Adding short breaks to longer intervals - yay or nay?

Hey, gang. Quick question.

I definitely struggle with longer (10 plus minutes) intervals at tempo or sweet spot. Some days are better than others, but I was planning to do Holt Hill plus one, today, I’m right before a break, my legs are tired, but I’d like to get the workout in.

I know that, obviously, the best thing to do would be to push through the full intervals, but adding a 30 or 60 second rest in the middle of a 16 minute interval is very tempting. Feels like it would make the workout psychologically more palatable.

Anybody do the same? Anybody have strong thoughts one way or the other?

Just do it if that is what you need. The difference between 16 minutes and 15.5 minutes of training is going to be very, very small. If you keep pedaling at, say zone 2, watts then you probably lose nothing.

As usual, I’d question why 10 minutes at tempo or sweet would feel so difficult. 10 minutes at even your full FTP should only be around a 7 out of 10 difficulty.


I don’t think a minute break will make a difference. It’s better than cutting the session short. I would try to not make it the norm.


Typically on those sweet spot workouts there will be an alternative that’s say 4 sets of 2x8m with 1min break…and it will be a progression level or two lower. If that’s all you can complete, then do that one instead and mark it appropriately.

If you’re prescribed the long one (ie. 4x16m), then do that one to the best of your abilities and don’t take breaks. Part of the training is mentally being able to get through the entire interval of dull pain without a rest.

If you really can’t do it, then your FTP is set too high and the interval is basically a threshold or above effort…or you’re carrying too much fatigue and/or underfueled.


Sounds fun.

I’d say if anything less than 20m at sweetspot (by that I mean ~0.9IF*) compels you to need a break, then something is amiss, and you’re best off fixing it (be it via taking an early deload or reducing an unrealistic FTP number).

OTOH, if you’re into the far end of a hard block and you get Galena +1 or something, then fair enough.

*I don’t think an IF>0.92 is really sweetspot, but that’s a separate rabbit hole!

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It is, personally I’d call that a threshold workout particularly if your holding it for an hour.

10 mins at tempo should be straightforward and I’d have a think about why you are struggling.

I think we’re in agreement…? I’d also say 0.93 or so is close enough to threshold for durations of >30min at a time.

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No, essentially you are cheating your way to higher progress levels. Pick an easier workout. Breaks should only ever be done during longer rest intervals. If the rest interval < 2 minutes, no stopping, >2 <5min quick stops only to fix minor issues > 5 minutes, toilet breaks allowed but never during a work interval

I looked up the workout. 4x17 at 75% to 85% with 3 minute brakes. 0.76 IF. Total seat time, 1.5 hours. If you are tired enough that you need extra breaks from that, just take your rest week early because it sounds like you need it. Going forward, do you struggle wiht more than 10 minutes because of discomfort? Boredom? You do ERG mode or resistance?


Probably already did the workout, but generally speaking there’s not much physiological difference in doing a full 16-min interval vs. doing one with a 20-30s backpedal, etc.

As others mentioned, there is a mental component to these, and I generally prefer if my athletes can get through the mundane 15-20 min intervals without a break.

That said, I have several athletes who I provide with “burst” intervals, meaning they do a spinup burst every 4 or 5 minutes. No shifting, heck you can do them even in erg mode, though resistance/standard mode is better… you just spin up to 110-120rpm over about 20s, then get back to work at your self-selected cadence. Essentially it’s a quick 10s higher power burst, and it gives it a bit of an over/under feel. While this technically makes the intervals harder, they find them more achievable because it breaks up the effort. It might be worth trying instead of a break if this is solely a mental thing for you.

Otherwise, there is a good point raised here that if a 10-min interval or longer is difficult for you to achieve physically either at or below FTP, there’s a good possibility that your FTP is set too high. 10-12 minutes is about the mark where most people know that they’re above FTP because all of a sudden they start thinking “Oh no!” If you’re already hitting that point where you’re really physically suffering at 10 minutes, you’re probably working above threshold.

Good luck with it! Extended intervals are very, very good training.

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Quick q: how do you feel about the classic 2x20 or 3x15 at 95-100%? Solid workouts or are there easier ways to skin a cat? I ask as you don’t see those ‘classics’ prescribed by TR all that often?

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I love this. Great idea, and I agree that while it’s technically harder, mentally, it’s a great way to break the monotony and push through. I will occasionally do the opposite too and slow my cadence down to 65-70 and grind for 30 seconds, with the same goal in mind.

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Staples of training. 15-20 minute sweet spot intervals (and tempo and some threshold) are mainstays for me.

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Yep, this is it. I ended up taking the day off, both due to fatigue, and family obligations. This was a great explanation, thank you. And thanks to all those who contributed.

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