Break that FTP plateau! Some athletes thrive on these workouts and can perform them better than steady efforts at 100% of threshold. Other suffer like never before. There is a reason weight lifters do many different types of chest exercises, all chest workouts are not created equal. Your threshold power or pace is the same way. I will frequently prescribe a 2-3 week block of threshold training for an athlete and not one of the threshold (Zone 4) workouts are the same. Why? Lots of reasons. To keep things fresh, to keep the body working and adapting as much as possible, to be specific, to “force the issue” as I sometimes say. 3×20 minutes at 90% of threshold and doing 3 min. on, 1’ off times 6 at 110% of your threshold are both “threshold” workouts, yet they can fell worlds apart.
The Over under or Crisscross interval is one you may have heard of or even done before. If you’re a cyclist you have defiantly done this maybe without even realizing it. There are many differ ways and variations to this workout. They are an interval with a given amount of time under your threshold, power or pace, and a given amount of time over it..
Here are a few of my favorite types of over under intervals
- Bike: for time trialest or triathlete. 2×25 min. (4 min rest) done as, 4 min. zone 3/ 1min. in zone 5. Repeat for the length of the interval.
- Bike: For the roadie, 2×25’ (4’rest) maybe done on a climb. Ride in zone 3-upper zone 3, every 3’ do a 20” kick spiking power to 10 watts per kilo of body weight then push Zone 5. Repeat for the 25’
- Running. 30”on, 30” 0ff. on time is 5k pace or faster, off time is zone 2/ endurance pace. Repeat 20-30 times.
How they work:
What this does is it forces the body to recover from the harder effort while still working at a non recovery pace. By doing a short effort above your lactate threshold you start to build up lactate on your muscles. If it’s not too much you can recover from this by working very easy for some time. But with these intervals you keep the effort going at a hard but sub threshold, aerobic, pace (zone 3/ tempo). Now your body is trying to filter the waist, while keeping energy production fairly high! Also the repeated nature of these hard efforts will soon have you thinking efficiency. How can you hit that wattage or pace with as little wasted energy as possible? Believe me you will figure it out or pay dearly!
All of our training zones are related. Some more than others yes. “If your foundation is to small you can’t build a big, tall house.” Right. Well, if your roof is too small you can’t build a big main floor without it filling up with water, same thing. I have seen many athletes come to me and others pounding away at their threshold getting little results because their abilities above threshold are inadequate. Yes , you ironman triathletes still need to have some kind of minimum ability above threshold. These intervals are a great way to work that upper end a little bit while having an overall endurance flavor to your training session.
There place in the real world.
Train your weakness! If you’re looking at this thinking I don’t have to do that in a race why should I train that way? If you have been thinking this way for a few years chances are this type of thing is a weak area for you. We all have our strong points and weak ones, however, If a weakness is weak enough it will hold EVERYTHING back.
At bike race or a mtb race much of the time it feels like the winner still blows up just not as badly as everyone else. Or they are the ones that simply blow up last. When attacks are going in a road race it’s not the base pace that gets people dropped it’s the accelerations. The same can often can be said on climbs for the leaders. Mt bikers. This is your playground! Long hard steady efforts are what mt. bike racing is all about but you are constantly forced to deal with the terrain. That hill is steep!Any slower and you will have to put a foot down. Those little efforts to get over a rock or a log. So you Find yourself keeping up with every one for the first lap but then every one of those little tiny efforts you seem to lose more and more ground? These intervals can be your secret weapon to preparing for the final finishing climb. Or to simply get ready for the first races of the season.
For the TT guru or triathlete these can be a great threshold workout to add to your arsenal. Accelerating out of corners and not paying for it can mean an extra few seconds at the state TT championships and the difference between 1st and 4th place. In triathlons we try our best to be steady eddie on the bike. But its tough some times. This can provide not only some great training at your VO2 power but give you a little insurance for the mistakes we all make when were in the heat of battle.
Replace your next few boring threshold workouts with some of these interval sessions. See what happens.