The Magic Number 90
by Katie Malone, Malone Coaching
My training philosophy has always been
quality workouts over quantity. Every workout you set out to do should
have a specific purpose, and you should be able to clearly identify
it before you ever leave your driveway.
The Upstate is an area that lends itself
to training in the mountains or at least on some good hills. If you're
a local triathlete, you have every reason to embrace the hills and
at your next race more prepared and stronger than ever.
The hill repeat is my favorite cycling
workout to help athletes build strength both mentally and physically.
The perfect hill is not short and steep, but rather a longer and more
gradual slope. You should be able to maintain a good leg turnover. To
get the most out of your hill repeats, use a cadence sensor.
Depending on your level, you will want
to do anywhere from 2-minute to 8-minute repeats. This sounds simple,
right? In order to make this a much higher quality workout, you are
going to micromanage your effort by focusing on your cadence. For 40
seconds you can let your cadence dip as low as 75-80 but – for 20
seconds – see if you can get it to 90 or above. You should continue
this pattern until you have reached the end of your allotted time, or
the top of your climb.
You will be surprised at how quickly
the workout passes because you are focused on the short, quick efforts
rather than the daunting effort of a long climb.
When you are finished with your hill
repeats and are heading home, focus on keeping your cadence at 90 or
above. After having held this effort on the hill, it should feel
You might be wondering why the cadence
of 90 keeps coming up in conversations with triathletes. There are many
reasons 90 has turned into the “Magic Number,” but – for triathletes
– the main reason is that if you can keep your legs turning over at
90 revolutions per minute on the bicycle, then it will be easier to
continue with a running cadence of 90.
Although it seems to surprise a lot of
long time runners, cadence in running is just as important as in
Next time you go out for a run, count your right foot strike for 30
seconds. If your number is 42, then multiply it by 2 and there you have
a cadence of 84. Try this at least five more times and see if you can
get your cadence up to 90. Chances are you end up working a lot harder.
The idea is to take shorter, quicker
steps which can feel very strange at first but, with some practice,
it can be a viable way to increase your foot cadence and increase your
speed. I like to call it “free speed.”
The moral of the story is that you need
to focus on your cadence on the bike as well as the run. You need to
do workouts that specifically focus on increasing your cadence and your
strength on the bike, like hill repeats. For running you need to take
some time during every workout to count your cadence in order to give
yourself some immediate feedback.
Once you have done the proper workouts,
you can start to marry the two in a brick workout where it becomes even
more important that you hit that “Magic Number” of 90.