Who has hours to spend at the gym, right? That's why high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is such a great choice. "If you're consistent, HIIT cycling workouts also carry over to improve efficiency in your daily activities such as taking the stairs and carrying groceries," says Lauren "Lolo" Wilson, senior master instructor for CycleBar.
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And if you can take your workout outside, so much the better. In fact, spending just two hours in nature a week can help boost your health and well-being, according to a June 2019 article published in Scientific Reports. Plus, ask any cyclist how they feel after an intense workout, and you're likely to hear about the incredible sense of accomplishment.
Read more: 11 Amazing Benefits of Biking
Try These 2 Outdoor Cycling HIIT Workouts
Once you can do 20 to 30 minutes of continuous lower-intensity exercise, you can do up to two to three HIIT sessions a week, says Emily Booth, the education manager for cycle and group fitness at Life Time. Try one of the workouts below, then get creative with your interval workouts by throwing in hills or bursts of speed.
30-Minute Hill Repeat Workout
If you prefer fresh air, open roads and a bit of a challenge, take your HIIT workout to the hills — just be safe about it. "High-intensity hill repeats can be a great alternative outside, however, since it is often harder to control the variables outside, it is important to find a safe area with minimal car traffic," says Booth, who suggests trying these hill repeats.
- Warm up by riding easy for at least 10 minutes.
- Find a moderate-grade hill.
- Accelerate up the hill for one minute.
- Stop, turn around and ride easy to the bottom of the hill.
- Repeat 10 times.
Flat-Road Interval Cycling Workout
When you're in the mood for a flatter road or gently rolling terrain, Wilson suggests following a training plan that's based on steady-state intervals, power intervals and VO2 max (a measure of your aerobic capacity and general fitness level) intervals, all of which vary in length and intensity. Just pace yourself, because this is a much longer ride than the workout above.
- Warm up for 15 minutes at moderate intensity. You should be able to talk but not sing.
- Ride for 50 minutes, incorporating two-minute speed intervals on a flat road or rolling terrain with ample recovery time in between (about four minutes). Repeat this cycle about eight times.
- Your sprints should be at near all-out effort but at a speed you can sustain for the full two minutes. It's better to start out more slowly but keep your pace consistent than to speed up and slow down.
- Your recovery should be active without pushing yourself too hard. You'll be out of breath from the sprints at the beginning, but you should feel prepared for the next round by the end of four minutes.
- Cool down for 15 minutes at moderate intensity.