Know the Purpose of Your Workout and Stick to It!

When you’re training, each workout should have a purpose. It may be a:

✅ Easy workout

✅ Long workout

✅ Speed intervals

✅ Tempo workout

✅ Recovery workout

✅ High intensity workout

✅ Heart rate based workout

✅ Power based workout

✅ Pace based workout

✅ Cadence workout

✅ Social/fun workout (those are great too!)

Last week, we had the fun of hosting our friend and pro cyclist, Julie, who raced Thursday in the USA Cycling Pro National Championships Time Trial Race. Friday morning, she wanted to do an easy recovery ride to flush out her legs after the race. She asked if I wanted to go with her.

My gut reaction? 😳 “Oh, heck no, there’s no way I could keep up with her, even on her easy day!” I even told her that and that she would feel like she’s going ridiculously slow if I went. She assured me I could do it and told me her pace. Ok, I knew the route and I knew I could handle that pace, but our rides would be vastly different! She’s out for an easy spin (zone 1-2) and I’m going to be working hard (zone 4-5)!

I knew this would be a high-intensity workout for me, but I hadn’t done a speed work session that week, so I decided to go for it! Most of the ride I was doing ok in a lower zone 4 heart rate and we were still talking. Then on one of the straight, flat stretches, she drops down onto her aero bars. Inside my head: “Oh crap, I’m gonna be dropped like a hot potato now!”

But then I remembered the purpose of my workout was a hard workout, so I decided to kick it up and see how close I could hang on and for how long. It was about a half-mile stretch and for half of it I was within 2 bike lengths of her before I died! Around the corner, she’s waiting for me and (through gasping breaths!) I told her what I did and we decided to try it again a couple of times to see if I could draft off of her and hang on closer and longer. So we did a few intervals on that stretch that were still easy for her, but they were pretty much max efforts for me. But that’s ok because that was the purpose of my workout – go hard!

If I had gone into the ride thinking it was an easy ride for me, because that’s what it was for Julie, I wouldn’t have gotten the benefit of those high-intensity intervals! She got her easy ride and I got my speed workout – and we had a great time together on bikes!

Fast forward to last night at our beginner group ride…same loop course that I rode with Julie on Friday, but last night it was my turn for an easy ride and more of a workout for those who came.

The 3 images on the left in the picture are from my ride with Julie and the ones on the right are from the beginner ride. Same route but different workout purposes (and vastly different data!!). Both workouts were beneficial because they had their purpose.

If you don’t have a purpose for your workout (or know the purpose that your coach has for your workouts), it can be easy to get distracted and not really focus on any one particular thing and that can slow your progress with training. So train with purpose!

Another lesson: get outside your comfort zone to work towards your goals! I’m glad I said yes to Julie, both for the training AND the fun time with a friend!

Dr. Jeanne Williams, PT, DPT, OCS
We help endurance athletes (from beginners to pros) train and cross the finish line faster and injury-free!


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