Workout Wednesday * Tempo Training!

Many of the workouts I’ve offered so far have been “hard” workouts.  Threshold rides, VO2 Max level rides, interval rides, etc.  These are all great cycling workouts and this high end fitness is critical to success.

Cycling is primarily an aerobic sport, so building a solid foundation is the #1 key to long term improvement.  And a solid aerobic foundation provides a great platform for the high end workouts, which means you’ll gain even more from these rides with a deep and solid aerobic base.  So don’t overlook riding at aerobic levels.

Today’s workout will be exactly that.  One of the mistakes riders make on their aerobic rides is that they are too easy.  There’s a difference in effort between a true aerobic development ride and a recovery ride, which is the pace many riders mistakenly use.

I’ve discussed “tempo” level riding in a previous post, and you may refer back to that for more information.  Tempo is often called Zone 3.  Heart rate is 84-94% of threshold level (based on your 30 minute time trial) and tempo power is 76 – 90% of threshold average power.

The key to making tempo level rides beneficial is to spend huge amounts of time here.  Depending on your level of experience and aerobic development, a long tempo ride for you could mean 45 minutes straight in this zone, or it could mean 1-2 hours or more.  At least 1 ride per week should be a tempo level ride, especially early in the season.  Over time, increase the length of time spent riding tempo level.


5 minutes easy spin.  Heart rate should come up gradually.

3 x 1 minute “fast pedal” drills (110+ rpm), each followed by 1 minute easy spin recovery

5 minute sub-threshold effort.  This is warm-up only, so don’t overdo the effort.  The purpose is to warm up your muscles, open blood vessels and raise your heart rate, not to have you tired out for the main part of the ride.

5 minute easy spin recovery


Today we’ll assume a 45 minute tempo ride.  After warmup, plan to ride at least 1 hour (or more) at an endurance level.  Within this timeframe, increase HR/power level to tempo.  Maintain this level for 45 minutes.

Cadence should be self-selected, but your goal should be 85-95 rpm.  The course can be flat or rolling.  Try to avoid a hilly course today so that you’re able to maintain a constant level of effort.  A real key to the ride is to plan so that you’re able to ride the tempo portion in a steady fashion, uninterrupted by stop lights, stop signs, major hills or heavy traffic.  Again, you gain benefits from this ride by spending large chunks of time at this level.


Ride easy for 5-10 minutes or more.  Spin in a low gear with low pressure to flush your legs.

Variations include:

Parts of the tempo ride can be at low cadence to not only build your aerobic engine, but to improve muscular strength as well.

Cadence can be changed every several minutes

Every 5-10 minutes, rise out of the saddle and accelerate for 10-15 seconds, then settle back to tempo level.

Don’t overlook the importance of building your aerobic base.  Every ride should have a purpose, and improving upon your foundation should be a never-ending part of your training.

Please contact me with questions or if you’d like to discuss working together to in order to help you achieve your cycling goals.

Train Smart and Train Hard!

Coach Bob

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