Training Tips: Cycling Training Session: How to Improve your Aerobic Capacity

Top Physiologist Craig Stevenson talks us through his tough turbo training session to increase maximal sustainable pace and get you riding faster for longer. 


Craig Stevenson providing his top turbo session to train for a sportive

“Winter is the perfect time to focus on improving weaker areas of performance,” says Craig who heads up performance testing and coaching at the OTE Performance Centre in Leeds and has developed his own online training software Vitfor.

“With a sportive like the Struggle in the Yorkshire hills - with lots of long, sustained climbs - having the ability to sustain a higher power output to get you over the top in reasonable shape is very important.”

Turbo Toughie

To improve sustainable power for sportive riding Craig prescribes his coached athletes with a tough, high intensity training session. “You’ll be working above your 20min maximum pace (or 20min FTP, which  is your best pace for 20 minutes of riding). Therefore you will need fresh legs and be psychologically prepared to pull it off.”

The Warm-up:

Warm up for 5 minutes light to moderate pedalling.

Follow with 2 x 4mins progressive efforts building your effort from a moderate to somewhat hard pace. Allow 2mins recovery before the second effort.

Craig’s Tip: “Don’t make these hard. This is only the warm up. I like to then add in a few maximum sprints of 5sec just to ensure everything is firing.”

The Efforts:

Carry out 3 x 3min efforts with a short 1 min recovery at a pace above your 20min pace.

Take a 5-8 min recovery of light riding.

Repeat the 3 x 3min efforts another 3 times - providing the quality of your efforts are still there and you can maintain your pace.

Craig’s Tip: “Although we want these to be hard don’t start these too hard as they very quickly catch up with you and we want all the efforts to be consistent. If you find you can’t sustain the pace as you repeat the 3 x 3min efforts then stop. Don’t put yourself in a hole.”

Top Turbo Session: How to Improve your Aerobic Capacity

Image: Craig with one of his athletes climbing Park Rash in Struggle Dales


2 x 4min progressives building moderate to somewhat hard with a 2min recovery

3 x 5sec Progressive sprints @ 80, 90, and 100% respectfully with a 55 sec recovery

3 x 3min efforts Z5 (above your 20min TT pace) with a 1min recovery between efforts

5 - 8min Recovery

Repeat 3 x 3min efforts 3 more times

Practice this session as part of your sportive training plan once to twice a week for six weeks and monitor the results. Let us know how you get on and if you see improvements in your riding in the comment box below.

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