interval trainingBoosting your fitness doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds.  One thing I have noticed over the years is people trying to train hard all the time or they are training too easy.  Usually, these people see a plateau in their fitness. “If you do what you’ve always done – you’ll always get what you’ve gotten.”  One of my favorite workouts for improving the aerobic engine and boosting metabolic efficiency is a simple interval workout in your ‘tempo zone’. This workout is especially great if you are just starting to get yourself back into shape!


Here’s a quick lesson on tempo. Tempo is (76%-90% of your functional threshold power (FTP)).  Your threshold is your average heart rate if you were to do a 20 minute effort by going as hard as you can. If you are cycling and use a power meter, take the average power (from your 20 minute full out effort) and multiply by .95 to get your FTP.


Training in your tempo zone is the best bang for your buck in terms of greatest physiological adaptations including increase in muscular endurance. Basically you will improve your endurance, threshold, and will be able to ‘hang-in’ on rides much easier. If you are running, this is going to also help you improve your endurance.


Tempo training benefits include:

  • Increase Plasma Volume
  • Increase in Muscle Mitochondrial Enzymes – being able to go longer more efficiently.
  • Your body will use fat (lipids) to generate ATP before dipping into the glycogen stores.
  • Increase in Glycogen Stores – with an increase you can go longer and have more endurance before you fatigue.


Basically if you imagined yourself as being a vehicle, you would start out as a fuel burning machine maybe averaging 17 miles per gallon.  Then, when you spend some time training in your tempo zone, you transform into a hybrid, now burning 30 miles per gallon!  On top of that, with the increase glycogen storage, you are now a hybrid with a larger gas tank!  You are more efficient and can go longer before fueling up.  How’s that for getting the most bang for your buck?!


Here’s an example workout for a 1 hour ride: Warm up for 10-15 minutes. Then find a gradual hill and do 3×8 minutes, riding up the hill in your Tempo zone. Then recover between each interval for 4 minutes by spinning easy.  You can use the downhill to recover (even if it takes more than 4 minutes) and start the next effort going back up the same hill. Cool down for 10-15 minutes.


If you don’t know what your Tempo zone is, or don’t have a heart rate monitor, this would be the type of effort you would do going up a gradual hill.  You will ‘feel’ like you are working but you are not going as hard as you can.


Remember, training isn’t just about quantity, it’s about quality.  You can be short on time and still get a great quality workout in to help you work towards achieving your fitness goals!


About Melissa Ross:

sportograf-57549653_lowresMelissa Ross is Co-Founder of Potential Energy Training and Nutrition. She has an extensive career in cycling and athletics. Melissa’s 11+years in the sport as an athlete and 5 years as a coach has taken her all over the world from touring Italy, racing across Europe and the US as a professional athlete (with the US development team and riding for Team Kenda), to becoming a pro mountain biker, exploring the trails across Arizona and even recently competing in the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa! Melissa has an incredible desire to help other people reach their full potential and bring the passion of having a healthy lifestyle into their lives.  Contact:

Boost Your Aerobic Fitness With a Simple Interval Workout.
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