Doing very high-intensity work—intervals at or above VO2max power or pace such as Tabata work—is becoming increasing popular among coaches in the base season. Personally, I’m still a traditionalist: I believe the best interval work in the base season is work at threshold or FTP. It takes a long time to build threshold power and the base season is when you have that time.
That said, I have become convinced that there is a place for a little high-intensity work through the base phase to keep the “race engine” from getting too rusty. All training produces our major aerobic adaptations through the same pathway and they are additive. So, a little high-intensity work may enhance the base training gains. The trick is just not doing so much that you come into race form in January.
Very high-intensity work is also important for older Masters riders who are at greater risk of losing their fast twitch IIx fibers and need to do regular work to maintain them.
To help with this, I developed a workout for my athletes I call a HIIT wake-up routine. I like this routine because it accomplishes the goal of giving that upper end a little bit of a “wake up” without being too much of a strain. It also has an added benefit of providing some neuromuscular work.
There are two points in the base season when I use this workout. First, I’ll give it to my athletes for two to three weeks right after the off-season as their exclusive interval work. It’s a great way to get them back into the training routine and it also eases the transition back into the harder threshold work I introduce after those initial few weeks. Second, once they are doing threshold work regularly during the base phase, I’ll have them add this workout every three or four weeks, just to keep the top end fresh.
Workout of the Week: High-Intensity Bike Wake-Up
5 min. easy pedaling
Main set #1: 60 min. with sprints
Ride for 60 min. @ 65% of FTP (RPE 3/10)
Towards the end of every 6th minute do a 10-sec. sprint (RPE 10/10) for a total of 10 sprints
Recover for 5 min. @ 65% of FTP
Main set #2: 6 x 30 sec. on, 30 sec. off
Alternate the following for 6 reps:
30 sec. @ 130% of FTP (RPE 8/10)
30 sec. @ 60% of FTP (RPE 2/10)
10 min. steady @ 60% of FTP