As a Sports Coach, Accredited Fitness Australia Level 3 Personal Trainer teaching RPM and indoor cycling sessions for many years now, and as a keen cyclist I thought I would share some fitness tips with you all from time to time. Here is an insight into how HIIT can work for cycling. I teach this and practice it out on the road when riding. When short on time and opportunities to get out there I have used this as an effective method of training for longer rides. It works.


There are many variations on the HIIT theme lasting from 4- 30 mins of work, most vary around the number and the length of the intervals of generally a 2:1 work:rest ratio, together with the intensity. TABATA is one type of HIIT.


A TABATA session (1 TABATA) consist of 20secs work/10secs rest repeated 8 times, each one as hard as you can i.e. 100% effort. And that's it. You can't hold that much effort for much longer than 20 secs as you're muscles will fail you, so you should really be close to failure on each rep. This is anaerobic work. But 10 secs is not enough time to recover from the effort. So repeating this effort will take you into the aerobic zone. Don't forget warm up and cool down of course.


Whichever form of HIIT you do the benefits match those of longer sessions of work at lower sustained effort. But it's worth it. Yes, it's true. Doing as little as 4 minutes (or one "Tabata") can increase your aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, VO2 max, resting metabolic rate, and can help you burn more fat (and make you look leaner) than a traditional 60-minute aerobic workout. That's right—4 minutes of Tabata can get you better fitness gains than an entire hour of riding your bike.


First, while you can do a Tabata interval with just about any exercise, start with one in which you're very comfortable. Most people choose sprinting on a treadmill but as we're talking cycling, I suggest using a long stretch of road where you can pump out these sprints or even a short quiet hill location.


Second, get a good timer no matter how good you think you are at counting, you cannot estimate when 20 seconds and 10 seconds have passed when your brain is that crucial stage on holding the intensity.


Third, get a good mantra that you can repeat in time with your cadence for each 20-second burst. It sounds silly, but it really helps focus you on what you're doing and not on your excruciating pain.


I don't advocate riding on busy roads with headphones on and music blasting whilst riding but in this instance it does help though not not advisable. It's best when using a stationary trainer or on a spin bike though. If you don't have a timer of any sorts and counting is your only option/method here is a tip:

Assuming you have the right gear and intensity, when you think you are working hard enough on that last 8 seconds of interval, you're not. Pump harder and faster. If you think you are holding that pace, you're not. You're slowing down. Tell yourself to speed up and make the effort. Even if you beat the beat of the cadence/rhythm. It's better than slowing down.



Without using a heart rate monitor to gauge how hard you are working, which is something you can do on top of this, here's a rough idea of how you should be feeling/thinking.


1st REP: Probably not as heavy or as fast as you could go, so increase. If you feel it's too much, then it's probably just about right.

2nd REP: This one should hurt to get going. You will ache like crazy half way and begin to regret that resistance level or gear you chose. The speed may hurt deep down to maintain and at the end your legs will feel like they are burning and/or pumped! And your heart is in your mouth.

3rd REP: This will be slightly easier that the 2nd but this time you will begin to feel like pacing yourself. Who are you kidding?? This only your 3rd rep. You should be pumping it out as hard as all of then. No cruising. Work harder!!! You should feel like you're dying at the end of this one and cannot breath!

4th REP: You feel like this is the last one, but you are only half way. You must dig deep to find the effort to make it over the half way line at the end of this interval.

5th REP: This is the measure REP. You should feel like this is impossible to do having spent yourself on the first half of the TABATA. But you will do it!! Legs are blown at the end of this one or buring to the very bone. Lungs are literally bursting here. Only 3 more to go!

6th REP: One by one. This one is about getting going again and holding it. See it through at all costs. Failure is NOT an option! Just 2 more to go!!

7th REP: Just one after this so lets get it done! Treat it as if it's the last ever rep you will do. Now get moving and pump like it's the end!!!

8th REP The FINAL rep!!! THE last one! You can now give everything. Hold nothing back. YES! You can do it! Just 20 secs...4,3,2,1....GO! GO! GO!!!!!!!


If none of these thoughts/feelings cross your mind, turn the resistance up/chain gear and speed up!

Now you are done. Spin to recover. Don't freewheel. Keep some pressure and ride it. Let your muscles do the work to bring your heart rate down to flush your body and feel refreshed.


Don't forget to warm up before for at least 4-5 mins and cool down just as long. So over all about 12 mins min from start to finish of your workout.


Try this once or even twice a week and see how you go? Each workout is individual based upon how you feel not on any settings but if you wish to measure it and record the efforts, or use a heart rate monitor, go for it!! See a bit more about heart rates below)


If you want some more about HIIT, here's something that will explain the background of how it works a bit further.

Happy reading and good luck!


P.S. If you want any more advice on training, health and nutrition let me know through Cycle. Happy to share the information with everyone.


(Heart Rates: If you want to know what your heart rate should be generally as a guide only, the simple way is to subtract your age from the magical number of 220. So for example for me at 49 it is...

                                                               220-49 = 171

This is my maximum HR or 100% ... Ideally I should not train above this, but none of us are perfect and we all differ!

You need to put in your maximum effort which ideally should be around your max HR but most of us, in reality, don't ever reach that with our percieved effort of 100% falling somewhere below it, commonly about 90-95% which for me is 154-162. I have actually peaked at 166 in a class... no matter how intense I go... that's it! But then in reality, to be honest I have not really given 100%. We all tend to hold back a bit. It's a defensive mechanism.

If I did give 100% I'm sure I would never be able to ride home after!)


Hills or attacks: Rise for each interval.

Pace work for 20secs pumping hard.

Stationary bikes are a great option.

Alternatively fit your own bike to a stationary trainer.




Join Cycle today

Cycle is run with the love and time of an amazing group of individuals that come from all across Australia to make your Cycling life a little bit better.