Interval Savers - What's Yours?

We all know that truly hard intervals are about mental toughness in addition to physical toughness. I bet we’ve all got little tricks and games we play with ourselves to stay in when our body is screaming to get out. Why not share what works? Here are a few of mine –

  1. A shot of cold bottle water to the face and over the head, especially during a recovery valley, aids with cooling and seems to help my mind reset and sharpen up. It shocks me out of my inward focus on the pain and seems to give me enough fire to spin up again for the next one.

  2. Drop a gear, add a gear - at a certain point, I don’t care what the cadence recommendation is. The variety of upshifting and downshifting seems to help me focus up and produce power when holding steady doesn’t seem possible. I often end up producing more wattage at a lower discomfort level for a little bit, getting me over the hump.

  3. I have a personal rule that I never, ever quit or reduce an interval when there are 90 seconds or less remaining. If I see 1:30 I know I am as good as home. Believing this makes it true.

  4. Visualizing the race scenario - put myself in that headspace where the rider who hangs on for 10, 20, 30 more seconds gets the glory and everyone else gets the T-shirt that came with their reg fee.

  5. I remind myself that I have suffered more than this before, and that means I can suffer through this too.

  6. A battle cry – I just did this today. When I complete an interval that I was about ready to quit on, I’ve been known to vocalize so much that my family two floors up can hear me whooping and screaming.

What else?

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#3 is it. All you need.

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On harder intervals if I sometimes focus on trying to raise my legs up quickly to increase my cadence a bit. Tends to bring power along with it.

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On your #3…my mind is set at 2:00 to go in an interval, and I’m working on getting that out to 2:30. I think you can sort of continually expand that “almost there” milestone. I also tell myself I’ll never quit an interval if I’m over 50 min into the workout (for a 60 min wo) or over about 1:15 for a 90 min workout. Outside that, just getting my mind on something else, turning the headphones up to earsplitting levels, and gritting my teeth til I’m done.

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The user guide for Disaster is filled with ideas. Some include:

  • Utilizing different body positions
  • Quadrant skills
  • Breathing

Lots more details in the guide:

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For me there are basically two scenarios.

(1) “This is too much for today. I will quit it and go for an easier endurance workout like Baxter.”
(2) “This is it, I cannot take it anymore.”

For the first case I have set a rule that I won’t quit before the 20 minute mark. If at that point the feeling is still there, I will call it a day. Though in 99% of the cases that does the trick and I end up finishing the workout.

In a case two situation I make myself think about how much I am going to hate myself for quitting. The anticipation of this feeling is almost always enough to make me hang in there.

In both cases quitting does not mean I am done with training. It means I have to recover the TSS by an endurance ride. So eventually quitting results in me spending more time on the bike to recover the TSS.

Those two simple rules made sure that I ended up finishing most of my workouts. Out of 230ish workouts last year I have maybe quit 5 or so.

To make training generally easier on the mind I divide every harder interval in 2 minute pieces. So it’s not 2x20 it’s only 2x10 intervals. Counting down from 10 makes it easier for me compared to watching the clock run down from 20 minutes. It also helps with shorter hard stuff as my mindset is set on “only have to count to 1/2/3/4 - this is nothing.”

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For SS and above

I break down the last 5 minutes into smaller bites.

5 min down to 3 min is 6 20-sec increments — it’s a countdown from 6.
3 min down to 1.5 min is 9 10-second increments — countdown from 9.
1.5 min down to 30 sec is just a countdown from 90
30 sec and below is one long “COME ON MFer!!!”

Also, I built a punk rawk + metal playlist for ≤ 3min intervals.
Longer intervals might be bands like Pelican, Mastodon, etc. . . .
. . . . so I can imagine riding a horse, clad in leather, killing orcs
. . . . instead of going nowhere in my living room, in spandex, with my shirt off, dreaming about killing orcs.

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I like #3 a lot - but can you push 1:30 further out?!

  • I like to focus on quadrants - it usually gets my cadence up, and of course distracts a little from the suffering

  • Another coach Chad trick - the whole “this is hard, but I can do this”.

  • Get a gel in when it’s looking in doubt. Obviously there’s the quick sugar/carb hit, but also mentally I think it helps me. I used to down a 3rd/quarter of a gel 5 mins before going for a tough Strava segment outdoors - and I got over 300 of em!

  • for long flat intervals (no power undulations) I picture non specific bits towards the end of very fast 1 hour chaingangs I’ve done. Similar suffering I’ve pulled through in other words.

As a TR noob, I’m yet to fail a workout, but it’s coming!!

Step 1: Flex
Step 2: Drool

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I’ve taken to insulting my legs and then eventually apologizing after the interval.

I too will set different time boundaries. Anything under 3 minutes ensures I’ll cross the finish line. I’ll find different ways to break up larger intervals and calculate my percent completion as I go. This can be a good and a bad thing…

The feeling of regret of not finishing an interval is real. I don’t like that feeling. I do what I can to avoid that feeling.

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Marching Robot mode: Do my best to “turn off my brain”, ignore the screen, control my breathing, and simply count my pedal strokes during each exhale: “1, 2, 3, 4, … 1, 2, 3, 4, … 1, 2, 3, 4, … 1, 2, 3, 4 …”

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I make it a goal of just getting to that second last interval, because I know no matter what, I can always finish that last one regardless of how thrashed I feel.

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I do the same. I think each interval is basically a minute less. Once it get to a minute I can get through it. Plainly I need to get that to 90 seconds :slight_smile:

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With a minute to go, I count down pedal strokes. If I’m turning at 105rpm, I count from 105 down and the minute passes quicker and I’m less consumed by pain. Usually reserved for the final intervals of a VO2max workout, or Mary Austin…

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Mindfulness. Don’t try to ignore the pain. Instead, focus on it, try to feel it as fully as you can. Poke at it like a loose tooth

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I try to internalize the pain, and it works until my brain breaks on the 14th interval of Baird +6…

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Perhaps this topic is on my mind because since Sunday I’ve been in the Mary Austin -1 —> Leconte part of SSB-LV2. What a hellacious sequence of rides.

I rotate stimulus within a workout a lot to figure out what works that day. Sometimes running zwift alongside works. Other times it’s just loud music. The 20 minute rugby World Cup recaps on youtube have gotten me through a bunch of intervals. Sometimes an action movie works.

As far as in interval, it’s always a weird negotiation in my head. I give myself permission to take a backspin, but only at a certain time. So then when i can get through that spot I’m not allowed anymore so I just have to finish it. I don’t know why this works for me but it does.

Glad I’m not alone. Although you sound tougher than I!

#3 is so key. It starts from the belief that we can do anything for 5 seconds, so anything longer is just stringing together a bunch of these “I can do it” bits. Sort of. I have two riffs on this that I use with reasonable success:

  1. Look away from the clock for each “chunk” of time. If I’m focusing on ten seconds at a time, I look away for those ten seconds, then check back when I think ten seconds has passed. (It usually hasn’t.)

  2. Extend this idea to the number of remaining intervals, or sets. Knowing that the last interval or set benefits from the psychological boost of knowing it’s the last one makes the second-to-last interval “the hardest one.” But at some point the second-to-last interval became “only the final one after this one,” which made it more manageable. Now my “hardest interval” is usually the second from the last one.

Mind games.