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Are you going Hard Enough?

At this stage in the training year, many of you will have spent a winter riding lots of tempo and sweet spot intervals, improving your aerobic fitness and strength endurance. Much of what people think of as sweet spot is actually solid threshold work as a large number of riders have their FTP set too high, in our experience.

This begs the question. After a few months of work around threshold (call it 90-100% FTP) what do we do next to really move the needle?

We see a lot of athletes move onto what they describe as VO2Max training. But what is VO2Max?

In simple terms, VO2Max is the maximum amount of oxygen that you can inhale, transport and utilise in the working muscles in your body.

Ah, but I hear some of you cry "I can't improve my VO2Max as it is genetically capped."

We reply "Yes but are you really sure that you have maximised your genetic potential?"

On the basis that you want to realise more of your genetic potential, how do you go about doing VO2Max work?

First, let's think about that description of VO2Max again. It is all about getting more oxygen around the body to the working muscles. You do this primarily by increasing your stroke volume. Stroke volume is the quantity of blood that the heart pumps out of the left ventricle with each beat, and is determined by the amount of blood that enters the left ventricle of the heart (the preload) and the velocity at which that blood can be ejected.

So Vo2Max training is primarily about maximising cardiovascular function and less about increasing power.

Question: On that basis, how do you improve your preload and stoke volume?

Answer: By riding at your maximum effort!

The problem we see with a lot of what people call VO2Max training is they simply are not going hard/fast enough to move the needle. Much of it looks just like intensive FTP work.

Take two examples of what people might call "VO2Max" efforts:

Workout 1 with 4x5minutes at 110% FTP.

Workout 2 with 4x3 minutes at a self-determined maximum effort.

Which workout do you think elicited the most VO2Max response?

In simple terms, VO2Max is the maximum amount of oxygen that you can inhale, transport and utilise in the working muscles in your body.
Rob Wakefield
Founder and Level 3 Coach

Workout 2. Why? Because the rider spent more time above 95-100% VO2Max and hence created enough training stress to move the needle. Workout 2 was ridden on flat to undulating roads at a cadence that was 5-10rpm higher than the rider's self selected cadence. Research has indicated that this higher than normal cadence helps increase the preload volume of blood into the heart and, hence, improves stroke volume more than riding at a lower cadence.

We see many people do all their hard interval work on hills where power is easier to come by and cadence generally is low. Whilst this workout definitely has its place, it should not be confused with effective VO2Max training.

If you are looking to maximise your VO2Max and realise your genetic potential, then it stands to reason that you have to go as hard as you can! The effort levels should be short (3-5 minutes) and have a full recovery between efforts (10 minutes or so). Treat each effort individually on its own merit and don't try to pace the session. What you are looking for is as much quality training time above 95-100% VO2Max, not a lot of average work. If you can manage 2x3 minutes to start with, then so be it. Just focus on quality and intensity and increase the number of intervals as you go.

It should go without saying that this type of workout is stressful and should only be undertaken by riders who have a very good level of aerobic fitness. This is very much the cherry on top of the aerobic cup cake so do your groundwork first and then maximise your potential.

The exact makeup of the training is highly individual. If you would like to find out more about how you should structure your own plan, then why not book a Consultation with us?

Have a great weekend everyone and enjoy the better weather and some freedom again!

Rob Wakefield / Founder and Level 3 Coach / 07779 136 840