How to Incorporate Long Intervals, Part 2: Progressive Programming Over 6–8 Weeks

We’ve been discussing why longer intervals should be an integral part of your indoor cycling workouts. By now, you should recognize that intervals of 5 minutes or longer are beneficial from both a physical and mental perspective, whether you have bikes with power or not, and whether you have riders who are cyclists or are simply enthusiasts who haven’t ridden a bike since their first tricycle.

Everyone can and will benefit.

While I know there are many instructors who still are not sure about longer intervals, I’m surprised at how many only do super-short HIT-style intervals. As I was preparing this post, in one of the online Facebook groups for cycling instructors, an instructor was surprised about 4-minute intervals and said her riders are only used to 1-minute ones. I’m so glad she asked that question—she’s NOT alone—and she has some really excellent questions about how to go about teaching longer intervals. She got the best answer possible by ICA contributor Bill Pierce. 

I wonder what made this instructor think her riders can’t do anything longer than one minute? It doesn’t sound like she’s even tried and that she’s made this assumption. Perhaps they are very used to those HIT classes with 1-minute or less periods of hard work, but it’s also possible they simply haven’t experienced any other options.

I want to discuss something that Bill says in his reply above. He says, “…you may be underestimating your riders.” We instructors are human, we often project our own fears and insecurities onto our riders. We want everyone to like us; we worry (a bit too much) that those riders are bored, that they don’t like this song, that they aren’t fit enough to sit for five minutes, that “OMG, they are looking up at me, what does it mean? Maybe they don’t know what to do next, maybe I need to say something, maybe they are lost…Arrrrrgh!!” We literally can worry ourselves to death with thoughts like these.

But you know what? The vast majority of the time—your riders are just fine! They do like the song! They aren’t lost! They don’t mind spending more time doing what you are doing (unless it’s quite literally too hard). I want you to reflect on when you take a class. Do

In this article, I cover her question about the intensity at which your intervals should be performed (whether there should be “variation”), and provide a sample timetable and programming ideas for gradually increasing the length of the intervals and teaching riders to understand pacing. In the next chapter, I’ll dive deeper into the visualization and coaching techniques Bill touches on to help you inspire your riders to stay committed for these longer efforts.


How to prepare your riders for the 20-minute field test or event with progressively longer intervals


  1. Thanks for wonderful article, learn a lots from Bill too

  2. This is just what I’ve been looking for, a progression over 6 weeks, thank you very much.

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