Recovery from Intervals at VO2max Power

Hi all

Just listening to the latest Fast Talk podcast (How much high intensity training do you need)
One of the guests on the podcast said that because intervals at VO2 Max Power cross different systems that recovery needs to be such that each of these systems needs recovery but recovery for each system is best achieved at different intensity for different durations

What so is the best way to recover from, say a 5 minute interval at VO2 Max Power, in order to be able to repeat that interval effectively twice more in the session??

Answer wasn’t given in the podcast as far as I’m aware (but I haven’t yet got to the end of the podcast)

I don’t pretend to be a coach or physiologist, and am sharing the following as a reflection of my personal experience, in hope that this will help you.

I think it depends how you define “VO2 max power”.

Are you referring to the absolute maximal output you can generate for 5 minutes? Or to a lower output that still has you working at maximal or close to maximal oxygen consumption?

That has a major impact on repeatability and recovery.

If what you mean is a power somewhere above threshold that has you working much harder and close to or at VO2 max (which by the way is what I use), I’ve found that recovery in the vicinity of half the work interval length with minimal pedalling (ie. going back downhill to restart a hill interval, for example) works well.

By that I mean that I can repeat 5-min efforts in the 110-115% of FTP range fairly evenly, while getting a challenging workout that leaves me feeling tired but not destroyed.

I’ve personally found that going higher than that with intensity dramatically reduces may ability to repeat the intervals, even with greater recovery. After one attempt if 5 minutes at 130-135% of FTP (which is an approximation of my 5 minute max), don’t ask me to do another one. While I might try after several minutes, the output will be lower for sure.

So, in the interest of completing the workout at a productive intensity and also living to see (and train) another day, an intensity of 110-115 FTP with very easy recoveries in the 2-3 minute range seem to work well.

Adjust to taste depending on how hard you want to (and can) go and what you aim to achieve.

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Ya, I mean a 5 minute effort at say 112% (a session I’d have done a few weeks ago)
I’d typically recover at 100 watts or lower for 5 minutes also
But the impression I got from the podcast was that recovery shouldn’t necessarily be exclusively at such low watts but maybe I totally misunderstood what he was saying

Again, not a scientist, but having listened to those podcasts on recovery (there’s a specific one) and based on my experience, a bit higher up in intensity where the aerobic system is till working a bit seems to work well to burn off any excess lactate and keep the system primed for the next interval.

If I do these on the trainer, if the “on” interval is at 110% ftp, the off is at around 65-70%. I’m usually ready to go again before 2 minutes, and sometimes not much longer than 1 minute when really fit.


Thanks again for the reply.

I know I sound like a broken record now but did you listen to the latest podcast (How much high intensity training do you need)?
Specifically from minutes 34 to 37 where Sebastian Weber speaks about recovering different systems post 5 minute all out interval in order to be fully ready for the next interval?
He says we need to recover different systems post that type of interval and at different intensities. My take was that he was talking about different recovery intensities between 2 of those 5 minute intervals? As in a specific watt range for x period of recovery time followed by a different watt range for the rest of the recovery before the following interval

This is the transscript:

Sebastian Weber 34:57

Okay, so let’s assume you do that. And let’s don’t touch on it why you do that? Or maybe you don’t do that, talking about the recovery, right? Yes, the issue is here. And that that’s the main issue with recovery periods is that you are maxing out different systems, right? You’re maxing out your creatine phosphate stores, because those will be depleted at the end of this exercise, you are maxing out your pH levels in terms of d decreasing those you have are most likely maxing out your your your lactate concentration, which you can handle so to speak simplified, you’re maxing out your your view to obviously like, you know, that’s that’s part of it. And the issue with rest period is that you have now different systems you need to recover. And they have different time kinetics, how long it takes them to recover ends, they have different intensity at which they recover the best. And this becomes the complicated thing here so to speak. If your intention is to bring back all systems to full recovery, which is needed if you want to at least try to repeat the same exercise, right is that say, if you create a session here to be more precise on what kind of intervals you’re talking about, if you create a session you say I use, I use guy goes the first one full out, and then I use this power as a reference for the other. Follow for the following three, four, I don’t know how many reps you want to do, and use this as my reference point and try to hit the same number. If this is what you’re doing, then you need to recover and restore all those different systems and again, they recover at different durations at a different intensities.

My question is what intensities and for what duration in order to bring all systems back to full recovery

Our research has suggested that about 2min is a reasonable rest duration for this type of interval workout (we compared 1, 2, 4, and self-selected duration). When we are talking recovery of “systems”, what is really happening is that different metabolic waste products are removed and energy molecules restored at different rates or “half-times” in geek-speak. ATP recovery takes seconds. Creatine phosphate is recovered in 10s of seconds, and recovers fastest with no workload. H+ and lactate removal takes minutes (BLOOD lactate concentration will NOT be recovered in 2min, but intracellular H+ will be significantly reduced because of active transport of the H+ and lactate OUT of the muscle fibers). Doing some work during the recovery 1) keeps blood flow up and 2) lets slow-twitch fibres mop up and utilize some of the excess lactate from other fibers. So, after a 5min interval, freewheel for 20s and then put some power back on, maybe 40% of your 5min power. Pro tip: When the next interval starts, PURPOSEFULLY breath deeper and faster. Do not wait for your brain to ramp up ventilation because there is a delay. If you use anticipatory hyperventilation, the transition from low to high power goes smoother with a little less build up of Lactate/H+


Thanks so much for that reply Stephen. Very much appreciated

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@stephen.seiler thank you for mentioning the use of pre-anticipatory hyperventilation …


Great to have the expert weigh in on the topic!

Important for athletes to recognize that 5 minute VO2 max efforts (especially ones truly at the 5 minute max) will generate a LOT of lactate. To clear/utilize that lactate requires some effort into the pedals. The 40% Dr. Seiler references corresponds quite closely to the INSCYD lab test I recently underwent.

Doing hill repeats provides a great way of hitting the work intervals, but coasting back down makes for poor recovery. Best way I’ve found of doing these outdoors is either find a truly long climb (easy in CO, tough in IL), a climb with a good flat runout at the top, or flat road into wind and flip with tail wind for recovery. Point being that you need to be able to ride at that active recovery level after the interval.

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What’s worked for me across several seasons and blocks of working on MAP repeatability (usually is around 120-122% of FTP for 4-5min) is that I will do my recovery intervals at something like 50% of FTP. This allows me to recover as much as possible within the recovery interval duration. I generally subscribe to a 1:1 work to rest ratio for MAP/VO2 max interval workouts.

2-min, IMO, is far too short for complete recovery (for me), and leads to a reduction in power on the subsequent work intervals. However, come CX season I will definitely be reducing recovery intervals in order to better simulate race scenarios (where rest is pretty much non-existent).

Very cool

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Going to try this, but that is easy to say/write, remembering to do it out on the trails or in an event is another matter! Guess that is something else to ‘train’ :grinning:

True! I think the middle ground is to plan key points when and where you will use that “physiological hack”. A hard start race situation is a no brainer. Ramp up the ventilation voluntarily 3 seconds before and through the first 30s of the start. Then, coming to the bottom of a decisive climb in each lap of a MTB course is probably another place where I would go into hyperbreathe mode.



Be very careful using pre anticipatory hyperventilation. I have been using this with athletes for over 18 years with great success.

However, you must have a good understanding of your breathing mechanics first and foremost or this can cause some greater issues than your current normal breathing pattern.

I am currently working on a multi-part respiratory training article that will be available in the FTL world in the next month. The details on pre-hyperventilation will come later in likely the 3rd part of the story.

@stephen.seiler is correct that is something we need to use and understand, but there is more to it than breathing faster.

Stay tuned.


Again that depends on the intensity used for the work interval. For “above threshold” work, 2:1 seems to work well. For a truly MAP effort, the value of which should be considered compared to doing an interval or two more at a slightly lower intensity, then yeah, 2 minutes may feel awfully short.

Especially for older athletes, you can get the benefits with somewhat lower stress by stretching or adding intervals at 110-112% FTP without killing yourself during each interval to reach 120%+.

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