The Workout: Tempo - Speed - Tempo

Today I wanted to look into a workout that I often don’t really think about, but for the simple reason that we use it so much. A lot of times the workouts that I think of as super important, and put a ton of thought into, we might do them less than 10 times all season and never more than once a week. However, there are a whole bunch of bread and butter workouts that we use all the time, because they just work. Today’s workout I like to call, “tempo - speed - tempo”. When you see the workout you’ll see it’s actually fairly self explanatory. I give the workout that name because it outlines what we’re doing, but then the specifics might vary at different times of the year, or with different athletes. The outline is warm up, do a block of tempo, do a block of more speed based intensity, do another block of tempo. The specifics of the tempo and speed work might vary, but the outline works. Here’s the workout:

  • Warm up, start with easy mindless riding and gradually build to focused Z2 pressure on the pedals before starting efforts (anywhere from 30-120 min depending on volume of ride)

  • Block of steady Z3 tempo - minimum 10 min, maximum 30 min - ideally on climb if possible

  • Recover from the Z3 block and then do some speed work, I’ll vary this based on the athlete, where they’re training and what we want to do. If possible I’ll build this around a group ride so they really get that stochastic race like stimulus at a bit lower mental cost than intervals. Motor pacing is a great alternative if it’s an option. If doing solo intervals there are a lot of ways to spin this, 30/30’s, 20/40’s - but the idea being repeated on/off bursts with efforts mostly < 60 sec.

  • Recover from speed work and then do a block of steady Z3 tempo again - minimum 10 min, maximum 30 min - ideally on climb if possible

  • Cool down, at least 15 min after last Z3 block

Here’s a look at a file from an athlete executing this workout in the format of Z3 climb, group ride, Z3 climb:

Tempo - Speed - Tempo.png

One of the reasons I really like having athletes do this workout with the Z3 blocks on climbs is so that they end up producing power across a range of cadence. In the file above, the cadence on the two climbs was pretty consistently 75-85 rpm, whereas in the 35 min group ride block (“speed session”) the average cadence was 100 rpm. As athletes move across the spectrum of power and cadence, their bodies are constantly tapping into different muscle fibers and neural pathways. Keeping all these connections activated during the race season is super important, part of why I really like this workout. In essence, the goal of this workout is to do a variety of intensity important to racing to bridge the gap between two races, but not do a workout that is so hard that it impairs recovery or tires an athlete out for the big upcoming race.

Noah Granigan recently put this workout to use to bridge the gap from Tour of Utah to the Gateway Cup in St Louis and it paid off with him taking the win on the final day of Gateway!

Thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know how you put this workout to use!