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VO2 Max Workouts

One of my usual rides is on the Peak to Peak Hwy, between Black Hawk, CO and Nederland, CO. There a bunch of short hills that last 4-6 min.   When I do  the ride as an out and back, I get 8 good intervals, and each hill I use as the interval, then the short descent is my recovery.  Checkout the picture below of my workout from today. It’s a good example of a VO2 Max workout. Blue is elevation changes, read is heart rate, and yellow is power.

VO2 Max Workout

VO2 Max workouts are hard, but they are critical in building power, and speed as you approach your peak. Not only are these type of workouts needed for short 1-2hr races, but can also improve your speed and endurance for longer races, even 24hr events. They are also great for quality workouts when time is short. My weekday workouts are generally only 1 to 1.5 hrs long, so they must be quality workouts, such as this one.  I’ve been doing at least one VO2Max session a week, sometimes two.  I’ve been doing them on the trainer which is not much fun at all, but now that the weather is getting better I’ve been able to do them outside.  Not only is it more fun, but I can put out more power, for longer durations and get a better workout all around.

Here is a good technical description of VO2 Max.

Generally the workout includes intervals of max effort that last between 3-5 min, with the same amount of recovery in between max efforts.  For example, do a good warm up, with a couple of good short  hard (1min ) effort and recover.  Start the interval with max effort you can sustain  for the period, then easy spin for the same duration, repeat 5-8 times.  It’s important not go too hard at the start, and to pace yourself to finish the interval strong.   Complete the workout with an easy spin or do some Tempo effort pace to finish up your allotted time. Start with 3 min intervals, then try to work up to 5 min.  It may take a while to get up to 5 min.   The whole workout (without the tempo) is only 1hr and you’ll be amazed what type of fitness you can gain from these.   This doesn’t mean you can skip the longer endurance rides zone 2-4 workouts, you still need these.

Heart rate should hit 102% of your LTHR (Zone 5a) which will take a minute or two to achieve.  If you are using power, 115-120% of FTP (Power Zone 5), which right away you’ll be able hit your target wattage.   You should be fully recovered from previous workouts before doing these sessions.  You’ll know you are not recovered if you can not sustain the wattage or can not get your HR up to mid zone 4.   Also, if you are using power,and you can not sustain the 115- 120%, then you should stop, finish your workout with an easy spin.  Not being able to sustain the wattage means you are too fatigued to continue, (one of the great advantages of training with power).  You won’t do yourself any good if you continue, you’ll only your hole deeper.

I hope you find this helpful as you come into your race season.

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