Profile: Aerobic Intervals 3 X 15 Minutes at Tempo (Zone 3)

For years, I’ve noticed that instructors struggle with teaching endurance or moderate-intensity classes. The challenge, I’m told, is that they believe their riders will think it’s boring because there isn’t that much variety and change in position and intensity. Another belief is that it feels too “easy,” so they think their riders are going to revolt if they aren’t limping out of class, completely drained.

A lot of those challenges can be overcome with educating your class and teaching them about the different adaptations that take place at different intensities.

While it is true that you won’t have big swings in intensity, you can still ebb and flow within the zone. I talk about that in another aerobic profile called Ebb and Flow.

And while sweat should not be an indicator of how hard you’ve worked out and is more due to temperature and humidity of the room, it’s often the case that a good endurance ride will leave a bigger pile of sweat below the bike than a high-intensity interval ride. This is because once the body starts warming up, there aren’t the frequent breaks that the required recovery of a HIT class provides. Those short recovery breaks are just enough to lower body temp before the next high-intensity effort, reducing sweat output. This may be an attraction to those who are partial to the feeling of being covered with sweat at the end of a workout.

In this profile, I have created two options: a 60-minute tempo ride with three sets of 15-minute intervals, or a 75-minute ride with an optional bonus interval at high cadence. You keep your riders’ attention with a progression through lower to higher cadences and a series of technical and mental drills. They can stand as needed. The recoveries in Zone 2 (no need to drop to Zone 1 as in a HIT ride) between the long intervals are short, providing a mental break as well as a physical one for those who need it. If you have participants who ride outside and might be training for a long event, they can be given the option to stay in low Zone 3 during the recoveries, making it a long steady-state ride.

For instructors who have shorter classes, you’ll need to choose shorter songs to create 12- to 13-minute intervals, but you can still retain the same rpm progression. Also, keep in mind that for a class that is shorter than 60 minutes, you can safely raise the intensity slightly to the high end of Zone 3, even into low Zone 4, and still stay predominantly aerobic. 

I have filmed myself teaching this profile in a virtual ride that you can view below. Even if you don’t have a bike to ride along with me, you’ll benefit by watching it along with the music. You’ll learn a lot about keeping riders engaged during long intervals through your coaching. 

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