Interval Training 2 – for Mountain Bike

Interval training is best described as – short bursts of intense activity interspersed with rest or recovery. It is a means of over loading our bodies for a short period of time to achieve fitness gains.

For example, after a 10 minute warm up:
• 1 minute “hard” pace (high intensity)
• 1 minute “easy” pace (low intensity)
• Repeat hard – easy efforts 10 times
Cool down 10 minutes.

During the early and peak seasons of the training planner (from week 9), interval training is used to develop aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Because it is quite stressful to the body, no more than 2 interval sessions / weeks are done and those new to mountain biking should only do 1 session / week. Interval training is not done any earlier in the programme than this, as a good base level of endurance is required first. Also, because of the high intensity of interval training, too much, too early in the season can cause burn out.

Interval training is the final boost towards peak fitness as it develops burst speed for short sharp hill climbs and the sustainable speed needed for a  MTB Marathon Series or endurance event. Our bodies are being trained to better tolerate the accumulation of lactic acid and also become more efficient at clearing it away. This will therefore help to delay the onset of fatigue.

In the training planner, you will see that there are two types of interval training described – long and short intervals.

Long Intervals
Long intervals are excellent for building aerobic endurance and should be performed at a moderately hard but sustainable pace – you shouldn’t be going flat out. These sessions are particularly good for those new to MTBing, but more experienced riders can use both long and short intervals.
E.g. – week 9 – Regular MTBer

Warm up 10 minutes
• 6 minutes moderately hard pace
• 3 minutes steady cycling at low intensity
• Repeat 4-6 times
Cool down 10 minutes

Short Intervals
With short intervals the work time is less but the intensity is greater. You should aim to cycle at flat out pace. It is an excellent way to develop anaerobic capacity as lactic acid clearance improves and you will be able to maintain faster speeds for longer. Short intervals at this highest intensity should be avoided if you are new to MTB.
E.g. week 9 – Regular MTBer

Warm up 10 minutes
• 2 minutes hard pace
• 3 minutes steady cycling at low intensity
• Repeat 4 – 6 times
Cool down 10 minutes.

Progressing your interval training sessions
As you progress through the 4-week cycle, the number of repetitions can be increased to make the session harder.
For example:
Start week – 4 repetitions
Build week – 5 repetitions
Push week – 6 repetitions
Recovery week – no interval training

Other ways to progress the interval session are
• Increase the duration of each repetition
• Reduce the recovery of each repetition
• Repeat the same session but uphill

Interval sessions are excellent for quick after-work burns on the bike, as they are quality workouts that take relatively little time. Treat them with respect though – don’t do too many and avoid a high intensity session the day before your long endurance ride. You will need plenty of recovery time and a good meal after one of these workouts!

A decent HRM with the ability to upload and analyse your workout will let you comprehend the link between knowledge of what has been don and how it effects the body … I use a Suunto t6 and Movesount analysis which also has a great training effect mode …. check out my review on the site by clicking the tag …

The interval programs of today have beco…

The interval programs of today have become highly sophisticated methods of structured training for athletic performance enhancement. Physiologists and trainers have designed interval programs that are specifically suited to individual athletes. These sessions include precisely measured intervals that match the athlete’s sport, event and current level of conditioning. Often the appropriate intensity and duration of the intervals is determined by the results of anaerobic threshold testing (AT) that includes measuring the blood-lactate of an athlete during intense exercise.

on a gym bike – yesterday and below earlier today

How Interval Training Works

Interval training works both the aerobic and the anaerobic system. During the high intensity effort, the anaerobic system uses the energy stored in the muscles (glycogen) for short bursts of activity. Anaerobic metabolism works without oxygen. The by-product is lactic acid, which is related to the burning sensation felt in the muscles during high intensity efforts. During the high intensity interval, lactic acid builds and the athlete enters oxygen debt. During the recovery phase the heart and lungs work together to “pay back” this oxygen debt and break down the lactic acid. It is in this phase that the aerobic system is in control, using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy.

The Benefits of Interval Training

This repetitive form of training leads to the adaptation response. The body begins to build new capillaries, and is better able to take in and deliver oxygen to the working muscles. Muscles develop a higher tolerance to the build-up of lactate, and the heart muscle is strengthened. These changes result in improved performance particularly within the cardiovascular system.

Interval training also helps prevent the injuries often associated with repetitive endurance exercise, and they allow you to increase your training intensity without overtraining or burn-out. In this way, adding intervals to your workout routine is a good way to cross train.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, more calories are burned in short, high intensity exercise. If you are counting calories burned, high intensity exercise such as intervals are better than long, slow endurance exercise, but you may pay a price.

You don’t need to be a world-class athlete and have sophisticated blood analysis to take advantage of the benefits of interval training. The standard “speed play” training of fartlek works well for the rest of us. This type of interval work is based upon your subjective needs. Simply pay attention to how you feel and set your intensity and duration accordingly

iphone app or garmin/suunto gps for running.

fancy dress breast cancer run

if you’re thinking about starting to use a GPS to track your runs you’ve probably heard about Garmin’s wrist-watch type GPS units like my 405, Suunto’s T6C and some of the new iPhone applications. Both options are great, but there are some things you should consider before you spend your money.

Ease of use: while running
looking at your wrist is a lot easier than using your iphone esp if you are mainly checking pace and heart rate.  iPhone applications need to conserve battery life and also need to make sure that being in a pocket doesn’t cause accidental keystroke input – a sweaty leg works like a finger as well. So most apps dim the display and lock the input. A Garmin GPS won’t dim the display or lock the input. The wristwatch format is much better for use while running.

Battery life
Using the GPS feature and display on an iPhone uses the battery very quickly. Most of the iPhone GPS applications claim to get 3-4 hours of battery life (see comment below – states up to 7 for some) but this entails switching off 3gs and wifi. By the time you get home the battery is nearly dead. My Garmin ForeRunner 405 records data for more than 4 hours on an mtb ultra-marathon. If you “go long” you’ll want battery life that goes as long as you do. Garmin wins again. *since this I have an Edge 305HRM dedicated for bike use*

Garmin fitness GPS devices can be used with accessories including a heart rate monitor, a bicycle cadence monitor, and a footpod for indoor use. I haven’t seen any fitness accessories for the iPhone yet. The HR ones always seem to be using the mic on the iPhone so no ease of us there. The new one I previewed earlier HERE might be great (when it comes out)

The iPhone applications are getting more sophisticated, and are not far behind Garmin (except for HR). I set up the display screens on my Garmin 405 like this:

Main 1:
Time (running)
Average Pace

Main 2:

HR graph

Screen 3:
Time again
Last lap pace
GPS accuracy


Defined workouts

I haven’t seen any iPhone apps that allow you to create pre-defined workouts to guide your runs. I generally don’t use mine on the 405 but you can ….

Training log Software
The iPhone apps work with web-based training log applications. Map my Run has some nice features and their iPhone application works very well. Garmin GPS devices come with Garmin Training Center and also work with motionbased, garmin connect, and many of the web-based applications.

If you already own an iPhone 3G/3Gs you’re in luck. and their iMapMyRun iPhone app are both free (for the basic service). You can get started using a GPS to track your runs by downloading the iPhone app and signing up for the service. Trails / walkjogrun / MotionX are all good – I’ll go through them all another time. Motion X, Runkeeper and Runmonster are the best app I have used on the iPhone

If you don’t own an iPhone 3G/3Gs and are serious about logging your training (runs) get a Garmin. (or Suunto / Polar)

The bottom line
I’m a big fan of the iPhone and am in most cases a strong proponent of web-based software. I’m also serious about my training and want to take advantage of of the full capabilities of the GPS technology. For me, there’s no question, Garmin is much better than the iPhone for GPS Running. The iPhone advantage in price (if you already own one) is an important consideration. If it was only HR training/cycling without the need to export tracks then I would get a Polar HRM but that’s a whole new post …….. (not anymore)

NEW * A review of some other running apps for the iPhone




NOTE – I have since got into more robust HRM analysis and sold the 405 to a pal and bought a Suunto T6C …. the best of both worlds. Compatible with mac, good HRM software like Polar and a gps like the Garmin ….

U=I have reviewed the Suunto T6C here now at


Cycling Computer Geekdom


This looks like a nifty if slightly expensive bike computer but a great idea for roadies and for training …. Pedal Brain is a new APP a bit of software for your iPhone that turns it into a coaching tool.

Pedal Brain is three integrated cycling products. First, it’s an iPod and iPhone ANT+ accessory. Second, it’s a complete training log. Third, it’s a coaching platform. Each of these products has been design together and as such integrate perfectly well together.

Thereʼs no distinction between workouts on the web and workouts on the iPhone or iPod. Simply go for a ride or workout and all your performance data is uploaded in realtime to the web where coaches, teammates and friends can see it via, Twitter or Facebook. Thereʼs no post workout data upload step as with other cycling computers. Similarly there’s no need to copy your workouts onto paper and stuff in your jersey before heading out. It’s already there on the iPhone or iPod.

Pedal Brain is an Apple approved accessory. It works with an iPod Touch, iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. It will retail online and in local bike stores in the Spring of 2010. The online portion of Pedal Brain will launch a month prior and offer multiple subscription plans for cyclist and coaches including a free version.

Power through data is our motto. We believe better data leads to better workouts which leads to better results. Pedal Brain makes acquiring, processing and analyzing data simple. With a completely synced training log, you can focus doing the workouts and drills rather than trying to remember how long the interval break is suppose to be. Finally, Pedal Brain provides coaches unparalleled access to your training or racing data – in realtime even. Imagine doing a workout, not having it flow, messaging your coach and instantly have a new workout on your iPhone – all while riding.

With Pedal Brain you just focus on doing the workout, not on remembering it.

Pedal Brain provides a complete coaching platform as well. If you’re a cyclist in need of a coach, you can find one through Pedal Brain. They’ll see the same information about your workouts as you do. If you’re a coach, you can sell your training plans through Pedal Brain. You can also have coaching assistants and or larger coaching groups you can have multiple coaches working together.


The final price for this hasn’t been finalized but it’s expected to be within $130 and $200 USD for the plastic version. The carbon fiber version will be more. The second cost associated with Pedal Brain is the subscription plan as shown below. Note that, they offer a basic plan which is free.

Running wild – Fartlek training When run…

Running wild – Fartlek training

When running many of us just go through the same old motions without actually thinking about what we are doing and why we are doing it.

Weight loss and running
The same can be said of people trying to lose weight. Of course long distance running burns lots of excess calories. But what if there was a running programme which incorporated workloads of varying degrees and speed, power performed on different terrain? Would they lose weight quicker? The answer is “Yes”, they would.

The origins of Fartlek training
This is where ‘Fartlek Training’ comes in. Fartlek training was developed in in 1930’s Sweden. The term ‘Fartlek’ when translated into English literally means ‘Speed Play’.

The principle idea behind a ‘Speed Play’ workout is that the athlete combines continuos training with interval training without actually structuring the complete programme. In it’s purest form Fartlek training will be performed without thinking about it. To coin a well known sports slogan, Fartlek performers don’t think, they “Just do it”.

The benefits of Fartlek training
The benefits of Fartlek training should, I hope, be apparent to you now. Continually running at one pace over and over again, workout after workout, will mean that performing at higher levels will be extremely hard work indeed.

Fartlek training will allow your mind and body to be accustomed to training at higher than normal levels. This in turn means you have the chance to greatly improve your aerobic and anaerobic systems and, if required, lose weight more effectively.

Fartlek training – The final word
We all understand the benefits of interval training. Well think of Fartlek training in the same way. However, unlike interval training, the work-rest intervals are not measure by time but how the body feels. For reason, Fartlek training can be used by all levels of athletes and runners, from complete beginners to advanced Olympic runners.

So today was Fartlek but I took along a pal and the idea was to run to the lake then do 2 circuits of 1min fast /  1 min slower – the first was a sprint and neither of us could finish …. in fact we almost threw up. After 1 lap he wanted to give up but i made him do another circuit before heading back. Next one should be easier.

Heart Rate Graph above shows this well.


With a group:

  • Free Form Fartlek Take turns deciding the next interval. The leader for each interval controls the pace, and the distance of that interval. Rotate around the group so each runner has a chance to do lead a couple of workouts.
  • Blind Fartlek: Everyone in the group is given a number, but everyone keeps their number secret. The runners go in order, trying to surprise the rest of the group as they start each interval and forcing the group to react to them.

Workouts alone or with a group:

  • Telephone Pole fartlek: One pole hard/ one pole easy; two hard/ two easy; three hard/ three easy; then repeat the cycle in reverse. You can repeat this set as many times as you can in, say, 20 minutes. To make the set even harder, shorten the recovery to one light post.
  • Timed fartleks: Run hard for a given time, recover for a specific time. For example, go hard for four minutes and then recover for four minutes. To make this set even harder, do the recovery pace at a steady training pace, ensuring that you never feel completely recovered as you start the next set. You can vary the times for this set depending on what part of the season you’re in. Early season you might want to do longer intervals of four to eight minutes, during the season you might want to shorten the interval and lengthen the recovery to work on your speed.
  • Distance fartlek: On a specific course, designate different parts as hard, and others as easy. You can make this as short as a loop around the park, or as long as an 8 mile run.
  • Five-minute drill: This is a great fartlek workout you can do on a track. More advance and elite competitors will try to finish a mile during this set. Start with 30 seconds of hard running, followed by 30 seconds of steady running. That’s followed by 15 seconds hard, with 15 seconds recovery. That cycle is repeated twice, then there’s one more 30 second hard interval with a 30 second recovery, followed by one last hard interval for one minute. If you don’t have a coach to come up with the workout, use your own imagination to develop some fun fartlek sessions.

Remember, it’s all about play, with some speed mixed into the translation, too.

new Garmin 405 and using trailrunner software on MAC

Got a Garmin 405 to replace older forerunner 205 gps and polar 625x Heart Rate monitor.

ALSO check out Trailrunner
Nice thing is being able to view training info on mac …. polar is crap on macs unless running windows or alt software. Still evaluating it but will buy it for sure I think – excellent freeware – CHECK IT OUT.

About TrailRunner
To boldly go where you haven’t been gone before
Although the TrailRunner is perfectly suitable for runners, bikers, inline-skaters and hikers, let’s focus on how this piece of software could totally change a runners habits.

Motivations for running
There might be several motivations you start running. Just to get fresh air several times a week, to loose weight or to exercise as a semi professional for races and honor. Either motivation needs goals you define in a training plan and methods to check up your progress, like measuring your burned calories and weight loss, your improved heart-rate, your speed and ranking in a competition or just being able to master a marathon in a given time.

To achive this, most people have like three standard routes they run over and over. Depending on your ambitions they might have distances like 10 kilometers, 13 and 20. It seems like the only goal you have is to accomplish your “training duty” — and the hardest part of it is to stand up, put your shoes on and just leave the house. But then what is the motivation all about? For that reason many people like to make appointments with workout-partners, run in groups or feel happy to watch (mostly pointless) statistics. But what, if you have the genes of an explorer and adventurer? Then your dream might be to spontaneously run say 16 kilometers in a well known and hand-picked collection of endless routes you could choose from.

This is where the TrailRunner could meet you and your motivation, with the potential to totally change your habits with one simple addition: You look forward to run the route you have affectionately crafted for this sunday morning: Imagine you take your car, drive into the woods, run through the small valley with the dabbling stream, head up the hill, enjoy the brilliant view, speed down your favorite single trail, cross the big water meadow and return to the parking place. This all with one important background: Your training plan decided on you that you have to run 16 kilometers today. And you did.

Exploring new routes
So how will one get to the point where choosing a route is like to click your fingers? It starts with the three standard routes you already know. As soon as you have inserted them in into the TrailRunner you will start exploring: While you’re running, you notice this small very nice looking alleyway on the right, that you where always wondering about where this might lead to. You just add it to your TrailRunner map and next time you insert this piece of track into your route. That must not add any kilometers, as you could choose a shortcut somewhere else instead. After a while you will notice that you start adding more and more loops and long ways round that will give you an endless choice of nice alternatives.

Standard routes with tentacle-like alternatives means that extending and expanding an existing route is very easy. You just take an old route and tell the TrailRunner to adjust this route to a variation that is almost the same but 2 kilometers longer. The finer your weaved web of tracks is the better this will work.