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This week we have Tempo training with coach Tracey Drews. In recent years she’s worked with athletes between the ages of 50-80 years old, including several athletes who compete in the Senior Games at the State and National level.

For a healthy athlete there is no workout that is off-limits due to age.

Tracey has 70-year-old athletes doing the same types of workouts that athletes in their twenties are doing. The workout can easily be adjusted to do fewer intervals, at much lower power outputs, with a longer recovery periods between workouts. You can get a little creative and adjust according to your own needs.

What are Tempo Intervals?

Tempo is an excellent workout for developing aerobic power and endurance. The intensity is well below lactate threshold, but hard enough that you are generating a significant amount of lactate and forcing your body to process it. The intervals are long (15 minutes minimum, and they can be as long as 2 hours for pros), and your gearing should be relatively large so your cadence comes down to about 70 to 75 rpm. This helps increase pedal resistance and strengthens leg muscles.

Also, try to stay in the saddle when you hit hills during your T workouts. It is important that you try to ride the entire length of the T workout with as few interruptions as possible—T workouts should consist of consecutive riding at the prescribed intensity to achieve maximum benefit.

The Workout:

60 minutes ride time: 10 minute warmup, 38 minutes for interval set with 2×15 minute Tempo, 8 minutes easy spinning in between and 12 minute cool down.

Why this workout is awesome?

One of the workouts I love for my older athletes is Tempo intervals. These are challenging aerobic efforts done at your intensity below lactate threshold. As such they are sustainable for longer durations than lactate threshold or VO2 effort. This enables you to accumulate more time-at-intensity during an individual workout and during a week of training, especially since you recover from Tempo intervals more quickly than higher-intensity intervals.

Coach’s Perspective:

Tempo intervals can be very calm, almost a meditative effort. These are aerobic intervals, so your breathing should be deep and controlled, and not all that labored. You should be able to talk in medium-length sentences while doing the intervals. Your cadence will be somewhat low (70-75), which will necessitate pushing a pretty heavy gear.

Even though you’re doing an interval workout you’ll feel like you’re rolling pretty fast while pedaling pretty slow. This moderate-to-heavy resistance is part of the workout; the higher resistance and lower cadence force you to produce more torque per pedal revolution and that means recruiting more muscle mass per pedal stroke.

As a result of the controlled intensity and relatively low cadence Tempo intervals feel pretty easy at the start of the workout, but they get more challenging as they progress. As you get stronger your tempo intervals can get longer. You may start out with 2x15min Tempo intervals, but the long-term goal would be to progress to 1x30min Tempo interval.

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