer you’re going to have. So in the next month, take advantage of the longer daylight hours and really focus on achieving consistency in your weekly training hours. If you do the work now, you won’t have to play catch-up later in the summer!

Chris Carmichael
Head Coach/CEO of CTS

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