Workout of the Week: Smart Intervals

Have this aerobic capacity workout ready to reset your motivation the next time your outdoor ride is squandered by extreme weather or poor air quality.

Man reaching down to grab a drink while riding his smart trainer

Jim Rutberg is a cycling coach with CTS and co-author of several books, including Ride Inside and The Time-Crunched Cyclist. When he visited with Fast Talk, he gave us one of his favorite workouts: a VO2max session on a smart trainer to work aerobic capacity.

The workout is essentially divided into two sets, with one in level (aka fluid) mode, and another in ERG mode. Rutberg says whichever training mode you start with doesn’t matter, but we suggest beginning with level mode so you can track your power output and use the numbers to set a power goal for the ERG mode reps.

Rutberg says this workout can be done closer to an event if you’re working with a normal periodization plan, but that it’s also good to have in your back pocket for any time of the year.

“Every once in a while you just need to do something that’s hard,” he says. “So it can be used kind of as the fun—fun being relative—standalone session that is difficult because you need a difficult session to focus.”

RELATED: Indoor Cycling Pathway

Workout of the Week: Smart Intervals


10 min. smooth riding on a smart trainer

Main Set

4 × 3 min. in level mode/3 min. spin
5 min. rest
4 × 3 min. in ERG mode/3min spin

For the first set in level mode, sustain the highest power you can for 3 minutes. In the second set, base the goal power for ERG mode on your power output during the previous set.


10 min. easy pedaling