How do you “work up” to a big workout?

Curious if folks have thoughts here - there are some workouts that I think would be great race-specific training, but I struggle to complete (Brasted +2 is my nemesis). If failing to complete a workout, do you generally try to build up with lower intensity on that specific workout (eg complete it at 90%) or find a comparable but lesser workout to complete at 100% (eg rather than the 13x30/15s in Brasted do 9x30/15s). Thoughts?

A lot depends on why you failed. Did you have an off day, had you rested in advance, were you well hydrated etc.
Personally I think that reducing quantity of intervals rather than difficulty is the way to go. The intervals are written to hit a particular training stimulus and if done at 90% then they will not have the targeted effect.
Think about a 100% threshold effort - knock 10% off that and you are doing sweetspot which is a different ball-game completely


Very much this. After some trial and error, I’ve come to realise that my body just won’t let me do certain workouts for my early morning sessions. So, rather than decreasing the intensity, I moved the time of the workout to the evening and I was able to complete the session.

By the evening, I’ve eaten more food, sat at my desk like a good little minion and had plenty of water. If you can, try and shift your workout time too, see how it affects you.


Personally I think that reducing quantity of intervals rather than difficulty is the way to go. The intervals are written to hit a particular training stimulus and if done at 90% then they will not have the targeted effect.
Think about a 100% threshold effort - knock 10% off that and you are doing sweetspot which is a different ball-game completely

This makes a lot of sense to me, thanks @John_Hallas, looks like I have some Brasted variations in my future…

Don’t kill the workout early. Don’t drop the intensity unless you have true muscle failure. (Or if your FTP is off)

Push through and only backpedal for 10-15 seconds, and then back at it and on to the next one. Try to complete the workout. Fail where you have to fail. But don’t ease off the gas. I fail workouts all the time - but I only do so in 10 second increments, and then push through to the end. Then the next workout is always better.

I recognize others might be different. But when I finish the workout, even if I failed two or three 10-second increments, I feel better than if I dialed down the intensity, or quit early.



Thanks for weighing in and confirming, appreciate it.


I just did an early workout this morning (up at 6:15) as heading away to help with my wife’s work today.

McAdie. To say I found it tough would be an understatement. During the first interval I thought to myself ‘I’m not going to be able to this never mind the next block. During the second I thought the same thing. And the third. I stated to realise I just needed to treat them as individual challenges and then see where I was at after the next rest period. In the end I got it done. But been telling my wife it was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time and was at least 80% mental. I say that meaning - it was crazy tough but if someone was literally holding a gun to my head - could I have done another interval at the end? Yes. Physically yes.

There was another thread about mental vs physical failure and today I feel like I’ve understood that a bit more.

all that’s not to say you aren’t physically done when you’re done - just throwing in some reflections from this morning.


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Nooooooooooo! :wink: I do this too, with a lot of things - all types of hard workouts, races, road trips, anything remotely daunting at the outset. It’s so hard, I know, but postpone these judgements until you’re at least halfway through the workout. Your approach of treating them as “individual challenges” is exactly what I’d recommend, because they are.

In fact, I often tell my girlfriend, prior to workouts just like McAdie, “If you only get through 2 of these 4 intervals, you’ll have a solid workout.” Then she gets halfway and her (everyone’s) thinking shifts to, “Well I can probably do one more…”, and before you know it, that last interval is all that’s left. And who bails with one to go??



That was how I got through and am glad it did. A great feeling in the end. Still not looking forward to the next one though! (Even though I kind of am).

Saw that quite somewhere online recently and thought ‘this says so much ins knfew words’

Cycling - ‘it never gets easier, you just get faster’.

For me this is what TR is providing. If you follow the plans and do the ramp test at start of each plan- the above will inevitably come to pass…


Personally I find it is really easy to psych yourself out before you have even started. Similiar to racing, if you are thinking this way you have already lost.
“Get on and get at it” is a good motto to remember. Don’t think about sets 90-99 (i see you spanish needle…) just think about getting through the warm-up and nailing that. Then the first 5 sets and nailing those.
Barter with yourself for “just one more” as many times as you need to before you simply can’t do any more. That’s when you take the back-pedal or short pause, and that’s when you try one more just to see.

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Bradley Wiggins broke his 1hr TT record attempt into chunks, IIRC 5 minutes at a time.

Allow it to someone far wiser and a bit older to sum it up. Insert “over-unders”, “Billat”, “sprints”, etc. and voilà:

Hard training does all these fabulous things because physical difficulties are always accompanied by the mental and emotional effects those difficulties create. Finishing a very heavy set of 20 squats is as much a mental task as it is a physical. The 17th rep is done under conditions of accumulating lactic acid, the inability to satisfy an increasingly severe oxygen debt, blurred vision, aching feet, and a sensation that must be vaguely akin to drowning. And then you have to decide whether to do the 18th, which isn’t going to feel any better. The 19th and 20th are going to be worse, and most people who have not experienced this before will quit. The ones who don’t will learn something about their own limits, and about the temporary nature of such adversity. Amazingly enough, the weight is not that heavy — the first rep and the last rep are both “light” compared to the way a heavy single feels — and the challenge is not the generation of enough force to get back up out of the bottom. The challenge is doing it when you feel like you are about to die, when things other than making the bar go up would logically seem more important. If you have never done a set of 20 with a weight that you previously thought was a 10-rep max, you should try it sometime.

Max sets of 20 are nasty, sinister bastards, very hard to do for more than a few weeks at a time because of the mental aspects of the task. Quite literally, you have about 5 minutes to enjoy the fact that the set is over before the realization dawns that you have to do it again next week. I have often spent the day with an awful sense of dread for weeks at a time while I was doing them until, finally, progress on them slowed to a stop and I could honorably change squat workouts to something else. After this, pretty much everything else seemed easy, at least in the weight room. I learned later that there is significant carryover to things outside the weight room.

Rippetoe, Mark. Strong Enough? Thoughts on Thirty Years of Barbell Training (pp. 194-195). The Aasgaard Company. Kindle Edition.


Can confirm. Having been victim to ‘Widowmaker’ sets (5-8 rep max followed by 120seconds rest and then 20 reps at 60%) the mind wills and the body follows.

Pretty sure I have them on film somewhere for when I am 90 and in a wheelchair :rofl:

Then again, I got out what I put in. 14% increase on my 1RM in 10 weeks. Given I was a seasoned lifter it was remarkable.

The only mercy being that was it in terms of a workout. Short and insanely not sweet.

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I break the workouts down as much as possible - Say it’s got 4 blocks of intervals such as McAdie.

First one i know will suck as my legs won’t be warmed up, but my breathing will be okay as i’m not yet tired.

Second one will hurt, but once I complete it, that’s half of the workload done already… yay!

Third one i tell myself that once I’ve done it, I’m way over 1/2 of the workout, I’ve got 1 more to do and then I’m done for the day.

Final one is going to suck, it really is. However, I have X amount of time left suffering in the most ideal situtation for my fitness. It’s going to suck, but it’ll really benefit me if i stick at it.

Vo2 Max workouts on the otherhand, I feel nervous before i do them, but that feeling when I complete the workout and Chad tells me good job, go get started on my recovery nutrition - It’s all worth it - I think :stuck_out_tongue:


This kind of thing is why i believe the specialty phase is as much about mental training, if not more mental gains than physical. Finding what we are really capable of after a solid offseason.

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Finally nailed it :slight_smile:
Brasted +2


Doesn’t that depend on the why though? If you’re establishing your vo2max repeatable power, for example, pushing through with backpedals might not have the desired effect because you might be executing them at a non-repeatable power? There are so many reason people can’t complete workouts including over-testing on the ramp test, etc. I think it really depends. 90% on threshold is obviously a big reduction so in that example I’ll tend to agree.