Workout of the Week: Over Unders

Get your year off to a good start with this fun but challenging over-under cycling workout.

female cyclist on bike
Photo: Shutterstock

We’re kicking off 2023 with some Over Unders as this week’s Workout of the Week, from our very own Rob Pickels. This session involves three sets of 12-minute intervals just over and under your second lactate threshold (LT2).

Pickels said: “When I’m looking for a trainer workout that helps my body get back into the swing of things, I always reach for what I call “equal over/unders.” I use these at a point in my training where my body is not ready to handle a substantial effort, but I’m looking for something that begins to involve my anaerobic energy systems. This is typically after returning to training following sickness or a break from training, but this workout is also useful when I’m engaged in higher-volume training and more stressful workouts may be counterproductive.”

The benefits of this workout are two-fold: First, because you’re working above LT2, you begin to introduce higher concentrations of lactate and H+ (hydrogen) ions, Pickels said. By then working slightly below threshold, you’re able to allow the body to recycle the lactate into fuel and buffer any occurring acidosis.

“The second benefit is that we initially perceive both the 105% and the 95% FTP efforts to be difficult, but with repetition, riders begin to perceive the 95% efforts as a ‘recovery’ workload, which greatly improves our longevity at this effort leading to improved performance on the road or trail,” Pickels said.

You can easily modify this workout to suit your needs. As arranged, this workout consists of 36 minutes of threshold effort. An easier alternative would be to complete only two sets of 12 minutes or three sets of 8 minutes for 24 total minutes of effort. Additionally, you could ramp this up to 2 x 20 min or 3 x 15 minutes to even more time at threshold.

Pickels added: “Another variation that I enjoy later in the season is to make the ‘over’ efforts into shorter, higher-intensity surges which mimics race day a bit more closely.”

Workout of the Week: Over Unders

Warm-up

10 min. ramp from 60 to 75% FTP (RPE 2 to 4/10)

5 min. @ 70% FTP (RPE 3/10

Main set

3 sets of:

3 x [2 min. @ 95% FTP (RPE 5/10), 2 min. @105% FTP (RPE 6/10)]

3 min. rest @ 65% FTP between sets

Cooldown

5 min. steady @ 65% FTP

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