How to Incorporate BOOST Training Into Your Cycle Training

What is BOOST Training? BOOST Training involves including specific intervals (and recovery) at appropriate intensities to ensure your body adapts quickly to the physiological demands and has you riding faster and more powerfully in a short period of time.

Earlier today I took a webinar on this very topic, now if you’d prefer to simply watch a replay of the webinar (and save yourself reading) watch the link below.

What Is BOOST Training

Now, having a nice cool acronym BOOST would have been really good. B.O.O.S.T. Something, something, something, Specific. Training maybe. I don’t know. I tried to sitting down and making up something cool to use it as an acronym. But the reality is it’s BOOSTing your performance and that’s where I derived the name from. Full boost training involves including specific intervals (and recovery) at appropriate intensities to ensure your body adapts quickly to the physiological demands and has you riding faster and more powerfully in a short period of time.

A Word About Intensity

Some of the key things in there are the intensity has to be at the right intensity. If you’re not at the right intensity, you’re not going to get the physiological response that we’re after from that workout. And so therefore you’re not going to get the benefit. And it’s important that you recover and get that recovery at the right intensity as well. If you don’t recover, you aren’t going to get the results that, you’re trying to achieve. So it’s important that we hit those intensities correctly and appropriately based on your level of fitness.

There are five levels of intensity that I use: one (I) through to five (V) nice and simple. Level I, low intensity recovery purposes only. I don’t really prescribe this very often. Sometimes as recovery within a very tough workout or as part of a Cool Down (CD) from that tough workout. If you’re riding along at Level I intensity, you will be able to comfortably talking to any training partner, you might have, very low speed.

Level II – endurance intensity, so similar sort of thing. You can ride along comfortably at Level II and have a conversation with a training partner, spinning the legs over at 90 revolutions per minute or above that. You can have that conversation with a training partner still. No problems at all.

When we step up, to Level III conversation get shorter into sentences and you need to catch your breath a little bit between sentences, but you can still hold that conversation.

When we get up into the threshold intensity, Level IV the breathing becomes a lot faster. You are trying to suck it a lot more oxygen. You’re only able to get a few words out at a time and then you really need to catch your breath between those few words. You’re working at a lot higher intensity.

And then at the top end of the spectrum at Level V, VO2 Max, your main focus as sucking in oxygen. You can get a few grunts and groans out, but nothing much more than that.

When we look at how we measure that intensity, we can use Power or Heart Rate (HR). If we don’t have the opportunity to use a power meter, then heart rate is the next best alternative. But power is by far the superior option. It is a measure, (or in some cases, depending on the power meter you’re using an estimation) of the work, and therefore the intensity that you’re doing. As the intensity changes, so to does the power. 200 watts is always going to be 200 watts regardless of other factors.

When we look on the other side of the fence, that heart rate is the poor cousin. It is measure of the body’s response to intensity, and there’s a delay in that response. So if you are cruising along and then you put on a big sprint, your heart rate isn’t going to respond on the dime like power will. There will be that delay as you heart rate slowly builds up to the intensity that you are riding at to generate that response. If you’re doing a Max sprint, you might’ve finished the sprint and started recovering from that sprint before the heart rate even gets close to the intensity you were riding at and which case it will start it. It’ll continue climbing for a little bit and then descending without actually getting up to the true intensity that you were at when sprinting. Whereas the power certainly will do that right from the outset.

The other problem with heart rate is it’s impacted by a whole raft of different things, how fatigued you are, you level of recovery, how well fueled you are, what type of fuel as well. Level of hydration, the quality of sleep you’ve had, which links into the fatigue and level of recovery as well. Stimulants such as caffeine, prescription and other stimulants all play a role on the heart rate. Now having said 200 watts are still 200 watts. And you might argue that 150 beats per minute heart rate is still 150 beats per minute. That is right. But the 150 could actually be 155 or 160 beats per minute. Thats been suppressed by something down to 150 or it might be 145 or 140 beats per minute that have been falsely increased up to that 150. So it’s not always going to be a reliable indicator depending on what else is happening. The power is where it’s at and is always going to be the best measure at this stage. Who knows what technology will be invented in the future.

So how do we determine what are your power zones, how many watts. So primarily I use a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test to determine the power and intensity or power levels for people to ride it.

After warm up and some primer intervals and then five minutes as a pre fatiguing effort and then recovering from that riding hard for 20 minutes, taking the average power from that 20 minutes and multiplying that by 0.95 or 95% of the average power will give you your functional threshold power. From that you can then calculate the various levels I through to V in terms of what they relate to and the amount of watts.

Power (% FTP)
Level I < 55%
Level II 56 – 75%
Level III 76 – 90%
Level IV 91 – 105%
Level V 106 – 120%

If you’re using Heart Rate (HR) monitor, then I utilise the Carmichael field test, which involves two, eight minute intervals after a warm up obviously. With some recovery in between. After you’ve done the workout review the data, looking at those two, eight minutes, Taking the average heart rate from both of them and seeing which one’s higher and then taking the highest and it’s gonna be a good indicator of what your, threshold heart rate is going to be.

HR (% of ave HR)
Level I 70 – 79%
Level II 79 – 86%
Level III 86 – 93%
Level IV 93 – 100%
Level V 100% +

It’s important now that you know your respective Power or HR Zones is hat when we’re trying to ride at Level II, you wanting to spend as much time as possible between or within that range and without going above or below. Same at the higher intensities when you are need to be riding at them you maximise your time in that zone.

The same applies for heart rate. It will working slightly different percentages, to get the physiological responses out of it that you want.

How does boost training work?

There are three key intensities that we include in the training. There’s Level II – Endurance, Level IV – Threshold and Level V – VO2 Max. And I’ll talk more in depth about those intensities shortly and going through and giving you some example workouts as well. You’ll get the most development based on your current abilities. So sometimes, with BOOST training, I won’t include any threshold work for some people. We’ll just focus on building their endurance, and having some, VO2 Max. It’s there to improve the top end and that will give them the greatest benefit rather than tiring them out by giving them some threshold intervals as well, that they’re not recovering from, their overall training load being increased and therefore not getting all the benefits of the overall program.

Level II – Endurance

So it all depends on where you currently at at the moment, fitness wise. When we look at the Level II intensity, being one of the three key intensity that support BOOST training, the main focus of Level II is endurance. It’s going to develop the efficiency of your heart and lungs. Growing the heart, particularly the left ventricle in the heart, which pumps the blood around the body so it can pump more blood and improving the efficiency of the lungs as well, which it means that you can draw more oxygen out of the environment. Drawing a greater amount of air into the lungs. The more air drawn in, means the more oxygen in the lungs. So therefore we can draw more of that into the bloodstream and ship that around the body to where it’s needed. Training at Level II intensity is going to develop the ability to pump more blood with each beat.

And as a result, more oxygen with each beat is going to end up getting to the working muscles. Also concurrently at the same time, we are going to increase the density of the Mitochondria within the muscle fibers. Now, Mitochondria are an organelle that’s inside the muscle fiber itself, and it’s effectively the powerhouse of the muscle fibres. They take the energy and convert it into a usable form, with oxygen, and also either carbohydrates or fats, fueling the process so that the muscles have got the energy to contract. All these changes may mean you can recover better and your training doesn’t feel so hard, as you get more efficient, everything just starts getting easier. So that is the key benefit of training at a Level II or the endurance zone. So a large amount of the training is structured within BOOST training is at an Endurance intensity. So we have the long bike ride, we have the warm ups and cool downs, all at Level II even recovery between hard efforts are done at Level II. So the about 80% of training, of BOOST training give or take a little bit is done at Level II intensity.

Level V – VO2 Max

The next key intensity I’m going to talk about as Level V – VO2 Max and training it. VO2 Max intensity is going to develop the ability to clear lactic acid out of the body quickly. It’s going to give you the ability to tolerate higher levels of lactic acid and it’s gonna increase the high end intensity. So it might be that you’re holding, like 350 watts for two minutes, used to be tough. After you’ve improved you might be able to increase from 350 to 360, even 375 or 380. So we’re moving that top end intensity, we’re moving that higher up.

So these changes in your body allow you to ride very hard and recover quickly from high end intensities. So it provides a benefit to cyclists. So it might be just trying to stay with a bunch on the hill, win a sprint, those sort of things where you’re working at that higher intensity, if you can recover from them quickly, you can push on a lot easier.

Level IV – Threshold

That makes the last key intensity Level IV as your threshold intensity training it, that intensity is going to develop a range of things but primarily as the ability to minimise lactic acid production whilst riding hard. As well as the ability to clear that lactic acid. Whilst you’re still riding hard, you don’t need to cruise to recover. You can clear that lactic acid whilst you’re still riding hard. Threshold intensity is at the same level where your body has trouble clearing the lactic acid just as quick as it’s producing it.

The more time we spend at this intensity, the better the body is going to get at clearing that lactic acid, whilst you’re working hard. However, you are limited as to how much time you can spend there, it’s can’t be too much time, that you’re obviously going to need a lot more time to recover. So in a nutshell that those changes to your body are going to allow you to suffer pure and simple. That’s going to allow you to suffer. And some of you might even enjoy doing it. Not everyone though.

How To Incorporate BOOST Training Into Your Week

So to incorporate BOOST training into your training plan, you need to be doing a minimum of three workouts a week. The most important one is going to be the long ride. What’s long is going to be dependent on what you currently have the ability to ride. So building up from what you are currently able to do.

Long Ride

If you can comfortably ride for three hours, then we wanted to build that just a little bit longer to develop the aerobic (Endurance) system. Just that little bit more. Some of you might only be an hour or even less. The important thing is you’re not trying to jump from a 30 minute long ride to three hours in a space of a week. You want to just build it up a little bit at a time when you’re constantly doing, going for a long ride. If you can already ride for a few hours, a ride 15 minutes longer, will be no drama but adding 15 minutes onto a 30 minute ride and it’s basically an extra 50%. And it’s important to build up slowly and progressively from your current ability.

VO2 Max Intervals

The second key session that include for people doing three workouts a week as a VO2 Max workout. You’re working in that Level V intensity, maxing out, giving everything, you’ve got to basically move the needle at the top end of your range, so you can get a lot of training benefits from that. So that’s why that’s the second most important, ride of the week.

Threshold Intervals

Now the third ride, depending on your ability as to what I get you to do, if you can comfortably ride longer than two hours, I get you to do threshold intervals. If you not riding comfortably over two hours, then I get you to include another steady or recovery ride to help once again at Level II. So working on building that endurance as we increased the duration of that long ride. So you’re getting better and better at that intensity.

Compared to the VO2 Max intervals you’ve got less time to recover between. So with the VO2 Max workout, you’ve got a one-to-one work to rest ratio. So we’re spending three minutes at Level V and then three minutes recovering at a Level II. With the Threshold Intervals you’re spending a full six minutes at Level IV going hard and then only two minutes recovering. So the recovery is going to be incomplete. You’re not going to have as much time. And we’re going to be working for longer, prior to getting that recovery. So, there’s one of the key benefits of the threshold intervals allows you to, work on developing the ability to clear that lactic acid even while still working hard. So if you had not fully recovered when you start the the second, third or fourth rep, that’s good because it’s teaching your body how to clear the lactic acid whilst it’s still got lactic acid floating through the system. And then obviously at the end of it finished with a 10 minute cool down riding at Level II and some stretching once again.

BOOST Training Spread Through the Week

So when planning your weight, spread the decisions out over the week, if you’re doing three workouts a week and spread them out Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.

If you’ve got four workouts a week, over the weekend have you to work out Saturday, Sunday back to back. And then have the other two workouts spread with day off in between them. But basically the week starts one day off, day on, day off, day on, day off, day on, day on and then went back around and having a day off again. So we’ll always happen. Basically one day off between workouts with the exception of the weekend we are doubling up. Tuesday / Thursday / Saturday / Sunday.

If you’ve got time for five workouts a week, once again, we’d look at filling up the weekend, a Saturday, Sunday day off on Monday, three days on then Friday off, two days on, one day off, three days on, one day off, rotating for the weeks. That way I might show you have a dedicated Rest Day during the week as well. I typically plan that for Friday for most of the athletes I coach the Friday. I do get all my athletes to do some stretching, whether it’s a yoga session or dedicated stretching session that I prepare for them, that works on enhancing the recovery and also maximizing the performance as a result. I definitely don’t recommend doing hard sessions on back to back days.

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