Summer Fitness With VirtuGO

Depending upon your Summer Holiday planning, the warmer months of the year are generally a time where you ride outdoors a lot! Time off work, great weather and riding with friends are all part of the Summer Cycling dream. But what happens if your exercise plans are derailed by extreme weather or social commitments?  Summer can be too hot, tropical rain storms might strike at any time and sometimes it’s safer to stay away from certain roads when holiday traffic reaches its peak. On the social front friends and family should occupy a lot of your time during the holiday season and a spontaneous BBQ or late night dinner will happen more than once. The result: missed training sessions and a potential decrease in fitness. However there are some things you can do to maintain your form while also enjoying Summer to the full. This is where VirtuGO is your time efficient Summer training partner.

But first a quick recap on what happens to your body if you are unable to train for some days or weeks. Some of this information was covered briefly in a recent VirtuGO Podcast. However it is worth resurfacing it here because it provides clues as to what are the best training sessions you can do over Summer to slow down some of this reversal in physical condition.

The first thing that happens when you are forced to miss some training sessions is your heart becomes less efficient at pumping blood to exercising muscle. In technical terms there is a reduction in maximal cardiac output. After 5 to 7 days there is a drop in glycogen synthase activity resulting in 20% less glycogen storage.  If you are off the bike for 7 to 10 days you lose endurance due to decreased mitochondrial density and lowered mitochondrial enzyme activity. Should your hiatus extend to 4 weeks you can expect a significant reduction in VO2max and a decreased ability to burn fat as fuel.

Summer Fitness Maintenance

One of the truly great things about VirtuGO is that it allows you to train whenever you want in relative comfort and safety. If your friends are dropping by at 12 noon for an impromptu Summer lunch but you had planned a 3hr steady ride outdoors it’s easy to still get a workout done with us. Alternatively the 3hr steady ride outdoors was cancelled because temperatures were expected to reach 40+ degrees; then VirtuGO is an excellent alternative. However there is another element to indoor cycling that lends itself perfectly to managing training vs social/holiday time. Training indoors is very precise, meaning energy expenditure can be very carefully controlled. Because Summer is a time when friends and family should take priority it is important to have enough energy to enjoy their company. I think we have all been in that situation where an early morning wake up, quick breakfast then hard and fast 3hr bike ride has left us tired, flat and sleepy at lunch time. So what follows are some of the Training Sessions I would select within VirtuGO to maintain fitness while leaving you fresh for fun in the Sun.

RPM Training Sessions

At first glance these Training Sessions might seam easy. Almost too easy to have any substantial benefit. However RPM training is very important because it trains your neural firing rate. This is important because the bigger the gear you can push with the highest RPM; the faster you will go. This is the principle behind fixed gear Track Cycling. However within our Summer scenario RPM training ensures that your heart is working over-time. Remember one of the first things to be reversed if the Summers festivities lead to several lost training sessions? Your heart becomes less efficient at pumping blood to working muscle. Further, if you can maintain cardiovascular efficiency with a low intensity yet sustained RPM workout you will have enough energy in reserve to fully partake in whatever social activities are planned (or unplanned) for the remainder of the day. RPM Training Sessions are certainly one of my go-to workouts for Summer.

RPM training can be done at Endurance (56-75%FTP) or Tempo (76-90%FTP) power targets with a high cadence target of 100+rpm. Some RPM Training Sessions to look for in VirtuGO include:

1hr 3x5min Endurance RPM
1hr 4x5min Endurance RPM
1hr 4x7min Endurance RPM
1hr 3x5min Tempo RPM
1hr 4x5min Tempo RPM
1hr 5x5min Tempo RPM
1hr 4x7min Tempo RPM

Engine Builders

Another great Training Session for maintaining fitness if you find yourself time-poor over Summer are Engine Builders. These are performed at 88-94% FTP and will increase the amount of lactic acid that can be recycled back into fuel. Note that FTP is defined as that point where you produce just as much lactate as you consume, hence maintaining a high powered steady state. Working at this intensity puts some strain on type IIb fibers (fast twitch); some of which can be converted to type IIa. Type IIa fibers are advantageous for many of the advanced routines we have in our library as they have high fatigue resistance, moderately fast contraction time and high mitochondrial density.

The fact that Engine Builders are completed just below FTP means although you are working hard; the exercise intensity is not so extreme that you will be deeply fatigued for the rest of the day. But everyone’s fitness level is different so if you are new to Engine Builders start with 1hr and 2x5mins, then work your way up to 3x5min then 4x5min. Some other Engine Builder Training Sessions to look for in VirtuGO include:


1hr 3x7min Engine Builders
1hr 4x7min Engine Builders
1hr 3x8min Engine Builders
1hr 3x9min Engine Builders
1hr 3x10min Engine Builders
1hr 3x12min Engine Builders

SPIKE Intervals

Spike Intervals are a routine lifted directly from our Pro Cycling playbook and in many respects replicate what can happen in a real world race-climb situation. That is: there will always be some extended steady state climbing in a race but no one ever takes a KOM or wins on a mountain top without several hard accelerations. The zone that has been selected for the steady state component is one which you see riders adopt on all the longer climbs in Grand Tours.

I have included these in this Summer Training Session list because they have a little bit of everything. The short burst of intensity (either 15 or 30sec) is enough to give you a solid workout without being overly extreme while the remainder of each rep is performed around Zone 3. Just like RPM and Engine Builder Training Sessions, SPIKE Intervals will maintain a wide section of your power band without putting you under too much pressure. Some of the SPIKE Training Sessions to look for in VirtuGO include:


Spike 2x15min Z3_15sec HZ4
Spike 2x15min Z3_30sec HZ4
Spike 2x15min Z3_15sec Z5
Spike 2x15min Z3_30sec Z5
Spike 2x15min Z3_15sec HZ4
Spike 2x15min Z3_30sec HZ4

High Intensity Interval Training

I am adding this topic to the Summer Training Session list because there will be many people reading this that want to train hard while juggling off-the-bike Summer commitments. And there is certainly a place for short, hard Training Sessions in the maintenance of fitness. Interval training can be simply defined as intermittent periods of intense exercise punctuated by short periods of recovery. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is characterized by near maximal efforts (80-95% max heart rate) while another category Sprint Interval Training (SIT) includes efforts above VO2max including ‘all-out’ supramaximal. Both HIIT and SIT have recently been found to produce results similar to Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training (MICT) such as improved aerobic capacity (increased VO2max) and Mitochondrial content. So why not try some of HIIT Training Sessions within VirtuGO over Summer? They are categorized as Advanced. But a word of warning: these are intense workouts and as such you will experience fatigue post exercise.

35 minute 4x4min High VO2
35 minute 6x3min High VO2
35 minute 2x10min 30/30 High VO2
35 minute 2x10min 40/20 High VO