Cueing for High Intensity Efforts

What do you say when you want to push your students beyond their threshold? Here is a list of inspiring cues to help them achieve what you are asking so they can reap the benefits that you are seeking (the objective of the profile). Some cues are visuals, some are purely motivational, asking them to reach inside themselves to push harder, others use perceived exertion, and several explain what is happening physiologically. Mix and match as your profile requires!

Your cues for high-intensity intervals above threshold are going to be different than your cues for longer threshold intervals. This list of cues is for intervals above LT that last about 45 seconds on up to 3 minutes. (So, we are not talking about explosive power efforts that a rider can only endure for 15-30 seconds.) These cues are for anaerobic efforts. They can also be applied to longer VO2 max efforts, but keep in mind that very hard efforts over 3 minutes require a very fit population.

As you know, the definition of lactate threshold (LT) is the point at which lactate production exceeds the body’s ability to metabolize it. Lactate is a metabolite of anaerobic glycolysis. Lactic acid dissociates into lactate and hydrogen ion (H+). It is the latter which increases the pH of the blood, leading to what is called metabolic acidosis. It is generally considered to be the cause of the burning sensation that you feel when pushing above lactate threshold.

Another by-product of anaerobic glycolysis is the production of CO2. When the rate of CO2 production increases markedly, the ventilatory threshold (VT) has been reached. VT is very closely aligned with LT, as they happen at approximately the same time, though for different physiological reasons. You learned this with the Talk Test Audio Master Class.

These physiological markers become excellent ways to describe to your students what they should be feeling when pushing hard above threshold. If you haven’t yet read the Physiology Primer for Intervals, I suggest you review this before continuing, because it will help some of these cues to make more sense.

I’ve broken down these cues into perceived exertion, inspirational (mental/mind-body), visualization, and physiology. Some are a combination of more than one grouping. Mix and match these cues depending on your profile, and use them to inspire you to come up with your own.


  1. I borrowed the punch line from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie as we were climbing hard, and everybody chuckled:
    “Everything will be alright at the end; and if it’s not alright, it’s not yet the end”
    It worked!
    Thanks Jennifer for sharing your fabulous cueing skills 🙂
    Le xx

  2. Another excellent resource to add to my library, thank you Jennifer! When I do these type of intervals, I like to think of it like the lottery…”you have to be in it to win it!!!”

  3. It’s almost like you’ve been reading my mind, as I have been looking for EXACTLY this. Thank you, Jennifer.

  4. If it doesn’t CHALLENGE you, it doesn’t CHANGE you!

  5. I lover your cues and how they fall within the various categories. One cue I would add is “You are stronger than you think!” It’s a mantra that I try to coach my students to say to themselves.

  6. Your words mean a lot to me Mairead. I am inspired when I am able to provide valuable information to help other instructors!

  7. I am always looking for words to inspire… using yours inspires me and makes my students and I better and better. You are simply marvelous! This tiny amount of money I pay for the membership at Indoor Cycling Association is such an investment. Please keep up the great work Ms. Sage !

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