The Second to Last Interval

The next to last interval or set of intervals is always the toughest for me. Too much fatigue to pretend I am fresh, too much work still ahead to tell myself the end is near.

I feel like that’s the spot where the mental toughness is trained and where you cannot trust your body’s signals to back off or shut it down and make the discomfort go away.

Sometimes I try distraction. Sometimes I just focus on holding the power number and block out all other thought. Sometimes I imagine some future event where the only obstacle between me and my goal is not breaking under just this kind of stress – where 30, 60 or 90 more seconds of resolve is all it will take.

Curious what works for others –


Nope. Totally the first interval sucks the hardest.
I’m a notoriously long warmer upper so that first interval/set is always a battle as my body gets it together and eventually I stop feeling like crap.

I just push through it cuz I still have the rest of the workout to do. I’d get nowhere even faster (slower?) if all I ever did was the warm-up.


I agree. Similar to seeing two to go in a cross race for me. On the second and sometimes third to last interval, I try to focus on being as smooth as I can and keep my cadence in a tight window. I also say something positive outloud (sometimes repeatedly) if I am really suffering. Just saying “you got this” helps me a lot.

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I know what you mean, and here’s the thought process I’ve evolved that helps me: The last interval is the easiest psychologically (and therefore physically, to some extent), because it’s the last one. Therefore if I can just get through the 2nd-to-last, I know I’m home free. So in that sense, the 2nd to last is really the last “hard” interval. And knowing it’s the last hard interval makes it easier psychologically (and therefore physically, to some extent. :wink: )

A bit convoluted, but works for me.


Same here. First set of intervals always give me “There is no fv£;&: way I am going to finish this”.

An hour later, I am actually having fun.

Last two intervals:
“I am going to finish this. Bring it on, b(&:):)!!!”


Interval 1 - ‘they always feel tough, just get through and you’ll be warmed up and flying’

Middle intervals - ‘F U trainer road, you don’t know who your messing with ‘

Last couple of intervals - ‘this is where the adaption happens, unless you gut these out
everything else was a waste of time’

Works for me.


I’m in the first one is the hardest (sometimes I start to have doubts during the warm up) once I get to half way it becomes a little more , well if I fail now I’ve had a good workout … and the rest seems easier

This morning with Lamarck to do … interval 0 is hard enough

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On a particular hard set of intervals I agree with you… second to last is mentally the toughest to push through for me too… find the first the toughest physically as the body hasn’t warmed up, all pistons not firing smoothly yet and believe coach chad has mentioned this in the workout text once or twice.

Now I have faced many in the past and know if I can do the last one I have no excuse for the second to last anymore, I do find I complete them easier. Its probably because I always have that mental argument in my head as I approach it.

I also do that other mental thought process mentioned above, when it burns and hurts, its the most beneficial time for me, this is when the magic happens and I will gain another FTP watt on the forthcoming RAMP test !

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The second to last interval is definitely a rollercoaster of emotion.

I generally start off the same as you but somewhere around halfway through I begin to feel really good because I know I can get to the end.

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I know it’s crazy but when it gets really hard I start with counting my cadence
70 times left leg - 70 times right leg
65 …
5 times left leg - 5 times right leg
takes ± 12 minutes…
(I’m in SSB high volume, so these long intervals suck)
first one the hardest mentally
last one the hardest physical, but you know it’s the last one…

If I recall correctly, the 20 minute test text even refers to the 3rd 5 minutes as the hardest… Personally, I’d say it depends, but I personally always seem less mentally challenged by the last interval than the 2nd last one…

It’s the warm up at the start that I need coach Chads reminder in the text that you might not feel able now, but that’s the point of the warm up (to paraphrase).

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I think this is true (for me at least) on interval sessions that are as much about mental concentration as physical strength. Long threshold or over/under intervals for example.

On a workout like Spencer +2 (6x3min @ 120%) however, I can say with absolute certainty that the hardest interval was the last one.

First interval this morning was hard. The penultimate interval was my six-times-table. I kid you not. I’d started basic multiplication just to focus the mind. Weird what you’ll try when you have to :rofl:

Last week I failed the 2nd to last interval in Shortoff +6 (9x3) when I tried getting out of saddle to relieve some burning but the low cadence snuck up on me and locked up the trainer. I got my sh@t together and hammered out the 9th interval. Yesterday during Stromlo +7 (6x8) I decided to get out of saddle on the 2nd to last interval. Sometimes I tell myself if I can make it to the last couple intervals it’s okay to stand out of the saddle for some relief. This almost backfired again as I got out of the saddle I quickly realized I didn’t have the strength to finish the interval standing so I had to sit back down and that made it even worse. Ugh… Managed to finish it but boy was it a battle. I don’t get upset if I do a little work out of saddle because I do it outside whenever I feel the need = train that area too…

It might be crazy but it works…
My mind reverted to this last summer on the last climb of a 5 day trip to the alps.
Bonked harder than ever before ,but I was going to finish that climb.

Ended up counting pedalstrokes to 100, once that became impossible (literally couldn’t count without mistakes) i counted to 50, then to 20, then to 10, then just alternating 10 with every leg.

It worked wonders really…Blocked my brain from thinking of anything else so I just kept pedalling.
Since then I do it in the hardest intervals when i am on the edge of failure. :crazy_face:


first and last are easiest for me. the middle I’m torn on.

The last 1/3rd of the intervals are always the hardest to me. I definitely have done the “race visualization” of racing to the line, pretending I’m just ahead of the competition and if I let up I’ll get passed. That usually does the trick. :wink:

Chad’s workout text had a really interesting point on motivation a few workouts back, the premise was basically that the work you do when fatigue is rising is what creates mental toughness and distinguishes the mentally strong from the mentally weak. That really cemented the idea that if I don’t finish all the intervals I’m not actually getting as strong as I could be.


All of your collective wisdom helped me suffer through every last over/under on Fang Mountain +1 today. God was it hard. That ride is evil.


@sacm3bill you are not the only one! I do the exact same thing!

I also tell myself every interval at the end of a set is the last interval because you get a longer recovery break (did VO2 max repeats tonight).

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4th km of a 5k run race is where you die. 5th one, assuming you’ve survived to that point and are not walking, is easier since you see the line, you know you’ve survived, etc. It’s the same concept. You’re into damnation, and redemption is not yet in sight.

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