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Welcome to the Road Cycling World of High Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an increasingly popular form of training. Here, you give it everything you’ve got on the bike for around two minutes. Ten out of ten effort. After a two minute rest, you do it again. Due to its nature, you can do it on an indoor bike or turbo trainer or your commute to work.

HIIT is not confined to the world of cycling. Other types of athletes incorporate it into their training plans. So, let’s explore HIIT in more detail.

High-intensity-interval-training-road-cyclingIncreasingly, HIIT is becoming part of cycling training programmes

Why do Hit Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

There are several reasons why HIIT could be an excellent addition to your cycle training routine. Consider:

  • HIIT is convenient. You could work in a HIIT ride on your way to work, for example. If you do implement HIIT on your commute, ensure you use quiet, safe roads only. 
  • HIIT burns fat. You increase your metabolic rate after a session which raises fitness levels and makes you leaner and meaner on the bike. After a HIIT session, you will burn fat throughout the day. This makes it ideal for morning sessions.
  • If we want to get technical, it is believed that it boosts your VO2 Max – this is how much oxygen your body can use. The higher your VO2 Max, the better. Professional Norwegian cyclist Oskar Svendsen holds the record for highest VO2 Max.
  • If we want to get technical again, HIIT increases your mitochondria function. That is to say, your cells change fuel into energy faster. Perfect for better cycling.

It provides benefits no matter what level of cyclist you are. Whether you ride casually or race, HIIT will improve your fitness and cycling.

What Benefits Does HIIT Bring?

In essence, professional cyclists and athletes see real term improvements to their cardiovascular, metabolic, and musculoskeletal adaptations. Even endurance athletes see benefits from incorporating HIIT into their training programmes.
It should be noted that HIIT is not a substitute to base mile endurance training. It does, however, complement it well.

Approaching your First HIIT

These steps should help you ride your first HIIT. If you have health issues, you may want to speak to your doctor before incorporating HIIT into your training sessions. If you’re good to go, let’s do it. Follow these steps:

  • Never approach HIIT on an empty stomach. Make sure you are fuelled and have ideally eaten about 90 minutes before you start your session.
  • If riding outside, try and find a hill. This is not essential, but it fits with the nature of high intensity interval training, and as you’re increasing effort, you may as well do this up a hill. If you don’t have a suitable hill then on the flat is fine too.
  • If riding outside, pick your route with care. You want a road with few, ideally no junctions between the start and finish of your session. Make sure your visibility is good with few blind bends. Take a safety-first approach as stopping when you’re riding flat out is no fun and dangerous.
  • Warm-up with an easy ten-minute ride. Try and increase effort a little bit before the end of your warm-up, so your body gets an idea that you are going for maximum effort soon.
  • Go for it! Try riding flat out for around two minutes. That said, if you can’t do two minutes, that is fine. Ride like the wind for what is comfortable and suitable for you. Rest for two minutes and then repeat. Aim for around ten to twenty minute of effort, and try and increase your HIIT reps time as you improve. So work up to two-minute blasts of intense cycling rather than one. With HIIT quality trumps quantity. For example, three 1 minute quality reps are better than five 1 minute poorer quality reps.
  • Warm down with a ten to twenty-minute ride. Any longer than this and you may lose some of the benefits from your training session.
  • Ensure you refuel after your ride as you’ll need the carbs.

You will need to fully recover from your last HIIT session before embarking on your next one to get the full benefits from your high intensity interval training ride. Maybe start with once a week and add an extra one if you feel able to do so.

HIIT- benefits of high intensity interval trainingTry working HIIT into your cycle training

Final Thoughts on HIIT

  • HIIT is incompatible with fasting. Never try HIIT on an empty stomach as you can easily burnout.
  • HIIT is arguably best in the morning as you can reap the fat-burning benefits.
  • Nobody is quite sure as to why HIIT brings benefits, but one theory is that it improves neuromuscular signalling.

If you can do it, try and incorporate this type of training into your cycling.


Submitted: 9/2/2020



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