T. Burke Swindlehurst “aka” T-Bird, is a retired professional road and mountain bike racer whose career accomplishments include a record 6 stage wins and 3 overall victories in New Mexico’s mountainous Tour of the Gila as well as podium placings in both US Professional Road and Marathon MTB championships.

Now days he puts his energy into promoting his on/off-road event in Utah, the Crusher in the Tushar and chasing KOM’s on Strava. He’s been an avid First Endurance user since day one.

Last month, I proposed some unconventional strategies pertaining to the “Base” phase of the traditional “periodization” style approach to training. That was part one of a three-part series I’m penning for my pals here at First Endurance geared toward helping you, dear reader, have your best season ever.

For the second part of the series we’ll address what is essentially the “yin” to base training phase’s “yang”.

Yep, you guessed it.

Ironically, in the first installment of this series I made mention of Einstein’s definition of insanity, doing one thing over and over again and expecting a different result, and to a certain extent, that’s exactly what interval training is–structured and repeated attempts to stress the body in an effort to create a positive change in fitness. Of course, for intervals to work their magic you need some pretty serious motivation. After all, their purpose is to push you beyond previous benchmarks, and that can take some gumption.

So, what tools do you currently have at your disposal to push beyond the old plateaus and glass ceilings you may be bumping against when it comes to making the most of your interval training? Maybe some quotes your coach dug up somewhere like “pain being weakness leaving the body” or perhaps you re-hash moments from past races where you were “oh-so-close” in an attempt to manufacture some fire in the belly? Maybe you just stare at your power meter, listlessly pedaling in the hope you can keep the prescribed numbers on the display for the allotted time–you know, by sheer strength of will and determination and what-have-you.

Sound familiar?
Sound fun?
Didn’t think so.

This is probably the point in the article where you’re hoping I’m going to state something along the lines of “Guess what? You don’t have to do intervals anymore because I’ve found an exciting new and painless way to make you stronger without intervals!”

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as unconventional as some of my training philosophies may be, there’s just no way around the fact you need intervals to get stronger and faster.

Now, I’m not going to get all in-depth here about different types of intervals and how to perform them. That’s something that’s best determined by working with a coach or mentor who can assess what specific aspects of your fitness need sharpening so they can tailor specific interval workouts based on your current level of fitness and your season goals.

One thing I would like to say regarding the specifics of interval training is that it’s terribly important to remember that there is a reason they are called “intervals”.

For illustration, let’s have a look Merriam-Webster’s definition of the term :

in-ter-val: a space of time between events or states

That “space of time” in this case is the critical issue here. It’s absolutely fundamental that your “rest” interval is always performed with as much attention to detail as the “work” interval. You might be tempted to shorten the time between the two thinking it will make you stronger.
Trust me, it won’t.

Respect the rest interval!

Ok so now that we’ve got that out of the way, how does one prevent the one-too-many interval blues? Well, I do have some good news. There are, in fact, some ways of breathing new life into a tired interval routine that can help you find that extra gear or two.

Let’s start by looking at what motivates you.

Are you a bit of a tech-geek who loves the latest product innovations?
Does being around other riders energize and motivate you?
Perhaps you don’t mind braving the weather and enjoy pouring over maps and finding climbs and roads you didn’t know existed in your area?

First off, we’ll start with a super, high-tech solution you can use in the privacy of your own basement regardless of dark of night or inclement weather. Take for example Pro-Form’s TDF Pro 4.0 training bike. It features all manner of bells and whistles to liberate, stimulate and motivate. It simulates gradient (both climbing and descending), includes a built-in power meter, and has an interactive touch-screen that lets you scroll through various workouts based on well-known professional race routes.  If you’re the type who loves the latest gadgets and has the means, something along these lines could be just the ticket to lift the lid on a tired routine.

If you’re more of the extroverted type and social interaction gets you excited and out the door, check out an indoor training class. Many bike shops and gyms offer these throughout the fall, winter, and spring months and most are instructed by a local cycling guru or certified coach who is there to motivate and inspire you during the workouts and will share valuable insight and lessons in the process. The workouts in these classes are usually built around classic interval progressions and often set to pace-matched music to keep you moving to the oft too-bitter end. Such classes are generally offered in the early morning hours and later in the evening to accommodate work schedules. Up the ante by recruiting a friend to join with you, which will add some accountability on those days when your motivation might be on the wane.

Lastly, (and my personal preference) there’s the more “do-it- yourself” method for those who prefer to ride outside no matter the weather. For this, you don’t need much more than a basic GPS unit and to sign-up for a service such as Strava or Garmin Fit. Using the features on these services, you can easily identify “segments” or “routes” in your area tailored to your particular interval criteria, ranging from the type of terrain to the length of time each interval needs to be. These services are great for taking the guesswork out of finding new routes which can freshen-up stale training routines. Another bonus is that they provide built-in motivation with their myriad of ranking systems that let you compare your efforts on “leaderboards” against everyone from the local pro to your buddy down the street. You may also find that by riding the same segments a few times in an effort to improve your standings, you’ll gain a better feel and understanding for pacing on varied terrain, which can also translate into an improvement in your time-trialing ability. Who doesn’t want to improve against the clock?

That’s what I thought.

So there you have some different strokes for different folks: three different strategies to breathe new life into an old, but very necessary aspect of training for peak fitness. Stay tuned here in the spring when I’ll bring you the final segment in our three-part series to having your best season ever.

Till the next one,