High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), also known as Tabata, has had resurgence within the fitness realm. Among other benefits, HIIT may improve VO2 Max as well as Anaerobic Capacity. HIIT is particularly good for cyclocross training because the efforts mimic the hard punches out of corners, attacks and the first lap of a CX race. HIIT is also beneficial when you have a busy week of “real life” without much time for training.

I use the term “Tabata” when referring to the HIIT workouts. Japanese Professor Izum Tabata incorporated high-intensity intervals when he trained speed skaters. The muscles that are put to work when skating are similar to the muscles used in cycling. Izum Tabata had his speed skaters use exercise bikes for their short interval training.

Tabata intervals should be performed at maximum effort. They hurt, in a good way. Burning legs, a fiery chest and a pukey feeling at the end of a set are all signs that you are doing this right. You may implement Tabata on a hard training day (3-5 sets), or throw in one or two sets on a medium-intensity training day between your Z2-Z3 efforts.

Here is a good go-to Tabata workout, but keep in mind the length of the intervals and recoveries may be adjusted:

  • Warm up for at least 20 minutes. Implement two 15 to 30 second hard efforts in the last 5 minutes of the warm up.
  • As mentioned above, 3-5 sets will make for a hard workout when done right.
  • Start each interval like you’re on the start line of a CX race. Since you’re going all out right off the bat you may as well work on your race starts as well.
  • One set is a 4 minute session of riding for 20 seconds at maximum effort with a 10 second recovery before hitting it hard again for 20 seconds. Repeat until your 4 minutes is up.
  • Keep your legs spinning during the 10 second recoveries. Complete recovery between sets, which usually takes 3-5 minutes depending on your fitness level.
  • Warm down for at least 15 minutes, eat and stretch.
Post Tabata

Post Tabata


Give Tabata a try! I won’t take it personally if you curse me during this particular workout.


Peter Kelley