Long Cycle

Getting the Most Out Of the Kitchen Sink – A Long Bike Ride For All Occasions

The weekend is a opportunity to get a long ride completed.  This ride is a challenging one that I get a range of my athletes who are preparing for an event that involves a long cycle to do. Whether it is a long road race like the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge or the Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge; a long distance triathlon such as an Ironman or Ultraman (or even a half Ironman/70.3 on occasion as well); or an extreme cycle challenge like Tour Aoteroa.

The Kitchen Sink session is a great workout that will give your body a range of training stimuli that it is likely to experience when riding for the long durations and enhance your future training. Before going into the detail as to why I include each of the various training intensities within this workout let me first take you through it.

Kitchen Sink

  • 20min Warm Up Level II;
  • 3x 1min fast pedalling 120Rpm, 1min RI Level II;
  • 5x 12min Level III, 5min RI Level II;
  • 10x 5min Level II, then at 5min mark do a big gear effort (change into a big gear 53×13, stay seated and push that gear over until you reach 90Rpm);
  • 5min Level II;
  • 6x 3min Level V, 5min RI Level II;
  • 30min Level II;
  • 45min Level III (every 3min increase your cadence to 110Rpm for 10sec);
  • 15min Cool Down Level II;
  • 10min Stretching

All up this session takes five hours and four minutes.

The definitions for training intensities can be found in this article.

Start off with a 20 minute Warm Up at Level II. Then move into three reps of fast pedalling at a cadence of 120Rpm for one minutes, with a one minute Rest Interval (RI) at Level II between reps.

The next set is made up of five reps at Level III for twelve minutes, with a five minute Rest Interval (RI) at Level II between reps.

The next set is basically a 50 minute long rep at level II but every five minutes you shift into a big gear (53×13 or similar), staying seated work hard and lift the cadence to above 90 RPM. Once you get to 90 Rpm, change back to your normal gear and continue riding at Level II. All up there will be ten reps done every five minutes. Take a five minute Rest Interval (RI) at Level II prior to the next set, this Rest Interval is effectively an eleventh rep without the big gear effort.

Next up is a set of six reps at Level V for three minutes with a three minute Rest Interval (RI) at Level II between reps.

A 30 minute block at Level II prepares you for the next set. This involves 45 minutes at Level III and increasing your cadence to 110Rpm for 10 seconds every three minutes.  Unlike the earlier set you aren’t changing to a bigger gear – you can drop down a gear or two as long as you get your cadence up for the 10 seconds. This involves a total of 15 high cadence efforts.

Finish off the session with 15 minutes at Level II for your Cool Down (CD) and then do ten minutes of stretching to help keep the muscles loose and aid in your recovery.

This session involves exercising at a range of intensities. When you pedal at high cadences you need to have your nervous system firing quickly, as that is what controls the muscle contractions. A lot people think that fast pedalling involves using fast twitch muscle fibres.  Although in sense this sounds plausible, it is in fact the opposite.

Fast twitch muscle fibres fire quickly with a lot of force, but to pedal at a high cadence you are pedalling with low force so it is in fact slow twitch muscle fibres that have you pedalling quickly. You gain a lot out of pedalling quickly, because as you are pedalling at low force you don’t build up fatigue as quickly.  These sessions are great for developing muscle memory through the nervous system which is controlling the muscle contractions.

This is also utilised to build strength by activating the fast twitch muscle fibres (the fibres that generate large forces) when changing to the big gear intervals in the 50 minute section.

Each time you wind up to 90 Rpm you will need to develop a lot of force to turn that big gear over to that cadence. For this reason as soon as you get up to 90Rpms you change back down and continue at Level II (effectively your Rest Interval (RI)).

This strength will be important if you climb up any hills or spend any time struggling into a head wind.

The least intuitive aspect of this workout is the fact that I get people working at Level V for some of the reps. Spending time at this training intensity is important for ALL cyclists. If you are riding for a long duration you will be riding at a certain percentage of your maximum (or Functional Threshold Power (FTP)). The longer you ride for, the lower this percentage will be.

Consider an Ironman triathlete who completes the bike ride in five hours compared to another triathlete that completes the 180km in seven hours. The five hour athlete will be riding at a higher proportion of their maximum because they don’t need to maintain it nearly as long as the seven hour athlete.

Now compare both these athletes to someone riding in the RAAM or riding the Great Divide.  They will be riding at a lower intensity again. The shorter the duration the higher the intensity the ride is going to be. Regardless of whether you are looking at an athlete that can maintain 70% or 50% of their maximum, if they can lift this maximum then they will also lift the Power they are riding at.

Consider the an athlete with a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) of 250 Watts.   If they are doing an event where they are looking to maintain 70% of their FTP and they can lift their FTP up to say 265 Watts, the Power they maintain increases from 175 Watts to 186 Watts. That is about a two minute savings for every 40km, if your FTP is improved by 15 Watts.

Repeated efforts at Level V do a great job at lifting your top end power, as long as you get enough recovery (typically a 1:1-1½ ratio of work to rest). By improving your top end power it is likely that your FTP will also improve a little. Although the main improvements will be with your V02 Max at the top end, even if you don’t improve your FTP (unlikely) this improvement in your V02 Max will allow you to maintain your FTP at a lower proportion of your V02 Max, which will mean it will be easier for you.

This is the sort of intensity that a road cyclist might utilise when launching an attack if at the sharp end of the race, or the more recreational road cyclists might use to maintain contact with a bunch (like in Lake Taupo when you turn at Turangi and get a good tailwind and the whole bunch pace picks up).

Ironman athletes or ultra endurance cyclists won’t utilise this intensity too much (maybe on some hill climbs), however the training benefits will pay off if you have trained at this intensity.  If you need to utilise it during your event you will recover from it a lot quicker.

The two sets at Level III provide you with some efforts at a sustainable power, without taxing your FTP too much within the session. This is the sort of pace/intensity that an Ironman athlete might maintain or an ultra endurance cyclist might maintain on a long climb or road cyclist might maintain whilst in the bunch.

Although the Level II efforts are primarily used as Rest Intervals, there is a large number of them within the workout. At this intensity your body will develop great efficiency with enhancements in the biochemical profile within the muscle fibres (the muscle fibre will develop mitchondria which are the powerhouses within the cells), the heart will get more efficent by developing the capacity of the left ventricle (that’s the part of the heart that pumps blood around the body) and pump more blood with each beat. The lungs get more efficent at getting the oxygen out of the air and pass it into the blood easier. All these things go to enhance your endurance and your fitness.

The combination of all these factors within the session mean that it is hard to remember and you need to either ride with some good notes written on your stem of what the workout is or set it up into your Garmin. If you are coached by me on my Team or Elite programme and use either a Garmin Edge 520 or Forerunner 935 then you can use the Training Peaks IQ App.  When I load the Kitchen Sink into your programme you can follow the session that way or you can load it manually as a Workout into Garmin Connect. There are a number of steps to set for intensity.  It depends on whether you train with a Heart Rate (HR) or Power Meter.

20min Warm Up Level II;

Set the Warm Up for 20 minutes, either set up a a custom Power or Heart Rate Zone, alternatively ensure that your zones are correctly preloaded into the settings.

3x 1min fast pedalling 120Rpm, 1min RI Level II;

Insert a Repeat and set it to three reps of 1min with a cadence above 120RPM, and the Recovery for 1min in an appropriate Power or HR Zone.

5x 12min Level III, 5min RI Level II;

Load in another repeat and set it to 12min with an appropriate Power or HR Zone and the recovery of 5min also with the Power or HR Zone.

10x 5min Level II, then at 5min mark do a big gear effort (change into a big gear 53×13, stay seated and push that gear over until you reach 90Rpm);

Set a repeat for five reps with two steps both 5min in duration at either an appropriate Power or HR zone. Use the alerts that come on every 5mins for 50 minutes to remind you to change into the big gear and work hard until your cadence hits 90Rpm.

5min Level II;

Set a single step for 5min at an appropriate Power or HR Intensity.

6x 3min Level V, 5min RI Level II;

Set a repeat to 6 times, with the Bike for 3min and the Recovery for 5min both at an appropriate Power or HR Intensity.

30min Level II;

Set a single Step for 30min at an appropriate Power or HR Zone.

45min Level III (every 3min increase your cadence to 110Rpm for 10sec);

Set this as a Repeat set for 7 times with two steps each 3min long at an appropriate Power or HR Zone. This will only be 14 reps or 42min, so you will need to add a single step of 3min to complete this segment. Each time the alarm goes off it’ll serve as a reminder for you to increase your cadence to 110Rpm.

15min Cool Down Level II;

Load a duration of 15min into the Cool Down step at an appropriate Power or HR Zone.

This is a truly beneficial workout for all long distance cyclists, and it will prepare you physically and mentally for the challenges of your event. Although I don’t include it too often in someones programme depending on the length of the build up I could potentially include it two to four times.

Here is a Heart Rate (HR) track (red line) of a client of mine doing the Kitchen sink. You can see how it rises and then drops with recovery with the various efforts throughout the session.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact me.

I am the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

I specialise in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. I can be contacted at coachray@coachray.nz and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to my informative newsletter.

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For more great workouts of this nature check out my eBook Top 10 Cycle Workouts from Coach Ray.


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