The first step to training properly is to have a starting point, a baseline.  Knowing your heart rate zones and your power zones focuses your training and makes your time on the bike much more effective.  So today’s workout is a Time Trial.  While it might look “simple” on paper, it’s far from “easy.”

Bottom line is that you’re riding as hard as you can – as absolutely hard as you can – for 30 minutes.  At the end of the TT you should feel completely spent, like you gave every ounce of energy in your body – as you should have.

Our goal in the TT is to determine your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), or Functional Threshold Heart Rate.  FTP represents the “gold standard” for cyclists and triathletes, as the ultimate goal for all of us it to be physically and mentally able to ride more powerfully for longer.

True FTP is based on the highest average power (normalized) or average heart rate we can maintain for a 1 hour all-out race effort.  This is nearly impossible for most of us to do with any amount of reliability, so we ride a 30 minute TT and make adjustments to average power (not HR).  We reduce our 30 minute normalized power by 5% to arrive at our FTP.

If you ride a TT using only HR data (no power), we still ride a 30 minute TT, but use the average HR for the final 20 minutes (still ride the first 10 minutes at TT effort, but only use the average for the final 20 minutes).

Riding a TT is a necessary component to a well structured training program, so rest up for several days leading up to your TT, then go after it!

The TT can be done indoors or out.  I have my athletes ride their TT indoors if most of their upcoming quality training will be indoors.  Conversely, if most of their upcoming quality training will be outdoors, I have them do their TT outdoors.  There’s typically a measurable difference riding indoors vs outdoors, so it makes sense to set their zones based on the riding they’ll be doing.

The entire process to ride your TT (warmup, TT and cooldown) can be done in 1 hour.  Here’s how to do it:


  • 5 minutes easy
  • Fast pedal.  1 minute each.  95 rpm, 100, 105, 110.  Followed by 1 minute Recovery Interval (RI)
  • Fast pedal.  1 minute each:  100 rpm, 105, 110, 115.  Followed by 1 minute RI
  • 5 minutes at tempo/threshold.  (First 4 minutes at a power level/effort slightly lower than expected TT effort, followed by 1 minute at planned TT effort)
  • 5 minutes RI

Main Set  —  Time Trial: 

  • 30 minutes.  As hard as you can possibly ride (pacing yourself properly).  If you’re riding with HR only, hit your lap/interval button 10 minutes in, then use your average HR for the final 20 minutes.  If you’re using a power meter, use your normalized power for the entire 30 minute effort.

Cooldown:  5 minutes (or more).

You’re done!!  Congratulate yourself on a fantastic effort.  A future post will provide you with zones for both HR and power.  If you ride your TT in the meantime, please feel free to contact me to set your zones.

Best of luck, and please contact me with any questions.