Most of us don't have time during the workweek to squeeze in long rides. But it's the perfect opportunity in which to achieve maximum fitness improvements in a short amount of time by doing intervals on consecutive days. This forces your body to adapt to an increased workload more quickly than it would if you separated your hard workouts with an endurance ride.
I recommend a midweek three-workout series in which the intensity level declines as the interval length increases. Seven or eight weeks before your goal event, plan a three-week period during which you'll ride hard Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, followed by a rest day or 30-minute recovery ride on Friday, two weekend training rides, and a rest or easy day on Monday. More advanced riders can start earlier and do two three-week blocks separated by a week of rest and recovery rides. See our illustrated workout charts for the full back-to-back training plan.
Each day during your midweek block, incorporate one of the following interval workouts into a one-hour ride. Don't swap the order of the sessions: If you schedule max-intensity work later in the week, your perceived exertion will be sky-high even when you're not producing a lot of power. In short, you'll be too fatigued to benefit from the workout. For more fun ways to get a workout during the week, read Bicycling's Official Non-Training Guide.
Power Intervals boost VO2 max, the rate at which your muscles convert oxygen into energy. (For ultimate results, keep your muscles toned with this whole-body tune-up).
Interval: Three sets of four one-minute bursts, at an intensity of 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Recovery One minute between efforts; four minutes between sets
Advanced Option: Two sets of seven
Threshold Ladders will help you ride easier at higher intensities.
Interval: Three nine-minute efforts, consisting of: one minute Power Interval (see above); three minutes at an intensity of 9; five minutes at an intensity of 8.
Recovery: Five minutes.
Advanced Option: Three 12-minute efforts (spend an extra minute at each intensity)
Steady State Intervals are performed at or slightly below your lactate threshold pace (the highest speed you can hold during a 30-minute time trial).(ie: 30-min TT effort).
Interval Three 10-minute efforts (intensity 8 to 10)
Recovery 5 minutes
Advanced Option Three 12-minute intervals
The Weekend Block
These rides add volume and intensity but will allow you to recover for the next three-day block. Aim to do a two-hour Saturday group ride (or one-hour criterium) and a Sunday endurance ride of at least two hours. For a more long-term plan to staying fit, try Bicycling's 8-Week Training Plan.