Get Faster on Your Bike

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Morning!  The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the neighborhood cats are torturing James…


It’s going to be a good Monday.  Repeat it and you might start to believe it.  🙂


Had breakfast on the porch, and it was glorious.


Standard fare:  banana, 1/4 cup raw oatmeal, blueberries, chia seeds, and honey Greek yogurt.


Nothing hits the spot on a hot morning like a cold breakfast.


And now… a guest post from DadHTP about cycling.  If you’re new to the blog, you might not know that my Dad was a very serious cyclist for many years, riding 400+ mile races and other crazy stuff (details here).   We’ve done two Metric Centuries/100K rides together (race recaps here and here), as well as a 100 mile event (race recap).




DadHTP wanted to talk about how to get faster on your bike.  Here’s his speedwork advice:


Let’s get it out of the way. Except for seeing improvement, which takes ten to twenty days for most of us, speedwork sucks. Badly. When Caitlin, Jenna and I did the Napa Century, we were slow – which didn’t bother me, because I was out of shape and would have finished by myself otherwise. Caitlin didn’t understand why  – it’s the difference between endurance and power. All three of us had endurance, but not enough power – it was a tough course for a club ride, and hills take power.  


Speed (or interval) training is not for everyone. If you want to lower your times, or change from fit to really fit, this is the way. As far as I know, there is no huge health benefit, but there is an increased risk of injury. For most of us, this is just about taking a hobby very seriously.  🙂


Caitlin’s only been doing speedwork sporadically for a few weeks running, and her times are dropping. This will transfer to cycling, and even swimming. The more oxygen your body transports to your muscles the more strength you can have. The specific muscles for each sport need to be strengthened, but that process is amazingly fast. 


The specifics? First, establish a strong, solid base of exercise. If you’ve never exercised, a year of moderate, gradually increasing amount and intensity would help tremendously. If you have never had a regular exercise program, get a physical first. This is hard stuff. 


The basic drill is to warm up for 30 or 45 minutes, and then make a minute long sprint at 80-90% effort, then go back to your warm up pace. Now do it again. And again. Ten times. Then go back to your warm up pace until your breathing has recovered. Guess what? Do the series again. Not a mass of jelly yet? One more time. Now exercise at a cool down pace  for thirty minutes.


If you’re ready for four, either you’re not sprinting hard enough, or I want your autograph before you turn pro – no Ebay, I promise. 


Seriously, this is hard. if you don’t get through the second set, let alone the third, stick with it, you will. And if you do endurance (your regular workouts) three days a week, and one of these, you will get faster quicker. Gradually, you’ll get through the second and third sets. And depending on how nuts you REALLY are, start the cycle again. Send me your autograph and picture. 


Google your sport of choice, whether it’s swimming, biking, or running, and “interval” or “speedwork” for more information – listen to your body, watch for injuries, and have fun. 


Have you used speedwork training to get faster at your sport?  What has been your experiences with speedwork?  Did it pay off during a race?


Wanna read other cycling-related posts?



  • SaraRM August 9, 2010, 9:28 am

    Today is going to be a GREAT day!!!!!

  • Freya @ Brit Chick Runs August 9, 2010, 9:30 am

    Your dad is so groovy 🙂
    I used to do lots of speedwork running, and I got a PB half mary time of 1hr43, but I’ve let it slip since then 🙁 I really should do more…

  • tanyasdaily August 9, 2010, 9:30 am

    Positive thinking helps always for me!

  • mal August 9, 2010, 9:48 am

    very useful/helpful info. i have just recently gotten into biking and am looking to improve my speed so i found this info to be great. thanks!

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman August 9, 2010, 9:49 am

    I’m saying it over and over again with hope of convincing myself–yet somehow my brain keeps saying, Oh come on, it’s Monday! 🙂

  • Marisa @Loser for Life August 9, 2010, 9:53 am

    Great post, DadHTP! I haven’t worked on increasing speed with anything yet…still working on endurance!

    • HTP Dad August 9, 2010, 11:58 am

      Speed work really is for racers and play racers – it’s hard!

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) August 9, 2010, 9:54 am

    I love biking, but it has been so long. I did mountain biking, but now I wish I had a road bike. I would love to bike more with my kids. Have a great day Caitlin!

  • Marilou @ Mostly Healthy August 9, 2010, 9:57 am

    Your dad should have his own blog 😉

  • Caitlyn @ A Spoonful of Life August 9, 2010, 9:58 am

    I try to do speedwork once a week. Let me just say that running intervals alone, outdoors, is challenging!! Without anyone to pace with, it’s very easy to hold back or not push yourself to your full potential. Most of the challenge is in my head, though. “Positive thinking” and determination are key! This hard work definitely pays off come race day!!

  • Ashley M. [at] (never home)maker August 9, 2010, 10:00 am

    Thanks for the tips on getting faster on your bike. I’m new the cycling — I don’t even have a “real” bike (I use a heavy hybrid). I biked my heart out for 25 miles yesterday, but was so slow!!! My friend assures me part of it’s the heaviness of my bike frame, etc. But I can’t wait to try the drill 🙂

  • Nancy @ The Wife of a Dairyman August 9, 2010, 10:06 am

    Your dad is incredible! Have a fabulous Monday:)

  • Caroline August 9, 2010, 10:07 am

    Speedwork is an absolute must. It is impossible to race quickly without it. While a high volume of training is also essential, without speedwork one’s body will not be accustomed to sustaining race speed. The more you practice at a certain speed, the easier it becomes, right?

  • Holly @ couchpotatoathlete August 9, 2010, 10:08 am

    I need to do more speedwork. I’ve read N Her Shoes blog about speedwork in prep for her marathon and I can see how it would work well!

    That is so cool that you and your dad did those bike races!

  • Stacey August 9, 2010, 10:09 am

    I used speedwork for a short amount of time during my training for my first half-marathon, but I felt like it was too much pressure to stick to all the days of running that they had me I made my own training plan and found that when I did shorter runs my pace would increase by itself 🙂

  • Annie@stronghealthyfit August 9, 2010, 10:14 am

    I bookmarked your post on how to fit and buy a bike- I’m saving it for when I actually have the $$ to buy one! Can’t wait.

  • Michelle August 9, 2010, 10:15 am

    Your dad is awesome and this was totally helpful for me!!

  • Marie August 9, 2010, 10:17 am

    Great tips HTP Dad, thanks! I do speed work for running on occasion, and I definitely notice the difference quickly. I’ve really been wanting to get into biking, but I just have a mountain bike. Looking in to buying a road bike soon!

  • Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf August 9, 2010, 10:21 am

    Very nice tips! I haven’t gotten into speed work yet (so intimidating!) but perhaps in the next few months!

  • Heather (Heather's Dish) August 9, 2010, 10:22 am

    i actually haven’t used speedwork in a LONG time…only in high school for volleyball. i don’t really feel that i need to get faster, but i have 100% respect for how changing your workout changes your body! so awesome!

  • Wei-Wei August 9, 2010, 10:22 am

    I love DadHTP’s post! He seems to be a lot like you Caitlin 😉 You both have a great style!


  • Gracie (complicated day) August 9, 2010, 10:23 am

    Great post, and I needed that. I totally wimp out on speedwork!

  • Lisa@Lisa's Foods on the Move August 9, 2010, 10:31 am

    I’m currently training for my second 5k, and have been using a bit of speedwork, usually on one of my three runs each week. It’s nothing very specific, just running twice as fast when I hit certain straightaways on my runs. I can physically feel a slight difference, but I’m curious to see if my time improves in September.

  • emptynutjar August 9, 2010, 10:35 am

    I love those kinds of breakfasts.

  • Nicole August 9, 2010, 10:37 am

    That’s so cool to have a dad who is fit. My dad is a runner and I’ve had to pleasure of running races with him. Currently, I don’t bike outside so speed work isn’t part of my biking vocabulary 🙂

  • britta August 9, 2010, 10:41 am

    Thanks for the tips!! Another great way to increase your body’s ability to supply oxygen is through regular practice of pranayama and lung stretches 😀 …relieves stress too!

  • Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine August 9, 2010, 10:48 am

    Interesting stuff- it’s so cool that you and your dad have a love of sports in common!! I don’t usually do speedwork, but I signed up for another half in November and I’d really love to see my time improve!

  • Kristy August 9, 2010, 10:56 am

    Hi Caitlin!

    A big thanks to you and your Dad for this advice. I don’t know if you recall me mentioning this to you when I saw you in New York but this is my current challenge right now, getting faster on my bike. It’s a goal of mine to improve upon over the next few months. I will begin to incorporate speed work this week. Great info! Thanks again.


    • Caitlin August 9, 2010, 4:28 pm

      Good luck!!!

  • *Andrea* August 9, 2010, 10:58 am

    “Repeat it and you might start to believe it.” I LOVE THIS!!! It’s like the “fake it til’ you make it” expression which I definitely think applies to body image, self esteem, confidence, etc. You can ‘retrain the brain’ as my mommy says 😉

    i still haven’t tried chia seeds but they have so many benefits i see.

    love your dad’s ideas! i like to do some HIIT cardio days a couple times a month to make sure i’m swtiching it up. i think it really helps increase my running speed. i used to be a 9-10 min. pace runner and then i tried a few HIITs for a couple months and i can do an 8:40 min mile now for 4 miles (huge accomplishment for me)

  • Kelly August 9, 2010, 10:59 am

    I’ve been doing some speedwork in my running to try and decrease my pace. It seems to be working!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat August 9, 2010, 11:01 am

    DadHTP is a very cool guy! Great advice, and I’m about to read your tips on how to buy a bike because I’ve been strongly contemplating it lately. Have a great day! 🙂

  • Camille August 9, 2010, 11:05 am

    I would love to get in to biking. It has never really been my thing but I guess it’s never too late to start!

  • Julie @SavvyEats August 9, 2010, 11:11 am

    Great guest post by DadHTP/InternHTP! The major hills around here make the intervals a bit difficult to do, but I’ll definitely do this in the winter on my trainer!

    • HTP Dad August 9, 2010, 12:03 pm

      hehehehe- hill intervals are even meaner – in South Florida we used to do repeats over the Intracoastal Waterway because the bridges were the highest things for miles!

      • Julie @SavvyEats August 9, 2010, 12:22 pm

        Ouch! We live in a valley, so we have no choice but to ride hills to get out of town!

  • Lea @ Healthy Coconut August 9, 2010, 11:11 am

    You have a cool relationship with your dad. I remember when I ran my first half marathon, my dad said he would do it with me. So I asked if he is going to train, he said “I’ll just walk the whole thing”, lol! I ended up running on my own but my family was there to support me.

    I would like to get into riding bikes, just need to be more comfortable with it.

  • Dez @ Dezolutions August 9, 2010, 11:32 am

    PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT timing for this post! I am training for a 30 miler next month! I’m not competing for time (even though HUB on WHEELS Mayor Cup event is during the same charity ride), I’d love to pick up the pace! I’ve got an Iron Horse, straight bars, and a HUGE seat, like, a HUGE seat (whole thing around $600 from a shop)). I love my bike, but it is a little heavy, and I have NO idea what to look for in a new bike, OR what to do to my current bike to make me go faster. This was VERY informative! I still lack a little confidence actually making the purchases thats right for me, I’m very nervous! But I wanna eventually do some real races.

    On my bike, I do about 50-70 miles per week. I have no idea how fast I actually go, but I can travel 8 miles in 40 minutes, soooo 5 miles an hour? Very comfortably, without strain. My paths are saturated with runners, walkers, other bikers and tourists… I bet I could make it in 25-30 minutes without anyone in my way. Did I mention I carry a 20lb backpack with me? I’m crazy.

    Question for HTP Dad: If I could make one purchase/adjustment to my bike, that would improve my speed without giving me anxiety attack, what would it be? 🙂

    • HTP Dad August 9, 2010, 12:05 pm

      if your bike has knobby tires, trade for smooth ones!

    • Katrina August 9, 2010, 1:22 pm

      dear, you’re going at 12 miles an hour. each mile takes you 5 minutes. that’s a nice pace considering traffic and a backpack.
      I just hopped on a road bike for the first time after 15(+) miles a day on a hybrid and a loaded down basket (it’s my transportation!) and it was Amazing.
      good luck!

      • Dez @ Dezolutions August 9, 2010, 1:34 pm

        HAHAHA!!I thought 5 miles an hour sounded slow. Silly me, in my mind, 40 minutes divided by 8 miles… Didn’t make sense! If it was 5 miles an hour, I could only do 5 miles in….wait for it.. ONE hour. I get it now, 40/8 = 5 minutes per MILE im sure is what I tried to say… and 60 minutes / 5 minute per mile = 12 miles per HOUR. Thanks Katrina! hehe.

        How is the basket vs. the backpack? I’d love not to have to carry that thing on my body.

  • Kim August 9, 2010, 12:00 pm

    Great post! I’m trying to get into biking after having to take a lot of time off from running, due to an injury. I finally got a rode bike, and for some reason am quite intimidated on it! I hope to get past my fears and be able to enjoy riding soon!

  • Maria @ Oh Healthy Day August 9, 2010, 12:01 pm

    Great post by your Dad! I’ve training for my first 5K and as a nonrunner becoming a runner, my trainer has told me to focus mostly on speedwork. He said that I have the endurance to crank out 3.1 miles, but to get a good time, speedwork is important. I do have to watch it though because I get a little intense and twice now I’ve injured my foot.

  • Julia @ Brit Bride August 9, 2010, 12:02 pm

    Dads ROCK.

    Julia x

  • Gavi @ GaviGetsGoing! August 9, 2010, 12:11 pm

    AMAZING tips–thank you so much, HTPDad! I have been working really hard to increase my endurance for biking (totally different than running endurance for me!), but my speed has not increased. Now I understand why and I know it’s time for some speed work. Thanks SO much!!

  • Carly (Swim, Run, Om) August 9, 2010, 12:13 pm

    This was great advice, and I’ve starred this post in Google Reader to come back to when I’m ready to work on speed. I’m still developing that baseline of fitness, but I hope a year or so from now I will be ready to improve rather than develop. Thanks for the tips!

  • Amber K August 9, 2010, 12:16 pm

    I haven’t done speedwork before, but I really enjoyed reading about how to do it. I’ll have to try it when my foot starts to feel better!

  • Jenn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) August 9, 2010, 12:35 pm

    That’s so awesome that you and your dad share a love for cycling. How healthy, and fun to have an enthusiast right in the family to talk to. 🙂


  • megan August 9, 2010, 12:57 pm

    I did some slight speedwork training for my 5k a few months ago and I dropped my time by 2 minutes in a little over a month! I was shocked at what speed training can do!

  • Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) August 9, 2010, 1:33 pm

    I used to do weekly speed workouts and they really *DO* work. Not only with speed, but also an overall build of endurance. I need to start doing them again. 😀

  • Lauren @ Running Examiner August 9, 2010, 1:55 pm

    Great tips! I swear by speedwork. It really does make you a stronger, more efficient athlete. Plus, it makes you feel kind of badass, too 😉

  • Heather August 9, 2010, 2:25 pm

    love that your dad did a guest post lol!

  • stephanie@Avocado Nation August 9, 2010, 2:34 pm

    It definitely paid off for me with swimming back when I did tri’s. I took a class where we did sprints all the time and my times were on fi-yah! Too bad I haven’t lived anywhere near a pool for the last 6 years.

  • Paige (Running Around Normal) August 9, 2010, 2:49 pm

    Why is your dad so awesome! Love when he guest posts!
    Speed work definitely pays off for me. It’s so cool to see your hard work come to fruition. I add interval and tempo runs mid week and during my “pace runs” I see my pace gradually dropping. It’s very rewarding.

  • Kelly August 9, 2010, 3:10 pm

    great info! I love the pieces from your dad. After your century ride I became very interested in cycling. I can’t find a training website though. Can you or your dad suggest any? I’m wanting to work up to a century ride which I would imagine would have to be next year. I am using a free bike now (AMF Nimble) and hope to get a real bike once I determine if this sport is really for me. So it’s much better than running for me.

    • Caitlin August 9, 2010, 4:32 pm

      I couldn’t find good training schedules online either.

      Here’s the plan I planned to use though: Century (100 Mile Bike Race) Training Plan I didn’t do the 80 or 90 milers at the end, though.

  • Ellen @FirednFabulous August 9, 2010, 4:38 pm

    I think speedwork does help. Whenever I focus on speed instead of distance with my runs, I feel like it helps get me over a plateau.

  • Vaala August 9, 2010, 5:21 pm

    Yep, I’ve been working with my coach on speed (running) for the last few months and it’s really tough. In some ways it gets easier and in some ways it doesn’t. You do get better at it but as you get better you get faster so have to push yourself even more. And as my sport is offroad it’s now got even harder as we’ve moved some of the speedwork to terrain. If you’re interested at all I can go over some of the different sessions I do.

  • D August 9, 2010, 6:06 pm

    this is really interesting, but i was just wondering why your dad recommended such a LONG workout? ive always, always read to keep speedwork short, and that you can get all the benefits you need from a short session. a 2+ hour workout?

    • HTP Dad August 9, 2010, 6:31 pm

      Yes, a two hour workout – one hour of warm up and cool down,
      and 45-60 minutes of intervals – yes, speed work is hard and time consuming – but you shouldn’t be doing it at all without a strong endurance base – and at that point a two hour work out (with an easy hour in there) is just another day…

      • D August 9, 2010, 6:51 pm

        i think you’d have to be a pretty serious athlete to do two hour works as “just another day!”

        i just wanted to say that i totally understand the point of your message – that sometimes you need to commit and put in the effort, and that if you aren’t bothered about improving your time then this isn’t for you. BUT, i also thought it was a little discouraging for “regular” exercisers. you said yourself that caitlin has been doing speedwork sporadically and seeing results, and i dont think ive seen her do a two hour speed workout yet! i exercise 6 days a week for at LEAST an hour, and i still feel like this workout is too much, so i hate to think of how i’d feel if i read this back when i was “only” exercising 3-4 days week! i thought your advice was awesome, but i think it’s also important to say that speedwork IS for everyone! this blog is super positive and encouraging, so id hate for people to think that you have to be some fitness goddess in order to get some speedwork benefits!!

        • Caitlin August 9, 2010, 6:58 pm

          Wait I think he means speedwork on the bike for endurance events. I totally understand what you’re saying D but I think there was a miscommunication.

        • D August 9, 2010, 7:11 pm

          oh dude my bad! i thought it was saying that normal people shouldnt bother with speedwork at all. sorry! i definitely wasnt try to be negative anyway, it was a really interesting post!

          and i just want to say that ive commented soo many times about knee issues, but i did my first DOUBLE DIGIT run this week in a YEAR. it feels so good to be back!

        • HTP Dad August 9, 2010, 7:17 pm

          Caitlin’s right on point, D – she and I have been talking in the context of increasing speed in endurance events (in particular, cycling) and improving hill climbing, and maybe that wasn’t totally clear in my intro. I did emphasize how hard it is.
          Another comment of yours – “I still feel this workout is too much” – six days a week is a lot – it’s not just how much you exercise at once, but how many times in a week – and six days a week, even with alternating hard, easy and tempo days would wear me down fast. Maybe add an extra rest day and see how you feel – like C. says, listen to your body.
          And yes, I did train too much – but I had some rockin’ years!

        • HTP Dad August 14, 2010, 6:10 pm

          I wrote another post on this topic, and you may guess the thrust of it by a quote I saw on a friends FB page today ” doing 30″ sprint intervals every 3 minutes beginning at mile 90 into a century where you did 60-70% of the work is just cruel and painful. My right leg buckled on #6. Ouch, dammit.”

  • Comically Fit August 10, 2010, 12:18 am

    Thanks for the great tips! I’m spontaneously competing in my first triathlon this Saturday (using an insanely old mountain bike from my parents’ shed, no less), but I’m definitely interested in actually developing some sort of real cycling ability for my next tri. This weekend I’ll be going solely off of several months of riding the rickety training bike at my gym, ha!

  • Mac August 11, 2010, 5:02 pm

    You can tell your new “intern” that I tried the speed workout and it kicked my butt! I only made it through the first 10 sprints!

    • HTP Dad August 11, 2010, 7:01 pm

      oh yeah -stay at it a month and you’ll be floored at the results.

  • Anne September 1, 2010, 12:55 pm

    I hate speedwork with a passion (I’m a diesel, not a sprinter) and tried it only a few times (for 20 seconds or so…) with running. This post has been on my mind, and yesterday I did it for the first time (biking). It was hard, I had to remind myself again and again that I could really do this for just one minute and I just did one set of 10 times one minute, but… I did it. And I am certainly going to do it more often (and incorporate it into my running schedule as well). Thanks for the motivation to start speedwork!

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