Profile: Progressive High-Cadence Tempo Intervals

I get a lot of requests for aerobic profiles. I taught one last night that was just a little different than I’ve ever done before. It was really challenging, both physically and mentally. I’m not so sure my riders would call it “fun,” but they all said it was a great class with a smile and a bit of a smirk. 😉

This isn’t a standard ICA profile with a PDF handout and lots of coaching cues, but you’ll find it very helpful. You can take one or two of the intervals to use as cadence drills in your profiles.

This is not a profile that would work for groups that like a lot of variety because most of it is done in the saddle (although you can certainly give more breaks for those riders who resist long periods in the saddle). This is perfect for anyone with a roomful of outdoor cyclists, as well as those with riders who appreciate cycling-specific classes even if they don’t ride outside.

It is a highly effective training ride that targets the aerobic system while also working on leg speed and efficiency.

First, a little background…

I teach a series of periodized cycling clinics at the Vail Vitality Center in Vail, Colorado. This first leg of the program is a 6-week base building program. Most of my riders are cyclists, though some are fairly new to cycling (one woman just got her first mountain bike and plans to learn to road ride next summer). 

We have the FreeMotion bikes with the Stages power meter. For the past 5 weeks, I have been building the intensity, primarily focusing on longer intervals in Zone 3, sometimes at higher cadences and sometimes climbing. Yesterday was the first time we reached Zone 4 (just below threshold).

I used power to set their intensity, then perceived exertion to make sure they were on track. As you probably know, when cadence is on the higher side, it has a greater effect on the cardiovascular system, so heart rate is higher for a given power output than it would be at a lower cadence. I checked in with them to make sure they weren’t breathless.

Class Objective


  1. Hi Jennifer-This looks like a fun profile! Regarding BPM-do you have an app or a website that you use to determine BPM? I have an app called bpmTap that I use, where I tap out the beats with my finger. Is there a more accurate method to use? Even when I’m being very careful with my tapping, the beats can vary by 2-4 beats. Also, do you store your songs by BPM? My catalog is growing and I need a method to organize them. iTunes should really give you a percentage of sales for the songs you recommend-I spend lots more on music since I started using your profiles! 😀

  2. When you used the word stage, what is the RPE??
    Sorry, I’m a roadie but have been teaching with the Spinning Program for 20 years. We just got our new Spinner Blad Ions w/power yesterday. Really want to kick it off with a great profile.

    1. Wish I could use spotify….would make life a lot easier! And I would have more time on my hands!

    2. THANK YOU Maria Monet Cruz!!!! 🙂

      1. If you guys ever need the Spotify url, here’s how you find it in the embedded playlist we post:
        Click on the “Share” button on the top-right side of the playlist within the post on the ICA website. From there, click on the link icon to copy the url then place the url into the search field within Spotify. 🙂

  3. Love this! I actually love the short and simple write up of the profile too!!! Makes it easy to read and follow. Can’t wait give this a go—you rock Jennifer Sage!

    1. Author

      thanks Stephanie. Point taken. I know the in-depth profiles at ICA are very well received, however, it can be overkill at times (especially once you’ve done them once). We do provide the Quick Profile at the end of each profile, but that might be TOO simplified since there is no cueing. So my goal is to add just a little more info to the quick profiles, so we have the best of ALL worlds!


  4. Jennifer, I couldn’t find the ‘In the Air Tonight Dreamscape Mix’ you listed, but I did find a really awesome cover by Kelly Sweet that is 4:20. I looked on iTunes and in Spotify and didn’t find the Dreamscape Mix. Where did you find it?

    Margie Stone

    1. Author

      darn…every now and then I use a song that I have no idea where I got it! When I create the more in-depth profile for this ride, I’ll remember to find a better song that can be easily found.

      I’ll be sure to look up the Kelly Sweet version, thanks!

  5. Love this Jennifer. This New England weather is upsetting all manner of plans for me….

    FWIW, I’ve had a few ROADIES (as in, I’m a *Roadie* and youre NOT) come to class of late. What I’m surmising is that, when ROADIES do what they perceive these interval classes we present to be, it’s in the context of being able to back off legitimately (traffic lights, loose pets etc. etc)

    Just throwing a few thoughts here..

    1. Author

      yes, that’s a great way to introduce the rest periods. I think I’ll incorporate it into my cueing, thanks!

      However, I would think that well-educated roadies would understand the benefit of longer intervals, stop light or no stop light, rather than doing 60 minutes of steady state at this power output.

      Check out the trainign workouts in road cycling books, or websites and they all have tempo-paced cruise intervals like this.

      Although to be sure, you wouldn’t see the suggestion to increase rpm by 1 every 3 or 4 minutes! That’s a training variation that is so much easier to control indoors.

  6. I can’t wait to try this profile… will get back to you with results .. Thank you

  7. This sounds awesome Jennifer! I am envious you have a group of dedicated cyclists to train and encourage, not so much where I teach:( I do look forward to putting something like this together not only for myself but for my students.

    1. Author

      I will be subbing on a regular basis (every 3 weeks or so) this winter at another club. I used to teach there and still know some of the regulars, but not all. I certainly wouldn’t try this profile with that group early on. I would wait until I understood all of the riders and their goals. And then when I did teach it, I would offer the non-cyclists more opportunities to stand during the intervals, perhaps at the beginning of each new song.

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