Cycling Training for More Power and Speed

The perfect cycling training plan has been sliced and diced into countless specialties. Training fundamentals for a triathlon will differ from those for a road cyclist, which differs from the ones used by an endurance mountain biker or gravel rider. That said, they’ll all mix in a variation of longer, less intense mileage with shorter, high-intensity intervals and some steady-state blocks thrown in. Within this mix, the 5-minute, high-intensity interval doesn’t appear much. That’s a shame because it gets the body ready to climb hills with more power and hold a higher speed for longer.

The 5-minute interval, also known as a VO2 max interval, draws on both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. It’s too long to be purely anaerobic. That’s what 30-60-second all-out sprints are for. It’s also too short to be purely aerobic, that pace you can ride all day. They’re hard by design because you want to teach yourself to be comfortably uncomfortable at these max intensities. That way, you train the body (and mind) to respond. On a cellular level, you also train your body to recover from these efforts more efficiently, which allows you to prep for the next hill climb, breakaway attempt, or acceleration on your next group ride or race.

Implementing the 5-minute VO2 interval workout

These all-out intervals require a solid foundation of cycling before you attempt them. It will take several weeks of low-intensity mileage with a day or two of short sprints (30-60 seconds) each week before you see the benefits of these efforts. Generally, you want to start incorporating the 5-minute intervals into your training program 4-6 weeks before a goal event or peak season. You can also work them into your training during your peak cycling season to continue developing more speed and climbing power. 

Ideally, you want to know your power and heart rate targets for these intervals. If your bike or indoor cycling trainer has a power meter, you should be able to figure out your threshold power and heart rate number. Need to determine your targets for the first time — or the first time in a while? Humango’s coaching app will guide you through a threshold power test on a cycle trainer or via your bike’s power meter and your heart rate monitor. 

Once you know your numbers, Humango will prescribe your target numbers for these 5-minute interval sessions and the number of intervals to complete. Depending on your fitness level, the app could start you off with three intervals with five minutes of rest between each effort or five intervals with only two minutes between each. In practice, these sessions should be done above 105% of your threshold power, which will seem relatively easy during the first one. Remember, threshold power is the maximum effort you should be able to sustain for an hour. The real work — and growth — kicks in during the last interval or two. 

As you start your stretch of 5-minute VO2 max intervals, know that your week-to-week training progression will involve more intervals and shorter recovery periods as you get stronger. This second attribute, your recovery rate, could be considered the secret sauce to all this hard work. That’s because the faster your body can process the anaerobic waste from these efforts both during the interval and after it, the longer you can sustain that pace. 

Let Humango do the work

The 5-minute interval demands an out-sized amount of physical and mental effort. What you can manage in terms of your threshold power will change from week to week. The results may show a positive increase in your threshold power or they may not depending on your previous workouts and the challenges and stresses of your daily life. A poor day on the road or indoor cycling trainer may be due to a poor night’s sleep, not a sudden collapse in fitness. Or you may have joined a fast group for a ride over the weekend, which turned into a much longer and more intense day on the bike than planned.

This is where Humango’s coaching app steps in. It will monitor your evolving threshold power and heart rate numbers and prescribe a workout that will be very hard, but very doable. And if, for some reason, you don’t hit your targets, the app can adjust the next workout (or your threshold number) to meet you where your fitness is that week. This dynamic planning gives you time to recover, grow stronger, and hit those targets next time.


The Importance of Sleep for Your Best Performance

Want to know a legal fitness hack that few people take advantage of? Sleep. That’s right, some good old-fashioned slumber. In fact, Matthew Walker, a neuroscience professor who specializes in sleep research, says, “Sleep may be the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug that too few athletes are abusing enough in this modern day and age.” As such, sleep is as important a component of your endurance sport’s training plan as the workouts themselves.

When you get enough sleep, your body has time to devote energy to repairing damaged and inflamed muscles and tissues from that day’s workout. Sleep is also when your immune system recharges. Or, if you’re dealing with an illness, sleep allows your body to go to work fighting off that cold or flu. And when you sleep, your brain has a chance to clean out any metabolic waste, leaving you in a better cognitive state by morning. And if that wasn’t enough, a good night’s sleep also boosts your metabolism, which makes it easier to eat better the following day.

With all these free and readily available benefits, why is sleep so hard to come by in our modern world? Truth is, we sabotage our best intentions when it comes to shutting ourselves down. We work late. We go out with friends for a night on the town. We catch the last flight home. We even work against our best interests when it comes to recovery. For instance, lying on the couch or in bed, binge-watching a show deep into the night, doesn’t count as sleep recovery. The body needs REM sleep for all the health goodness to happen. This is the deep, dreamless state that lasts for a few uninterrupted hours. You won’t get there while streaming Netflix in bed.

The importance of sleep can’t be overstated. Without it, you cannot perform your best. Dr. Walker points out that a lack of sleep can reduce your peak performance by up to 30%. Workouts that were possible after a solid night of shuteye will be almost impossible without it (And even if you have the physical reserves to pull them off, they will definitely feel impossible.).

Endurance Training with Sleep

Think of sleep as the first part of your next workout and schedule it into your endurance training. If you know you’ll be up late one night in the coming week, plan an easy workout day to follow. Humango’s coaching app makes it easy to plan for these sleep hiccups. Just inform Hugo, Humango’s digital coach, and Hugo will switch workouts around in the app, and it’ll keep your fitness progression on track by adjusting your successive workouts to compensate for the change. 

Conversely, if you have interval training lined up for the next day, follow our tips below to get the sleep you need the night before to crush those efforts and set yourself up for a deep slumber the night after to speed your recovery.

6 Tips to a Good Night’s Sleep

  1. Go to bed at the same time each night, early enough to give yourself 7-9 hours of sleep. If you feel tired from the day, go to sleep early. If not, stay up an extra 30 minutes if you want. Half an hour either way won’t ruin your sleep cycle.
  2. Get up at the same time each morning. Doing so sets your circadian rhythm for the day. You’ll feel primed to jump into your day when it becomes routine.
  3. Remove any light sources from your bedroom. Close the curtains and shades, unplug the nightlight, turn your clock away from your face, and turn your phone face down.
  4. Complete your workout 4-5 hours before bedtime. You want to give your body enough time to reduce muscle inflammation and calm down. If you don’t, it could keep you awake, even when you’re exhausted. (Marathoners trying to sleep after a race will know what we mean.)
  5. Say no to caffeine after lunch. Skip alcohol altogether if you can. Or, limit yourself to one alcoholic drink with dinner.
  6. Speaking of dinner, eat it at least three hours before you turn in for bed. You want to give your stomach time to digest the meal before lying down.

In short, when building out your training schedule with Humango or any endurance coach, schedule your workouts around your sleep patterns. If you need to work nights a few days a week, your training plan should reflect the need for adequate rest to accommodate this reality. Instead of scheduling intervals or long, steady-state sessions, you should do recovery workouts or technique-focused training on those days.

However you make sleep a priority, just do it. Nothing beats a good night of sleep in the hierarchy of health and fitness benefits. 


The Benefits of Becoming a Multisport Endurance Athlete

Participating in different endurance sports can play a crucial role in your overall health. Outside of sufficient sleep each night, exercise may be the most beneficial habit you can practice. And one way to stay active for decades is to mix things up. Doing so will reduce the risk of an overuse injury, maximize your all-around fitness, and, perhaps most importantly, keep you from getting bored and skipping exercise altogether. Staying actively involved in your athletic journey is the key goal, as consistent physical exertion will keep you fit well into your retirement years.

Now, we’re not suggesting that everyone take up triathlon with its mix of running, cycling, and swimming training. Not everyone has access to a pool. Not everyone likes running or feels comfortable riding a bike on busy streets. And that’s just fine. You can enjoy the benefits of multisport life by engaging in just two sports. You can practice each simultaneously, treating one as your prime focus and the other as a cross-training activity. Or, you can cycle through seasons of each sport, focusing on one for four to six months, then switching to the other. 

Below is a quick breakdown of how each multisport approach works and how Humango’s AI coach can help you thrive in all your athletic pursuits.

The Cross Trainer

Triathletes certainly fall in the cross-trainer category. A triathlon training plan balances multiple sports, focusing on getting progressively stronger and faster in each. But in practice, cross-training elevates one sport above another. For example, say your goal is to run a half marathon in the fall. Your half marathon plan has you running three days a week. On at least two other days, you can use cycling to recover from your runs and maintain your aerobic capacity. Cyclists can flip this scenario to a cycling-specific plan, as well. If you’re logging long hours on your indoor cycling trainer over the winter in preparation for a spring century ride, you can go for short runs on your off days to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and shore up your bone density while you’re at it. 

Why You Want a Coach: Figuring out how much cross-training is the right amount takes experience and knowledge. You want to do enough work to keep your fitness moving forward but not so much that you don’t give yourself time to recover. Plus, different sports will have different recovery times. Take runners, for example. They need more time for their joints to recover than cyclists or swimmers. Knowing how much time is necessary at the onset of your training plan can make the rest of it go smoothly. Humango does this planning for you. 

The Seasonal Athlete

This person bases their sport on the season. They may cross-country ski or swim indoors all winter, cycle during the spring and early summer, and then train for a marathon during the fall. It’d be easy for this athlete to drop any thought of the other sports and focus solely on the sport in season, but doing so means they start each season’s sport from zero every time. Sure, they have the conditioning and fitness for the transition. But it takes the muscles specific to that sport a few weeks or more to catch up. This lag time is prime injury time. Take a transition from swimming to running as an example. The necessary adaptations needed for the muscles, tendons, and bones to handle the pounding and stresses of running will take weeks to come around.

Why You Want a Coach: When you work with a coach who knows what you want to accomplish, they can develop a training plan that allows you to reach your goals for a particular season while simultaneously preparing you to transition to the next sport. If you’re training for a spring distance running race — a half-marathon or marathon — a coach can prescribe recovery days on your cycle trainer, which will prime your body to switch to mountain biking season in the summer. Using advanced AI technology, Hugo, Humango’s digital coach, automatically adds those recovery days into your schedule based on your goals and training performance.

The Long-Term, Short-Term Commitment

One could make the case that most endurance athletes fall into this category. They’ve pursued their sport for years and shaped their athletic identity around it. Maybe their goal was to complete three Ironman triathlons in five years or ride a century in every state over 10 years. Whatever the case, injuries happen. Burnout happens. As a result, these athletes switch sports to try something new — or find an activity they can do without pain.

Why You Want a Coach: The transition from one sport to another can be difficult, especially when you don’t see the immediate results you expect. Armed with your data, a coach can lay out a realistic plan to meet your body where it is. This way, you can grow into your new sport as efficiently and safely as possible. If you’ve been training for years and years, you may not need to follow a “Zero to Hero” beginner’s training program. A coach will know whether you can leapfrog in the intermediate-level plans or not. When these transitions are done well, they can launch your new athletic endeavor with more satisfying results. Humango uses your current fitness and real-time training data to make your transition as seamless as possible. 

Whether you practice your multisport lifestyle on a day-by-day basis — or decade-by-decade basis — you’re doing right by yourself in the long term. Changing up your sports keeps your muscles and brain stimulated, which is a surefire way to keep yourself in the fitness game for life.