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Thursday, March 13, 2014

High Intensity Interval Training - Curtis Dearden

I have always been a less is more guy when it comes to training.  When I read this from Curtis' Blog - thought many of you would get value from it.  Learn how he makes every minute count and gain some valuable insight on the key workouts he uses to walk that line of pushing the limits, while being mindful of physical and mental fatigue.

As written by Curtis Dearden - 2013 Canadian Time Trial Champion:

It isn’t always fun, the kind of training I put myself through to get the most out of my hectic schedule, but if it was easy, then everyone would do it right? I like to win races, and I love to race, but the real reason I do it, why I get out of bed at 5 to train before my daughter Ellie wakes up is the personal challenge.  I want to see what I can do, what I can endure, how fast I can go. 

I am not a professional athlete. I have to balance my sport with the real world demands of raising my daughter and working a real job. These demands actually help with my motivation, as frankly, they make competitive cycling even more of a challenge. I’m not playing the game on easy! 

Most of the guys I’m competing with spend more than 15 hrs a week riding their bikes, and many spend above 20. A typical week for me is 10 hours of riding time. To make up for the high volume training I am missing, I train at high intensity a lot, and aim to make the most of my recovery time so that I can make each workout count towards my goals. A good night’s sleep, timely recovery nutrition (thanks INFINIT Canada) and a smart training plan with adequate recovery between hard workouts is just as important for me as the training itself. I also choose fewer, and more specific goals to target. I’m not trying to be a Jack of all trades, but more of a master of one. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I’m trying to relate to my audience so you can understand my story. My life away from sport makes me a better athlete. I’m grounded in reality, and having such a wonderful family to come home to takes the pressure off big races. Winning and losing just isn’t as important when they will they love me anyway. My experience as an athlete also makes me a better person away from sport, it’s a great fit! I really don’t think the fact that all my best results arrived after my inspiration, Ellie, is coincidental. 

So back to my reason for writing this tonight. I want to tell you how I have made high intensity training work for me. High intensity, or interval training involves training at a set intensity (usually high . . .) for a set time period followed by a set rest period before starting the next interval. A power meter to gauge effort makes this type training easier to execute properly, but without that kind of investment a heart rate monitor will help, and simply riding based on perceived effort can be effective but only if you have enough experience. 

One of my favourite interval workouts is a great example of this. I often recommend it to the athletes I am coaching. I typically aim for 40-50 min total work, but I will vary that depending on the event I am targeting. My work intervals last between 5-10 minutes, and my recovery for ~20% of that. For example, I might do 6 x 8 minutes on / 90 seconds off when I’m training for a 40km TT. The “on” interval is done at the power I’m hoping to hold at the event, and by the end of the workout I’ll have done approximately the same amount of work as the event will require. The off intervals help to break up the work and keep my training at a manageable level. A full gas 40 km time trial is not something I can repeat on a regular basis in training physically or mentally. I like to save those efforts for race day. The short rest periods in this workout don’t let me fully recover, but they do make this workout more sustainable week to week. 


My other staple workout that I try to do 3-4 times a month I like to call “castles”. This is a workout I’ve transferred to cycling from my rowing days. Picture the jagged profile of a castle wall. This is what the power profile of a castle workout looks like. Again, the durations of the workout can be changed, but I tend to ride for 2 minutes at 90% of my 40k TT power, followed immediately by 2 minutes at 105%, then repeat until the desired duration is completed. I might do 3 x 12 minutes, or 2 x 20 minutes in one session. By the end of this workout I will have done as much as 20-25 minutes of work above my race pace with a very limited recovery period. This is a great way to increase your sustainable power while training your ability to recover from over-threshold intensity while still working relatively hard. 


This kind of training is not easy, and it isn’t fun in the traditional sense of the word . . . But with the proper motivation and inspiration combined with a good training plan and a solid recovery strategy it can quickly lift your fitness to the next level.

Hope this helps you as you ramp up your bike fitness, heading in to your best season ever.


Darcy Haggith, President, Infinit Nutrition Canada

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