Structuring longer cycling intervals around a specific power output (a wattage number determined by the combination of resistance and revolutions per minute) rather than a time frame will give you a better workout, according to a new study in the Journal of Sports Science.
Having to pace yourself and keep track of time can detract from overall performance since it takes up precious mental processing energy, says lead study author Louis Passfield, Ph.D., professor of sport and exercise sciences at the University of Kent. “When you’re given a set pace and told to keep it going as long as you can, the only question you have to ask yourself is, ‘Am I exhausted and if so, do I have to stop?’” he explains. “When you’re told how long you’re riding for, you have to pace your effort. You’re asking, ‘How long do I have left? Can I sustain this work rate for that length of time? Can I do more than this?’” These types of questions zap mental tenacity and make it harder to maintain max pace.
When riding a stationary bike, keep your eyes off the clock and instead focus on the wattage number on your console. And if your goal is to train as hard as possible, “set up a target pace or power output for the interval or session, rather than just going on how you feel,” Passfield recommends.