Workout of the Week: Calorie Cruncher Intervals

Sometimes the only reason I’m motivated to do an actual interval workout is all the pumpkin pie I have in my immediate future.

A cyclist riding along a tree-lined road on a fall day
Photo: Barros Moreno

Sometimes my only goal is burn through as many calories as I can in as short an amount of time as possible. When that’s the case, I turn to my “Calorie Cruncher.”

Your oxygen consumption is directly tied to your caloric expenditure, and as such, workouts that consume the most oxygen ought to also burn the most calories. There are two ways to accomplish this: a VO2max workout to quickly maximize your oxygen consumption or longer, high-intensity intervals such as 3 × 20 minutes at FTP.

But let’s be honest; those are quite unpleasant and no fun when you’re not training for anything in particular. Instead, I use some cues from Dr. Rønnestad to design something more manageable without breaking my motivation.

In my Calorie Crunchers I do sets that pair 30/30 efforts with FTP efforts. The higher initial workloads ramp my oxygen consumption, while the FTP portion allows the workout set (and my caloric expenditure) to run for more total time. At the end of the set, I do another round of 30/30s to push my expenditure deep into the recovery.

Is this the best VO2max workout? No. Neither is it the best to develop your long-range power. However, on a cold autumn day there’s nothing better to prepare me for another slice of pie.

Workout of the Week: Calorie Cruncher Intervals


15 min. of increasing workload with 3 shorter, harder efforts

Main set

2 sets:

  • 6 × 30 sec. @ 120% FTP + 30 sec. @ 70% FTP
  • 10 min. @ 95% FTP
  • 6 × 30 sec. @ 120% FTP + 30 @ 70% FTP

3 to 5 min. set rest


10 min. easy spin