Favorite Cycling Workouts—Comparing Different Approaches

All-star guests like Dr. Stephen Seiler, Frank Overton, and Sonya Looney share their favorite cycling workouts and how they fit into different training styles.

Fast Talk Podcast episode 307 is all about favorite cycling workouts

Every coach and experienced athlete has their own style, and that style can really show up in how they execute their training routines. In particular, what workouts they do and how they choose to do them. One athlete may have a special interval routine that works miracles for them, but that same routine may leave you feeling flat because it doesn’t fit with how you train. So, in this Favorite Cycling Workouts episode, we’re going to compare the preferred workouts of several past guests and give our thoughts on what you should consider if you want to include one of these sessions in your routine.

We start by comparing the favorite base routines of Dr. Stephen Seiler—a proponent of the polarized training model—with a routine from the owner of FasCat coaching, Frank Overton—known for his support of sweet spot training. Rounding out that discussion, professional mountain biker Sonya Looney shares one of her favorite sweet spot workouts.  

RELATED: A Comparison of Polarized, Sweet Spot, and Pyramidal Training 

After an in-depth conversation of the different base training approaches, we’ll shift gears and compare three separate high-intensity routines. First, Dr. Paul Laursen, author of the book on high intensity interval training, shares favorite time-crunched Tabata workout. Physiologist Brady Holmer shares a couple hard run sessions, and we round out this conversation with triathlon coach Lauren Vallee’s Hour of Power routine.  

Throughout, our hosts discuss the ins and outs of each workout and how well they’d fit into their own styles of coaching and training.  

So, start thinking about your own training style, and let’s make you fast! 

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor  00:04

Well welcome everybody. We’ve got the whole crew here so you know that means…

Rob Pickels  00:09

It’s a pot- Nope.

Grant Holicky  00:10

No favorites episode.

Rob Pickels  00:12


Trevor Connor  00:14

Almost got you, almost got you. We are going to share some of the favorite workouts from guests we’ve had on the show. I don’t know what to say next. So I’m just going to look at you guys and hope you say something

Rob Pickels  00:27

while you couldn’t think of something to say after that. No, I couldn’t.

Trevor Connor  00:31

I don’t know why. Yeah, we

Rob Pickels  00:33

got some all stars in here we get some Steven Siler, we get some Frank COVID In Sonya Looney Paul Larsen. Hey, I know what he’s gonna want to do. He’s going to do some intervals, short intervals. I bet

Grant Holicky  00:44

basically, it’s that time of year that a lot of us are out there talking about developing the base, developing the the engine.

Rob Pickels  00:52

I mean, when I’m thinking of how do I optimize bass I think do I upgrade my amplifiers and my subwoofers?

Trevor Connor  01:00

Yeah, we don’t need I don’t know

Grant Holicky  01:01

why Trevor just looked at me like that man is an idiot.

Trevor Connor  01:07

Good you read my face.

Grant Holicky  01:10

The whole reason I’m here is that he has somebody look at when Rob makes a dad joke.

Trevor Connor  01:15

Griffin, you want to rescue this train wreck. You


know, I was just gonna say I look forward to going through these workouts and understanding when and who and how to apply them. So let’s get into it.


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Trevor Connor  02:14

So here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re originally going to do a favorites episode on bass work. But everybody that we asked about bass work tended to give us the I just like to go out and ride with my friends. And we figured 15 minutes. So that was probably not the best use of an episode. But we did get some really interesting workouts, we got some good, lower intensity building that volume type workouts, and then we got some good high intensity workouts. So what we’re going to do is break it into we’re first going to play the workouts that are the more let’s build some volume. Let’s build up some training, stress type workouts, we’ll talk about those and then we’ll shift we got three high intensity workouts, play them all, let’s kind of compare and contrast and have a discussion about those. I’m kinda looking forward to these base ones because you know, there’s that constant debate that we bring up of the polarized versus sweetspot. So here we’ve got one from Dr. Steven Siler, which is very much the zone two on the five zone model sustained in that polarized area. And then we got to good Frank over 10. Let’s hit every zone. Let’s do a bunch of sweetspot. Let’s see how much training stress we can accumulate. And we are throwing in there also Sonya Looney talking about her favorite sweetspot intervals. So what do you guys think? Should we play these and then have a conversation? Yeah, let’s do it. Okay, so we will start with Dr. Steven Siler talking about one of his favorite zone two workouts.

Griffin McMath  03:43

What’s Zone Two, you know, that is become the catch phrase, kind of like it’s under your first leg day turd boy. But it’s kind of close. And you’re everybody’s trying to understand what it is. So that’s where I’ve been doing this 182 2182 20 Just going back and forth. And then looking at my, you know, am I keeping heart rate flat. And so I’m actually doing quite a few of those. And I’m doing for the first time I’m using Ergo mode, and just turning off my brain and just working. And three, four years of cycling. I’ve just never done that. Because I’ve always felt like no, I want to be engaged. I want to be using my brain to keep the power net. But no, now I just have to plug it in. And it just goes up and down. And you know, does this little whatever you call it base level. And now I’m playing with the idea, okay, how am I going to program this or progressive? So let’s say I’m doing 182 2225 Is the two, you know, in five minutes of each and I’m just going going going? Sometimes I go longer. So that’s a programming issue. But you can also think, well, Steven, you could also bumped the to 25 to 30. Or you could bump the 180 to 185. Right so you could play with either the easy or the higher level you could lengthen how to program this, I think the last thing I’m going to do is bumped the one ad up, that’s probably the least likely thing I’ll do. But I might have gone from one to 22 to 25. And that was just to make sure that I actually averaged to 20. Because there wasn’t quite achieving the what I wanted it to on the power. So anyway, so I’m, that’s my favorite workout in the sense that it’s just I’m interested in and I’m looking at it, using it and looking at cardiac drift, I’m looking at ventilation, I’m just seeing how my body responds. And very typically my body stays very flat for two hours, and then starts ramping up, you know, so two hours just seems to be kind of my OSHA say my glycogen limit. I don’t know what’s going on. But I do start seeing a clear, decoupling consistently at two hours, pretty much no matter what I do, so maybe it’s just my favorite. I don’t know, Trevor, as

Rob Pickels  05:53

you pointed out the other day, you did some bass riding on the trainer, I believe. And you came in and said, My God, there was so much like strain after doing it on the train or monotonously for hours on end. It’s a different signaling. I think that when you’re running outside, and you’re coasting and you’re at stoplights, and you’re at 100 Watts, and

Griffin McMath  06:15

it was the ERG mode. Yeah, because I’ve done a six hour ride on Zwift Believe it or not actually enjoyed it. But this is the first time it did what you two are doing. In ERG mode, you get no favors. Yeah, zero. If you pause for just five seconds also and you can barely get moving again because it suddenly the torque is so damn high. So yeah, so it I figured out Oh, yeah, I got a really I can’t do anything wrong on ERG mode, you know? Yeah. What do you feel are the benefits of this. I’m just trying to build good basic aerobic capacity. I’m a general impression that the higher my LT one is, the better is just a fundamental that maybe is the marker, you know of basic, my basic fitness is the higher I can go without accumulating any kind of lactate, the better. And I’m investing some energy and trying to see whether I can bump keep that up, as you know, reasonably high. That LT one power. That’s really interesting, because I have noticed over the last 10 years, my LT two hasn’t changed very much. But my LT one has changed a lot. And I have noticed that my performance racing each year really correlates. More with were that LT one is the year’s or my LT one is much lower. I don’t race as well. Yeah. And I think there’s actually we could find data. There’s been some others that have argued this in some research publications that the first the first leg, they turned point adverse ventilatory threshold is is a very good predictor of time trialing and so forth. You might think, Well, why didn’t the LT two in that, but it just seems like your diesel, you know, how much of your basic aerobic metabolism can you draw on without really turning on any kind of glycolysis or a big stress response, that is just a bigger savings, because every time you go above it, you’re taxing the system. So if I can set that point, just a little higher, and think of that over hours and hours and hours, then that’s, that’s good for me. And that’s also, I would say the basic idea of this training intensity distribution is that’s the marker, that demarcates essentially two training zones, low stress, high stress. And that’s really my 20 year, I won’t call it an epiphany because it’s taken me 20 years to get there. So it’s kind of the opposite of an epiphany. But it’s just the slow realization that what’s really been polarized is not intensity, it’s stress. How do I manage the stress, get the signal, manage the stress? And that’s for me, it’s basically what people have been doing for years hard, easy, you know, it’s not new.

Trevor Connor  09:06

All right, so let’s completely shift gears here. And let’s go to one of Frank Overton’s favorite workouts. So Frank Overton, as you know, is a big fan of sweetspot training. And he has what he got, I liked the name of this, the AMEX OTs, which I’ll let him explain, but this is all about accumulating training stress.

Frank Overton  09:26

One of our most favorite sweetspot workouts is the OTS rod and it’s a challenge to the athlete if they can achieve let’s just say a 200 OTS in three and a half hours, and it’s fun, it’s flexible, it lets them do it on a group ride, where they can actually probably do more work by following wheels and they could on their own or if they want to go out and ride hills and you know, push the higher end a sweet spot, you know, to use the terrain to help them achieve more work. That’s all fair game to and then in addition to the favorite sweet spot where Got one of the other workouts that I love a lot. We call it the AMEX ride in AmEx, don’t leave home without it and AmEx OTS is don’t come home without it. And so you give the athlete a workload, and you say, Don’t come home without it. And this is an all zones ride. So it works with the spirit of group rides, races, they can ride zones, four, five and six South Hills, and just generally ride hard, which is a lot of athletes like doing this. And again, it’s we give these rides maybe once a week, it’s not like they’re doing this four or five times a week. But those are two of my favorite. Well, one was sweetspot. But the AMEX ride, you can achieve a lot within if you do a lot of sweetspot. Within the AMEX, right. But it’s like sweet spot plus all the hard stuff.

Trevor Connor  10:51

Can you give us the quick 32nd summary of what OTS means, yeah,

Frank Overton  10:55

OTs is optimized training stress, it’s a power based and heart a base metric, its duration times intensity, and it takes into account the rider fatigue for long rides. So you get credit for the third and the fourth and the fifth hour where you incur more stress than you do in the first and the second, and then also doesn’t take into account coasting, and we use an exponentially weighted moving average.

Trevor Connor  11:18

And then would you do these workouts all year round? Or is it something at a particular time of year?

Frank Overton  11:23

Definitely not all year round? depends on the time of the year, definitely during the build phases, where you’re looking to generate large workloads to increase training load, it can be during the season, a lot of times these workouts occur on Saturdays where the athlete has, that’s like the long ride day.

Trevor Connor  11:41

And then what would you say is the the biggest benefit you gain from these two workouts,

Frank Overton  11:47

a lot of times athletes just need to ride more in order to get faster and send these bouts of training or their chance to ride more, and it expands their range. It also is specific oftentimes for the types of events they’re doing for these gravel and, and fondo events that are 4567 hours plus and we can match these workloads that we know come from the races and have them do that in their training. And it also helps them put the two and two together. So they’re like dang, this race that I did sign up for is going to be really difficult. Finally,

Trevor Connor  12:22

even though this isn’t so much of a base miles ride, we’re doing that contrast in a polarized versus sweet spot. So let’s bring Sonya Looney in here, she has what she loves to do, she’s a mountain biker, very high level mountain biker, she loves weekly to do three by 15 minute sweetspot intervals. So let’s hear her describe this.

Sonya Looney  12:44

I’m a big fan of sweet spot workouts. So the three by 15 minute sweet spot training is always really helpful for me. It’s hard, and it’s a grind, but it’s not so hard that it actually blows you up.

Trevor Connor  12:55

So describe this way. So three by 15 minutes. So what sort of intensity or you

Sonya Looney  12:59

know, sub threshold like just under threshold but not popping over. Okay?

Trevor Connor  13:03

And then what’s the recovery length between each of the 15 minutes?

Sonya Looney  13:07

Sometimes it’s based on the terrain that I’m writing, because I’m on the mountain bike, but 10 to 15 minutes in between, or sometimes five minutes in between? If I’m getting closer to an event?

Trevor Connor  13:14

Is this stuff that you’ll do throughout the base season? Are you do it every week, or is it infrequent? It’s pretty much every week. Wow. So once a week or

Sonya Looney  13:23

once a week I usually do for my interval training. I do one sweetspot type workout and then one threshold type workout unless I’m doing a recovery week or I’m tired from life.

Trevor Connor  13:33

Fantastic. And what do you feel are the benefits of doing that workout?

Sonya Looney  13:37

Sweet Spot workout because whenever I’m racing, I’m often as an ultra endurance racer, I’m not often racing at super high intensities, but having a lot of tolerance for that sub threshold and having a really wide zone there. Helps me go harder for longer without blowing up. And I also think that in stage racing, you’re spending most of your time racing at around your sweet spot.

Trevor Connor  13:58

All right, folks, you heard the three What are your thoughts? What are your reactions and grant I’m looking at you because you look like you’re ready to get on a soapbox? No, no,

Grant Holicky  14:06

no, I have no reaction.

Rob Pickels  14:08

I have a reaction.

Trevor Connor  14:09

Rob, what’s your reaction? Stephen

Rob Pickels  14:10

stole my heart when we thought wings together. But he really pushed it over the top when he does. boy, my boy over here, you know, stealing out of my playbook rocking the ERG mode for base on the trainer. Man that’s about as good as training gets, in my opinion.

Grant Holicky  14:34

Your nut job, but I do love the concept of prescribing Eric mode based miles because then people can’t they can’t mess it up. They can’t miss it. You

Rob Pickels  14:43

really can’t mess it up. It’s the most amazing thing in the world. Dr.

Trevor Connor  14:47

Sadler if you’re listening I just apologize that Rob has convinced you to do this. No, I

Rob Pickels  14:52

don’t think that I convinced him to do it. But you know, you know we’re on the same page. You know,

Grant Holicky  14:56

I’m with you. I’m with you. I don’t have to use ERP mode but what I like about This is the exploration and bass. I like that he’s keeping 180 at 180. So with a low end of bass stays at low end to bass and then to kind of exploring what the higher end of bases.

Rob Pickels  15:12

And I think it’s important that there is the ebb and the flow in the workloads to tell you the truth. And other people will be like, Well, why why can’t I just set it? You know, for him? Why can’t I just set it to jointed Watts and go from there, like, because that’s not writing, that’s, you got to push forward a little bit, you got to pull back a little bit, you know, you’re mimicking what’s on the road, you got to change the tension that’s occurring in your legs. I think all of that is important in that I do think that the trainer can be monotonous for people in something like this helps break that monotony. So I want to

Trevor Connor  15:39

hear what you guys have to say about where we kind of finish this conversation because you heard my opinion, I do think raising that LT one is one of the most important things you can do. And for anybody listening as if you haven’t heard our past episodes, talking about Dr. Sylar, he has a three zone model that’s differentiated by two thresholds. You have LT two, which is what most people refer to as your anaerobic threshold is when you Time Trial out. But there’s this lower threshold, which is LT one, and that’s what you can kind of hold for five, six hours you can hold for a long time. And I’m a big believer that getting that LT one up is really critical, particularly if you’re a road racer, and doing multiple hours, because then you can do most of the race without really fatiguing because you’re at what’s your body feels is a low intensity, but particularly granted somebody who’s focused on cyclocross, how do you feel about this, I think

Grant Holicky  16:29

there’s a lot of value and the idea of LT one and raising that up, I think covering the distance or covering the time is super important, you know, especially as we go into this stuff, that’s a lot of people on the show that are starting to look at gravel, and the gravel races, that they’re going to do their 678 hour races and having that ability to kind of the slow burn through that, that long period of time is really important. And that’s what I like about what he’s playing with on that top end of bass, right, like pushing that envelope a little bit higher and a little bit higher. And plus bass is all in vogue again. But bass has always been should have always right. It’s always been king. And everybody knows I like to do intensity. But there’s always a ton of bass written into the schedule, because that’s where we get efficient at clearing, we got to be able to clear what we’re producing. And if you don’t get efficient at clearing doesn’t matter how well you can produce it.

Rob Pickels  17:25

For a cycling in general, I think that LT one is a pretty universal sign of what’s to come. Yeah, and what we often see and I have done more lactate tests than I can count on people. And also on myself, actually, what you tend to see in people is this somebody comes in relatively unfit, and they’ll have what I’ll call an upward sloping baseline. Maybe they’re 1.5 Maybe they’re even at two millimole to start on the next stage, they creep up a little bit there. 1.5 then they go 1.8. And then they go to point one, and then they go to point five, and they go 3.5. And then they go 10. And they never and they never have a nice flat baseline. So you go out and you prescribe based training to them. And what happens? Now they’re okay, they’re their 1.3. They’re 1.3. They’re 1.3. They’re 1.4. They’re 1.5. And then they go up from there, right? Yeah, great. Yeah,

Grant Holicky  18:16

no, no, I was just gonna joke that often you see 1.3 1.3 1.8 1.3.

Rob Pickels  18:22

But that’s a bit of a whoopsie. All right on that,

Grant Holicky  18:24

but I do think what you’re saying is that on, right, the base isn’t fatiguing you anymore. And I think that’s what people run into a lot is like just going and doing a long pace. Right? I remember this, when I first started training, I would go out and do a three hour ride and I was exhausted, I’d lay on the couch. And I wasn’t even going that hard, really. And so this, this just breeds that ability to go. And the other thing that I like about what Tyler’s doing is when you push the wattage up that little bit, your are still producing more now you drop back down, you clear it all out like no science behind this necessarily, but the anecdotally it should feel like yeah, this should up the efficiency of what we’re trying to do in that zone. I really liked that. So

Trevor Connor  19:06

let’s completely shift gears here. Amex OTS. Let’s hit every zone, let’s accumulate a ton of training stress. So this was Frank Overton’s, leading into the season. I love

Grant Holicky  19:16

this workout when you’re getting closer to racing, because then when you’re racing, you’re hitting every zone. Yeah, for me, it’s dangerous because I feel like you are giving the athlete free license to absolutely wallop themselves with no structure and I would go out and that workout if I wanted to get to 200 Tss or OTS or however he describes it, just do one minute efforts, or 22nd huge efforts and but that’s helpful, but I can’t believe I’m saying this. It’s a little too unstructured for my toes.


Look at that. Yeah. I know. Shocking, Trevor just whip his head around fast enough to give him some whiplash.

Grant Holicky  19:51

You might have heard himself Yeah, Grant.

Rob Pickels  19:53

I think that you know, I’m a little bit more of a time in zone type of person. Right and hearing frank talk about this It just it always reminds me because, you know, Frank is a brilliant coach, he’s had such great success. It’s such a cool dude. You know, I love Frank. But we tend to look at things in a very different way. And you know, prior to developing OTS Frank was really big on on KJS on prescribing by kilojoules, and go out and accumulate X number of kilojoules. And here’s the thing. I don’t think that that works in my training structure. But it definitely works in Frank’s training structure.

Grant Holicky  20:28

Absolutely. That’s a very fair point. Right. And and I think the other thing is, as we talk about the, you know, everybody’s new favorite metric durability, you can start to get into you know, I’ll play around with prescribing KJS before, I want you to get this many kilojoules. And before you go, do the sure intervals, because I want that durability to come up. But it still scares me, I still go back and look at what they did to get the kilojoules. Right, like you did that in an hour. Wait a second, let’s go and get this again, that’s probably wasn’t gonna work. You know,

Trevor Connor  21:02

my initial reaction is oh, boy, that’s not what I would get. But I gotta admit, you know, some of my best years, I wouldn’t do it all winter. But as you’re getting towards the end of the winters, I’m getting close to the season. I always love to go out and do what’s called the oval ride in Fort Collins, which was it was six hours on the bike. And first hour and a half, you’re hitting all the sprint lines doing these super hard 32nd One minute efforts, then you hit the hills and you’re doing 5678 minute efforts. And then I just because it was stupid when we’re getting close to the finish line, they turn right i turn right go climb this HC climb, and then limp home.

Grant Holicky  21:37

Right? What I was gonna say is this OTs, Amex o TX. Right? Looks like a group ride. Yeah. And I think that’s a really nice way for coaches to incorporate the group ride, because that can be a challenge sometimes of how to incorporate the group ride into the training.

Rob Pickels  21:52

And it’s important to be able to give athletes the opportunity to go out and enjoy ride. Yeah, right. Yeah, perfect. Perfect training is solo training so that you’re doing everything to a tee. Right? But is that really perfect training? Well,

Grant Holicky  22:04

and then furthermore, this is kind of a fun workout to get to go hammer yourself in a bunch of different ways. That’s not fun to you, Griffin. That’s not what you had on the list.

Griffin McMath  22:13

No, I just I’m loving this. I really appreciate as you’re going through each of these workouts, you know, is this suitable for a solo ride or for a group ride. And then also, the notes that we have on the comparison of what’s actually happening with stress and the workload during the workout. So whereas we’re polarizing stress with silos workout, this one, you’re just trying to accumulate stress. And so I think being able to pick apart this, so that as coaches or athletes are listening to this, they’re understanding when to plug and play each of these workouts is a good idea. So I think my I have questions right now that I can answer I’d be asking you about what we’re talking about. And we’re saying we’re accumulating stress throughout this particular ride. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  22:54

Do things I want to point out one, I love that you’re pointing out the stress aspect of it, because that’s really what we’re talking about. Right is stress on the body and then hopefully the adaptation that comes from that, but I will say the more you do the Seiler than the better you can do the Frank Overton Yeah.

Grant Holicky  23:08

Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah.

Trevor Connor  23:12

So what about Sonya loonies? What’s your thoughts on this

Grant Holicky  23:15

three by 15, one of the ones I do is 15, then a 10. Minute five, this is pretty typical early season stuff getting into the tempo zones. The only thing out of this that I would question is, what mountain bike races is she doing that she’s like this, which I know she

Rob Pickels  23:31

knows, then an Olympic or a short track mountain biker, but that also

Grant Holicky  23:35

is definitely true of most of the mountain bike races in Colorado, and a lot of the ones in the states long climb, then recover on the downhill, then long climb, recover on the downhill. And this is a really good example of kind of starting to get yourself used to what you’re going to go see in your races. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  23:52

I mean, I will say though, I wouldn’t go three by 15. For more novice athletes, I wouldn’t go three by 15. For some people who might not have a good base of fitness. I think that 45 minutes of stress is it’s a decent amount, especially depending on how close to threshold you’re getting. Well,

Grant Holicky  24:10

that’s the question, right? If this is true tempo, then we’re getting a very similar physiological response of what we get in bass. It’s just a little harder. But as we creep toward sub threshold work, this is a completely different

Trevor Connor  24:23

workout. And that’s where I was going to split hairs, because that’s what she said. She said, just below threshold. And I always think of, you know, we got Dean Gulledge to describe his training plan to us. And he loves as you’re getting into February and March doing three by 20s, which is fairly close. And he has his athletes to do it. Sub thresholds like 95 There’s 95 FTP. Yeah, yeah, right around there. And his point was, what he has seen is it’s doing it at 95% of threshold doing 100% a threshold doing 103% Is that threshold, all the exact same as much so I would split The hairs slightly, you know, she didn’t give an exact number. But I would actually personally call this a little more of a threshold workout. But

Grant Holicky  25:07

still in that case, right, if we look at this as a threshold workout just a couple of weeks ago, Trevor, you and I were talking about pushing more threshold work during this time of year, starting to get used to that starting to have that in the body. And then we can get more specific as we go down the line. And even myself, who loves lots of different zones, that is definitely something that I’m doing a lot more in the winter time, true threshold work or even high tempo work or even regular tempo work, just start to get the work out a base start to get you to understand what it feels like to be under load without crippling, and

Trevor Connor  25:42

now the truth comes out of who’s done that you liked me grant, you really loved me.

Grant Holicky  25:50

Threshold work that is its own. Its own episode.

Trevor Connor  26:00

Burn winter, there is cold. But again, back to conditioning and looking to rev up your training. If you haven’t already, now’s a great time of year to reflect on the past season. Specifically, when it comes to data and recovery to very important metrics in endurance sports, visit fast talk labs and take a look at our pathways on recovery and data analysis. These two in depth guides can help you get the most from your offseason. See more fast, Doc labs.com/pathways. Shall we shift to our three high intensity workouts? Yeah,

Grant Holicky  26:36

let’s do it. Okay,

Trevor Connor  26:38

so the first one friend of the show, Dr. Paul Larsen wrote a entire book on hit work. So guess what

Rob Pickels  26:47

we’re getting problem. Not Hitman Hit work.

Grant Holicky  26:50

high intensity training. Yes.

Trevor Connor  26:52

So he brought up a workout that he loves to do when he’s short on time. And it’s 3015. So 30 seconds really hard 15 seconds recovery, you repeat that a bunch of times. It’s basically a Tabata workout, but we’ll let him talk about how to do it and why he likes it.

Dr Paul Laursen  27:11

My favorite workout is a 3015 session where I might do you know, maybe I’ve got 3045 minutes, and I’ve got a really busy day, but I’ve got this little block on the bike. And I know I can just go go to my trainer. And I do I can get this done in between 30 and 45 minutes and it just gives me that awakening, it’s a it’s a vo two session where I might warm up for like 10 minutes on the trainer. And then I will break into sets of 3015 Or do you usually do about eight of them and then it’s usually about five minutes per per set of 3030 seconds heart zone, you know, zone 615 seconds, easy zone one. And you know, repeat those for do eight of those, that’s, that’s a five minute block, two to three minutes recovery in between almost kind of go by feel do another block, do the third block, do third three is kind of my minimum. But that’s, you know, I can even like do five minutes or a 10 minute cooldown thereafter. But you know, in terms of making me feel good, and getting feeling like I’ve done something in the day, even when I’m super busy. I love that 3015 session, you know, I’ve got got 1000 others that I love to but if I had to pick one, I’ll go with that one, I guess the value of it is that cognitively I will feel a lot better in my day, because I’ve done something. So it is the time efficiency of of that workout. It is of course via to max stimulating, right, so you’re gonna get both large fast twitch muscle fiber recruitment for the work outputs. And also I’m gonna get ventricular contraction. So all the things that you get with via to max i My heart is going to build and be stronger. I’m going to feel great thereafter. For me in my context busy CEO a little bit, you know, between meetings or various different things, I might have 90 minutes or an hour to get sort of something done. I would use it there but you can equally use this in any sort of given microcycle in the week to hit that. VO two Max nail right? If you can only do l two sessions around that, then this is a great one to just get in there time efficient and you hit the via to nail All right,

Trevor Connor  29:42

let’s shift gears a little bit here we have Brady Homer who is a writer@examined.com and an exercise physiologist. He actually gave us two workouts he’s a runner, so he’s given us a couple run workouts. One is the classic what’s called the cruising interval doing mile repeats talking about you start with three, you might build up to doing seven of them, we’ll let him describe that. And then he talks about the four by four minute intervals at 85 to 90% of max heart rate. So let’s hear him describe both these workouts.

Brady Holmer  30:19

So I’ll talk about maybe one that I like personally, and then maybe one that I think has some very good research to back it up. I’ll preface this by saying that my background is primarily in endurance running. So I’m primarily a runner, but a favorite workout of mine, a classic workout is the good old mile repeats. So I think these are great for kind of big sort of bridge a gap between doing a, maybe a slower tempo run and faster, quote, unquote, maybe lactic threshold or anaerobic intervals. But for me, these have always just been throughout the season, something that I’ve performed, whether it’s during the summer, when I’m training for like a base training, or kind of whether I’m trying to hone race pace, doing mile repeats is something that I’ve never really not done as, as a runner, I’ll do anywhere from three of those, if it’s kind of early on to up to kind of six or seven is probably the maximum that I would do. But essentially what that is, you’ll just run one mile I’ll recover for depending again, on the time in the season, about maybe three to five minutes, and then we’ll just run one again, those should be at a somewhat comfortable pace. But by the end of them, you’re pretty tired. So they’re kind of like threshold intervals. In college, my coach called them cruise intervals to go by many names. But I think these are good to do kind of earlier on in the season, this depends on you know what the length of your event is, but you know, they’re great for for base building, and what you know, you can kind of gear them towards, they’re not necessarily at a prescribed intensity. So they’re going to be relative to kind of whatever your current fitness is, at that point on in like relative to your race pace. So as you get fitter, those might get faster. So I kind of do mile repeats closer towards the beginning. But mile repeats are one of my favorite workouts to do personally, I think a session that has some good evidence behind it would be four by four minute protocol. So this is a high intensity interval session. So essentially, what it involves is just doing a total of four, four minute intervals. And those are going to be between 85% and 95% of your heart rate or your view to max interspersed with three minute recoveries, those have very good evidence behind them to support in particular increasing one’s vo two max. So the four by four, I think that’s kind of a good, yeah, it can be a good base building workout, but it could be a good workout for sort of sharpening your racing skills like later on in the season.

Trevor Connor  32:35

Finally, our third high intensity workout, this comes from Lauren Valley, she calls it her power hour, it is one minute on one minute off for an excruciating length of time, let’s just let her describe it.

Lauren Vallee  32:50

I think one of my favorite workouts is an hour bike ride, that’s called Power Hour, and it’s 20 minutes, smooth warm up. And then basically it’s 20 by one minute on one minute off, and you are trying to hit the max sustainable output that you can at a certain cadence. So that cadence changes for me, depending on the part of the season that I’m in. So if it’s postseason, typically it’s going to be 55 to 60 RPM, so it’s gonna be grinding a really big gear. And that is a special form of torture. But I really liked that set.

Trevor Connor  33:25

So I’ve never actually heard that variation on it. So what is the reason you do this workout? What are the gains, so the

Lauren Vallee  33:32

gains are at that low cadence, I coach a lot of low cadence training for my triathletes. And to be specific, it’s non draft legal racing, which is very different than draft legal triathlon. So the 55 to 60 RPM is you’re really holding the muscle contraction longer as you’re driving the pedal down. And it just builds tremendous strength at quite a low heart rate for the amount of work and power you’re putting out. So it’s just a ton of strength that you’re building in the offseason, which, for me, I think is really smart. Because you’re not just sitting on the trainer for four hours at a zone to intensity, you’re gonna get a lot of bang for your buck with

Trevor Connor  34:09

that session. And you said, this is just something that you do in the offseason know that session

Lauren Vallee  34:13

can be used all year, but you may what I start to do if I use it in season is I start incorporating more race specific cadence. So anywhere from 70 to 80, RPMs. Depending on the athlete, some of my athletes ride closer to 80. Some of them ride closer to 70. I typically ride between 68 and 75 RPM is when I raced so that’s kind of a sweet spot for if I’m doing that workout in season.

Rob Pickels  34:38

Great. Lauren, can I ask are you aiming for a specific power output during this workout?

Lauren Vallee  34:43

Not necessarily. It’s supposed to be best repeatable output. And so if I were to give somebody a cadence floor, maybe I might say, you know, don’t really work hard to get higher than 230 if you can, I might do that. But I coach using perceived exertion And then I use the data afterwards to be the feedback. And we could go into a whole conversation about why. But it really is supposed to be best sustainable output. And what happens, the more you do that workout is you really get a feel for oh, I can sustain 20 reps of this. And that is part of the outcome and part of the goal of doing that workout. And so as you do it, yeah, you should have a sense that okay, it’s 70 RPM, so I’m trying to hit 230 watts. And then I’m looking at as, as the reps go on, am I losing power? am I building power by staying the same? So you kind of use the power within the workout to kind of meter out your intensity? And then me as the coach, we’ll sit down with the athlete afterwards and talk about was this higher or lower than last time? And what was the context that you did that workout in? How much fatigue Do you have? You know, how close are we to a race?

Trevor Connor  35:52

All right, guys, what do you think? Which should you like, which sounds horrifying? would use all these? And would you use them for the same purposes? Or is there some variety here? No,

Rob Pickels  36:03

no, absolutely not use it for the same purpose. Right? You know, Dr. Larson is doing a 30. By 1530 seconds on 15 seconds off, I tend to be more of a 3030 type of person grant, I know you like to do a lot of 4020s. There’s a lot of different workouts in very similar vein. But I think that they all work a little bit differently. To tell you the truth. I

Grant Holicky  36:25

agree with that. 3015 2010s, the true Tabata kind of stuff, I believe, and maybe this is just me personally, and how I do them, I think it pushes you a little bit out of threshold, the style stuff can see a little more variability in heart rate, because the efforts aren’t as long. When you start with a 4020 what you tend to see is a pretty steady, average right around threshold, in terms of heart rate in power and power. If you look at average power after 10 by 4020, you’re gonna see an average power that’s kind of dead at your threshold. To me, I’ve always liked that because that’s a different way to get threshold work in that similar reflects racing. I think when you start getting shorter, and you get into that, you know, 3015 2010 that’s more spiky now, and then you go kind of 4020 3030 2040 by the time you’re 2040 the heart rates, kind of just getting a little bit more steady, but I really liked 3015 So I do them pretty early in the season. I like it on a Tuesday and you know, then turning around on a Wednesday and doing more threshold stuff. I like touching that vo to max world and then stepping away from it. And you know, as I’ve said on the show, I think that like vo two Max is such a misleading term because it’s like everything over threshold. There’s a ton of nuance in there. So I really like going to 3050 I like how that workout feels. I like what it does for an athlete kind of preps them for what’s the comp Yeah,

Rob Pickels  37:53

for me it’s I don’t term these vo two Max I term them Max aerobic power. Yeah, because it’s kind of when you’re doing these at around a max aerobic power. But because the work and the rest are both so short. I think that vo two tends to lag behind. Yeah, and if we’re looking at a time at VO two Max and that’s when I think of a vo two Max workout. I think more of the bent Ron said time vo two Max, I think that there are better ways to achieve that. But for me working through a progression like this getting the body used to that Max aerobic power for short palatable time periods. This is a great in my I use this during the bass season, a great lead in to trim vo to max where it lets you get used to it without the pain of the full vo to work and it also

Grant Holicky  38:41

starts getting you used to the pain. Yeah, like oh, I can do this again. That’s the

Trevor Connor  38:45

big thing. For me. That’s what I love about Devadas. I do think physiological adaptations, there’s multiple different ways to get very similar adaptations. But you think about racing, how often are you on a race where somebody attacks you respond to them, you do this huge 23 second effort, but you just caught them, you’re trying to catch your breath, somebody else attacks and you got to go again, you got to get used to that huge effort, you don’t get enough time to recover before you got to do huge effort to get well

Grant Holicky  39:11

and there’s multiple ways to do tomatoes. One of the ways to do tomatoes is you kind of cap the high end effort right to say you’re gonna do the on at 150% of threshold power. The other way to do it is just go as hard as you possibly can and you’re gonna watch it fall off as you go through the aid. Another one you watch it be pretty steady through the aid. And so like, again, I will forever say there’s a lot of nuance up there. And how you use it is really important, but I agree with Trevor, you’re starting to get used to hurting. Yeah, and there’s something to that

Rob Pickels  39:39

I actually I do the opposite. I cap the recovery, and I make the recovery a base wattage, I make the recovery 65 70% of FTP. And what that means is because you’re not dropping to zero because you’re not dropping to 50 RPM, it limits how hard you’re going on the next one On

Grant Holicky  40:00

that’s what I do on 4020s. I did that same idea on 4020s. When I get a little shorter like 3015 or 2010s I don’t really capture like, Go hard go easy go hard go easy, but 4020s Yeah, absolutely. I really liked this workout early season, you just have to be careful about a how often you use it, where you use it in the week. You

Trevor Connor  40:19

don’t love me as much as I thought.


So then why do you get to the end of this workout and feel great, because I just heard you all talking about capping out so much. Why does someone feel great after this

Grant Holicky  40:30

exactly what Larson said, you feel like you did a lot you feel like you worked out. It’s such a great short time piece. And this is one of those quintessential workouts that again, we were talking about is you touch every single zone or every zone is involved in what you’re trying to do. There’s no such thing as I’m only in zone three. Well, I don’t think there’s ever anything that you’re truly only in zone three. But this is one of those things that can be inferred as vo two Max could be looked at as threshold can be looked at as sprint can be looked at at all these different ways. You walk out of it gone, man, I just wax myself. This was awesome. Yeah, that’s a great way to feel like you got a lot done.

Rob Pickels  41:06

I think that for a lot of athletes, a little bit of suffering is a pleasurable thing. Yeah, right. And in what happens in an on off situation like this is every rep you just get into a little bit of suffering without going into Oh, this is too much suffering, you touch it and you touch it and you touch it and you touch and you know, he’s doing what, eight repeats, you know, multiple sets of that. Yeah, you know, as you’re getting 24 Little instances of just a little bit of suffering. And by the end, the some of that feels good without haver crossed the line where you’re begging for the interval to end.

Grant Holicky  41:41

But the other thing I love about this and again for early season, awesome on the trainer. That’s an awesome way to pass time on the trainer. Yep, it’s

Rob Pickels  41:48

hard to do this stuff outside.

Trevor Connor  41:50

It is the exact opposite really odd is I cannot do them on the trainer. I have to do them outside. Where did you where you just don’t love me at all?

Grant Holicky  41:59

No, I love you. I love you for your quirks.

Rob Pickels  42:03

I love you for who you aren’t fair. So Brady,

Trevor Connor  42:06

Homer. This is kind of a shift. Yeah. And we want to talk about both. We want to talk about his four by fours. His is one mile, I think

Grant Holicky  42:14

is four by fours. As he says these are something he does later in the season. Right?

Trevor Connor  42:19

Yes. Right. He basically says the one miles or something he does early, yeah, kind of build up and then the four by fours are in season three,

Grant Holicky  42:27

what I like about this and I actually could read this completely wrong. It’s kind of the old runner float mentality like cruise, you’re gonna go out and you’re gonna do this with some speed. But you’re not pushing, you’re allowing speed to come up. And I think that’s another really kind of fun thing that’s early in the year. Let the let the stride catch up with the technique catch up. You’re not worried about the pace, you’re not worried about your watch, just go up the pace for a mile and then calm it down up the pace for miles and calm it down. Again, another way to introduce workload. For

Rob Pickels  43:01

me though, I look at it a little bit differently. I don’t like threshold, the stuff early and training. Early in training is when I’m really polarizing a lot. I’m either very base, or I’m really focused on that Max aerobic power vo to

Trevor Connor  43:17

rob really doesn’t like me. Why is that part of who you are.

Rob Pickels  43:21

It’s probably it’s in some regard part of who I am. No, I believe that in some regard, I think that those are the purest focus on the physiology side of things. For me, when it comes to threshold work, I think that there’s obviously some physiological adaptation but there’s a lot of other things that come there’s a little bit more event and performance specific there. And so I tend to kind of base season focus on base work zone to or vo to work during the build. That’s when I’m really focused on a big volume of thresholds type of training. And when we get to race season, I’m almost back to more of a sharpening with a vo to high intensity so I’m kind of like an hour glassy shaped person with with how I do this. And so you know what, hey, everybody’s skins cans differently and apparently Trevor skins cats incorrectly. Oh, Mike, so

Trevor Connor  44:16

I’m going to bring up something that you haven’t heard because I want to hear your response to this. Rob. I was talking with Dr. Sylar yesterday. And we were talking about the polarization of the low intensity and the high intensity and he said one thing he often sees people think is when they are polarizing, they have two extreme polarized meaning they’re either zone one, or zone six with their tongues hanging out. And he said his experience is actually that you see a lot of that high intensity done more in zone four, which would be kind of that threshold, a little above threshold type zone. How do you respond to that? Because you just said you’d like to polarize by going higher intensity.

Rob Pickels  44:55

I wouldn’t say that that’s pyramidal training, not polarized training. Okay.


Hey, hey, here’s the thing, right? This is this is training that I do, it’s training that has worked well for me, it’s training that’s worked well for athletes. I think that pushing that upper vo two Max Max, a robic power ceiling up makes room for the threshold improvements to come. I think that it’s a great way to balance stress on the body. Because during base, I do relatively little vo two Max, we’re not doing a lot of work, we’re doing a lot of work down low. And then I think that people can handle through a build phase a lot more threshold or just sub threshold training in terms of training volume. And so that’s why I’m doing it sort of in that emphasis now on the race season looks different from bass, because there is more high intensity than I’m doing in bass.

Grant Holicky  45:45

I would agree with that. I think I think you’re hitting an interesting thought. I think that during the bass season, are people ready for a ton of threshold, they do a time threshold, and I don’t know if they’re ready for it.

Rob Pickels  45:54

And I don’t believe a little bit of threshold does anything for anybody.

Grant Holicky  45:58

I mean, I disagree. I agree physiologically, disagree psychologically. And I think I’m always paying attention to training people psychologically, too. But I’ve gone

Trevor Connor  46:08

from feeling the love to just being attacked.

Rob Pickels  46:12

It’s not about you, Trevor, it’s not about you.

Grant Holicky  46:15

But I do love the early season. And this is a good segue into Valley stuff. I love the early season intensity I liked going hard, I again would put a little bit more structure into it than what she’s doing it she does everything on feel is what she’s talking about. One of the things I love about high end vo two Max work early in the year is that it is teaching people to push a really big gear at a really high cadence. And I think that people do one of the other, they tend to push a really big gear and be at low cadence, or they push a really high cadence at a really low gear. Sprinting, attacking again comes back to cyclocross and mountain bike, those people are spinning, and they look super supple. When they’re spinning the pedals on the bike, they’re pushing massive gears and massive watts. So that comfort that you can start to create at Big watts with high cadence, I like it. And early in the year, you’re not so fatigued that you get bogged down that you can do it. This is something we talked about before with sprinting early in the year, you’re gonna hit these great sprint numbers that now you’re going to try yourself to hold yourself to for the rest of the year. If you don’t sprint early in the year, you’re never going to see that big number, you’re too tired.

Trevor Connor  47:35

So the other thing that she brought up that I actually want to ask everybody here about is she says she coaches by perceived exertion, she doesn’t give power or a number. She is

Rob Pickels  47:45

a total RPE based person. And I find that really interesting. You know, I think that that probably works for some athletes, it might not work for others. But I will say a lot of coaches do not put enough emphasis on you. So I’m just happy to see that somebody even cares about it. Yeah,

Grant Holicky  48:03

I agree with that. I remember years ago, getting into a battle with Neil, about how field doesn’t matter. And he was on me about field is the only thing that matters. And what we got to eventually is I was talking about racing, and he was talking about training. And I was like, Oh no, I completely agree with you feel matters more than almost anything in the world when you’re training. I just don’t want people to think about how they feel when they’re racing, because you should feel like crap. So don’t like really focus in on it. But I do I agree. I think we get too caught up in this my whole point with FTP, right? That FTP is beautiful, because it incorporates feel, because you’re gonna have to make some choices. If I’m tired, I’m dehydrated, I’m beat up from my lift, I’m all those things, your functional threshold power might be lower. And that’s okay. Because you’re still getting the same physiological response. Now,

Rob Pickels  48:56

something I find interesting about Lauren, right. She’s primarily coaching triathletes. And that is something where feel, I think, is able to swap more universally between the three disciplines. Yes. Right. And if you’re only talking about these objective, external metrics, you can’t apply that to swimming, you can’t apply that as well to running. And so I think that it’s great that she is focusing because that is something that is universal between swim, bike and

Grant Holicky  49:23

run. Yeah. And to piggyback on that, like, run heart rate versus cycling heart rate, right. What’s your cycling heart rate a threshold versus what your run heart rate or threshold is? That could be 20 beats different

Rob Pickels  49:33

What’s your cycling heart rate on your TT bike versus on your road freight, it

Grant Holicky  49:36

incorporates that variability, it pays attention to that variability. That’s a really good point, though about doing three disciplines. There’s more crossover that way.

Rob Pickels  49:45

The other thing too, that I’ll say is sometimes with high intensity, I think that it’s just about working hard, and not necessarily about telling an athlete to hit a certain wattage, if I tell you 360 Watts, and you could have done it at 300 95 Well, you probably should have done in 395. You know, so that’s where RPE comes in as well.

Trevor Connor  50:04

That’s something when you’re particularly when you’re talking about these short like 32nd 22nd efforts, or

Rob Pickels  50:10

20 by one that workout. Workout really well. Okay, revolver

Trevor Connor  50:19

60 minute one of my favorite workouts, but the point I’m going to make I always tell my athletes if you are watching your power meter we’ll do on the 22nd

Grant Holicky  50:28

You’re doing it wrong. Yeah, absolutely. I love this workout as a preparation for cyclocross season. I love sure minute on minute offs. And I’ll tell you a little story I in the preparation for cyclocross world, Eric called me and said, I would like to change the training plan. He said, why is that? Well, you got a minute on minute offs on Saturday, and I’m in my head gone, what doesn’t want to work? He goes, those are too easy. Like, I’m not doing them, right? No, he’s doing them, right. He’s just used to these, this is something he’s very used to, because we do them a lot. So he’ll go out and do minute on minute offset 120 to 140%, of threshold. And for him, he’s like, that’s just not that hard. But that’s what I like to produce in an athlete, because that’s the kind of athlete I tend to coach. But I do like that she buries the cadence throughout the year, I would be a little bit hesitant to have it all be low cadence early in the year for this, many of them for 20 of them that he’s going to wreck the legs. But I understand that mindset of there’s a lot of triathlon coaches that like that lower cadence, because they’re feeling like they’re using a different musculature on the bike, and then you can shift to the run and do different musculature on the run.


Grant, you talked about your athlete just now who will do minute on minute offs out of 100 100% threshold? And you said, Well, he can do that. Because there’s just not that hard. How can something be 100% plus of threshold, and it not be hard?

Grant Holicky  51:57

I think it’s what athletes are used to. This is why I’m so adamant that the psychology of sport is so important. If you spend time there, you get comfortable being uncomfortable. And it’s 140 150% of threshold power. I mean, I that’s still well below max for a lot of these people. And it’s not that the workout isn’t hard. It’s not that he’s not going to be tired at the end of it. It’s just that it’s not a challenge, mentally or physically. He knows he can complete the session. And it’s pretty just run of the mill. This is what he’s used to. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  52:29

and I’ll say to illustrate this, I’m going to use a slightly different workout. And that is this. The first time you do a block of 3030s followed by threshold. It’s the most excruciating thing you could possibly do. Yeah, especially that first minute or two is just you are willing yourself to not stop and take a break. You do that workout once, twice, three times. Definitely by the third time you’re like, this isn’t so bad. Yeah, I

Grant Holicky  52:57

know what’s coming. Sorry to jump in. This is Neil’s classic Batman’s ins and outs, right? You start with this huge vo two max effort. And then you’re settling in you’re recovering Correct. At threshold Exactly. The first time you do it, you’re like, I can’t recover here. And then eventually what you learned Griffin is like when you do these over and over and over again. If you learn yourself and you’re paying attention to yourself, you’re like, add a minute, I know I’m gonna feel better. Yeah. And lo and behold, a minute to a minute and a half and you’re like, oh, okay,

Rob Pickels  53:26

I’m okay. And this is a huge skill. I’m gonna call it a skill. And maybe it’s a mental skill in cycling, is learning how to recover even though things didn’t necessarily get easier. Yeah, no. And that’s where these minute on minute offs. They sort of teach you that because they stink and they’re no fun and you want to stop after three. But you learn you can keep going.

Trevor Connor  53:48

Yeah, I love so Griffin, let’s give you the final word here. You’re starting to get into this anything that you heard and these workouts and you go, man, I want to go out and try that. I think


knowing where I’m at, in my journey with endurance sports in this capacity to me I want to choose things that are going to build my confidence up and lay down basic skills. And I’ve had so many conversations now with Grant especially and Dr. Scott Frey about mindset and belief and kind of what that does to an athlete over time that I’m looking at some of these workouts that are more about sweet spot or you know, the loony the rest of team like obviously I would love to be able to say that I’m crushing some Seiler workout. I’d be stoked to be able to say that but I think really doing some of these things where I’m working at the core and then kind of customizing later, that would be ideal. So maybe the three ways that teens sweetspot intervals. I like what Rob said at the end there about this Power Hour like you might want to die after three of these, which I think I would at this point. But knowing that if I just use that as the goal, like if I can get up to 20 I think that would be fun for me right now just knowing that I would have something to work towards. So that’s the way I look at these fantastic

Trevor Connor  54:59

Well, any last thoughts? I think Griffin brought

Grant Holicky  55:02

us out in a nice way. I like that then

Trevor Connor  55:06

That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and review the thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk those are the individual. As always, we’d love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums.fastalklabs.com. Tweet us with @fasttalklabs head to fasttalklabs.com to get access to our endurance sports knowledge base, Coach Continuing Education as well as our in person remote athletes services. For Griffin McMath, Grant Holicky, Rob Pickels, I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening!