Teaching a 90-Minute Class

I’ve had a couple of ICA members ask me about structuring a 90-minute profile. With the holidays coming, many instructors are planning extended rides for their Turkey-Fest or Holiday Calorie Burner theme rides.

I will be doing a 90-minute ride this week, but mine is part of a cycling clinic marketed as a “base-building program,” so we will be riding below threshold the entire time. That doesn’t mean it will be easy…we just won’t be going to breathless. It’s not necessary for your profile to stay at moderate intensities the whole time, but once your duration exceeds one hour, it’s important to balance your use of higher intensity carefully. I’ll talk about how much HIT in a moment, but first I want to discuss the concept of “endurance.”

Enhancing endurance

Many indoor cycling instructors think “endurance” means riding easy on a flat road. But endurance is more about duration than it is about terrain. It simply isn’t possible to ride for very long if the intensity is high; hence why longer rides are usually done at sub-threshold intensities.

If you really want to enhance your endurance, that means riding at a steady state for longer than one hour. Endurance quite literally means “to endure.” A 45- or 60-minute training session is insufficient to train your aerobic endurance. That does not mean that training at sub-threshold levels for a shorter duration doesn’t have its benefits—it does. Endurance is just not one of them.

If you are doing a base-building or periodized training program like I am right now, the 90-minute format is a blessed opportunity to really target the aerobic system by staying below threshold. If base building is not part of your program, you certainly can take the intensity higher—but how much high intensity is appropriate in a 90-minute format?

Incorporating high intensity

High-intensity interval training is designed for shorter workouts of 30–60 minutes. The shorter the duration, the more time you can spend at higher intensities above lactate threshold (Zone 5). Remember, however, that by their very nature, anaerobic intervals should be 3 minutes or less (with a few exceptions, such as VO2 max intervals).

Trying to do a full hour of very high-intensity efforts is a recipe for failure. It results in not much more than a bunch of mediocre efforts, without achieving the desired intensity goal. That means you won’t achieve the adaptations that go along with those high-intensity efforts.

Alas…I’ve seen so many profiles like that on indoor cycling forums.

When your workout exceeds one hour, the overall intensity must be reduced even more. In a 90-minute class, my suggestion is to devote only 15 to 20 minutes of the entire ride to high-intensity intervals above threshold (and that includes the recovery). The rest of the ride should be conducted in Zones 2 and 3, with an occasional push to threshold.

I will give you two versions of a similar ride. The first one is what I am going to do in my Tuesday evening base-building class, all at a sub-threshold intensity. (Note: I don’t have my playlist yet, but will edit this in the next day or two when I do.)

1 Comment

  1. Hi -I’m doing a 90 min. New Year’s Day Resolution Ride . I like this profile..my initial thought was to do three long slow climbs to a peak, followed by fast intervals, and in between the climbs easy flats (Zone 3). A 6-7 min warm-up and cool down. So, I’m thinking 3 x 20 min slow and gradual increase of resistance, then 3 x 5-6 min fast hard intervals (Zone 4-5) and 1 min easy after each interval as down hills.

    I think this would work. I just want to make sure this doesn’t end up being too challenging. I have 6 yr. experience as an instructor, but this will be my first 90 min ride. I’m looking forward to it! I’m also getting cuing ideas from the “I can fly” profile.

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