Are these VO2 max intervals actually useful - too short and/or too much rest in between?

First-time poster, please forgive the silly question.

The area near my house has some short and steep hills, generally around 5 minutes each. While Strava segments are undeniably a motivation, I tend to make a circuit where I push on these little climbs and rest on the downhills/flats in between. Longer climbs aren’t quite so near at hand. FTP is around 265-ish W, about 3.6 W/kg.

Here’s an example of a recent ride:

  • 20:00 - Z1/2
  • 5:15 - 310 W (Z5)
  • 9:12 - Z1/2
  • 5:53 - 319 W (Z5/6)
  • 11:50 - Z1/2
  • 7:12 - 309 W (Z5)
  • 11:57 - Z1/2
  • 6:50 - 278 W (Z4)
  • 1:56 - Z1/2
  • 3:22 - 304 W (Z5)
  • 20:00 - Z1/2

These are nice roads to ride, but I’m wondering if I’m accomplishing anything given that the intervals end up being so short compared to the transition times between them. I’ve seen suggestions of 10 minute intervals with 5 minutes rest, for example.

So - somewhat beneficial, or more of a waste of time?

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Pretty much perfect. I suspect people aren’t replying because they’re jealous :smile:


I don’t have a HR monitor.

I’d say I was over 90% effort on the first three intervals, but not quite there for the last two (particularly the one that ended up as Z4). Given the road in question, I could probably join those 2 and make a single 10-12 minute effort, though that would be a challenge in my Z5.

Don’t be a slave to data or theory, looks good. If you already haven’t, I’d make some sessions see what it takes to break me efforts. Really work on tuning that RPE.


Rest time between intervals doesn’t matter that much as long as each interval is effective and the rest is enough to feel good for the next interval. I like the recommendation of keeping vo2 max intervals 2-6 minutes long (I think I heard that from Kollie Moore). Personally, I can’t really do vo2 max workouts with intervals longer than four minutes, so I would definitely call your intervals long if anything. To get an effective 10 minute vo2 max interval, you’d probably only be able to do one, and definitely not a second one after only 5 minutes rest. If power is solidly above threshold, cadence is high, and the intervals were close to all out, it was probably a good workout.

You know, I have always been puzzled by where this recommendation arose. In lab-based training studies, we’ve always had participants target a heart rate w/in 5 bears/min of maximum.

2 min isn’t really long enough for a VO2max interval. Indeed, my own personal experience is that even 3 min isn’t long enough.

That’s interesting to hear. Is that in the context of steady power intervals? I’ve always done my vo2 intervals with a hard start, and then settle into a lower, but still high power that’ll fade a bit throughout the interval.

Think of it this way: if the goal of VO2max intervals is to stress the CV system, why limit your ability to do so by “blowing through” your limited capacity to exercise above maximal metabolic steady state by starting out extra hard? Doesn’t it make more sense to just “peg it” at an intensity that results in a very high cardiac output, and spread that finite supra-steady-state capacity around? (This is, in fact, the approach used in the studies routinely resulting in the largest increases in VO2max.)


My mindset has been that I want to bring my vo2 up early on in the interval, and then keep it there to maximize time spent at vo2 max (or really close to), but you have a good point and my thinking could definitely be wrong.


You can achieve the same effect by reducing rest between intervals and hold intensity constant.

Not questioning but curious… What type of workout would you call running intervals of 800-1k @ 3k pace?

Yep. Hard start and 110rpm+ should get most people into the right sort of heartrate and breathing “zone” within 75 seconds or so.

Are 6 3 minuters better than 10 2 minuters? Probably. But if you struggle to pedal hard enough for 3 minutes then 2 minuters make for a good point from which to progress to 3 minuters. Better to perform what you can do, well, than to perform what you can’t, badly.

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“Race pace training”, maybe?

It certainly falls into a grey zone, at least for any decent runners, in which the duration is too short to provide an optimal stimulus for VO2max, but the intensity is too low to really drive adaptations in, e.g., muscle buffer capacity. (In that regard, they remind me of the flying 2k repeats that my pursuiter wife’s first coach often prescribed for her…they were okay for maintaining some fitness, but she didn’t really make any progress doing them.)

Of course, you can manipulate the physiological demands of an interval session by altering the work:rest ratio, but you didn’t specify that, so I’m assuming relatively long recovery between efforts.

I, and many others, have routinely taken completely untrained individuals, and had them jump straight into the classic Hickson training program. This notion that you need to “work your way up to” longer VO2max intervals is just coddling/torturing people.

The literature clearly indicates that longer intervals are more effective than shorter intervals:


Great. Glad to hear it.

Luckily, for individuals who need them, the are other roads that also lead to Rome.

OK, that more or less seals the deal, but please allow me to clarify a little. If I’m understanding it correctly, 5 minutes is enough per interval?

And re: rest periods, they targeted papers with a minimum of a 1:1 work:relief ratio, if not less rest overall. That indicates that the session/route that I described is probably far from ideal, right?

So, if i forget my traditional route : There is a 9% slope nearby that, at about 280W for me, would take 20 minutes in total. I could do hill repeats, if it’s much more efficient. Ideally, would you just suggest following a sort of Hickson protocol, 6 x 5mins @ 310 w with 2min rest intervals?

I think that the route/session you described is just about perfect for VO2max training. (Better than, say, climbing the hill on Six Flags Rd west of St. Louis over and over again, as we used to do.)

The longer climb might be a bit steep for level 4 training, but then again, it’s very similar to the Peaks of Otter climb in Virginia that Hunter used as a springboard to turning pro.

Will keep that in mind if I decide to turn pro now in my mid-to-late thirties!

Cheers, thanks very much.