2x20s reside at the fun end of cycling training.

The premise is simple; do a nice warm-up, say 10 minutes.  Then hit it hard for 20 minutes at threshold (or thereabouts) level.  Almost die.  Then do 5 minutes easy to recovery then repeat the 20 minute section.  Then cool down for 5 minutes or so.

How hard is ‘threshold’?  There are many definitions as there are definers.  However, most simply put, for any given time period, there is a maximum output that can be sustained.  Go any harder and you will not be able to complete the session, or at least not at a consistent effort.  For cyclists, there are several interesting durations – 15 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes and an hour.  The ‘hour pace’, when power is being measured, is called one’s FTP (functional threshold power) and this is considered a very good predictor of endurance performance.

Anyway, “threshold” for the 2x20s is considered to be between 91 and 105% of FTP.  Translated to English this means “just at the point of sustainability”.

Here’s a list of observations collated by someone called ‘Toks’ on a BikeRadar forum

  • Try and really tune into the ‘feel’ (RPE) factor’. It really helps
  • It should feel like your almost on the edge and if you pushed it up a notch or two ( 20 secs say) it woud take a lot of gasping and quite a bit of time to recover – unlike a tempo/sweet spot ride where you could take it up a notch for quite few minutes before you enter the ‘this feels bloody hard zone’
  • Some days you will really nail it and cope admiirally despite the ever so apparent discomfort
  • Some days the first 10 mins will feel like an hour – really horrible!
  • Your breathing will be anything from quite noticeable to laboured and panty
  • 10 minutes into the second set you may want your mummy
  • Once you’ve done a few of them you’ll notice the trainer warm up midway through the second set -raise your cadence or hit a gear higher to counter this lovely feeling
  • Some days music, TV will not be enough of a distraction – those again are horrible days
  • Some days the burning in your quads will almost be audible – cry if you must but don’t stop
  • Every now and then you’ll have a session where you just stop even though you don’t want to. Don’t worry it happens to everyone
  • For me at least when I’m bang on my FT I struggle to even gulp down water
  • If you can mumble more than a couple of sentences your not riding hard enough.
  • Don’t even think about trying one without a good fan.
  • Don’t keep looking at the time – it purposely runs slower for nutters that do 2 x 20′s
  • Films can be a good distraction but the concentration required to watch em can add to the fatigue

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